The Nature Park of the municipality of Cadiz
The Bay of Cadiz Nature Park, declared as such on 28th July, 1989 due to the extraordinary ecological value of the ecosystems that make it up and the species it harbours, has a total surface area of 10522 hectares, belonging to the municipal boundaries of Cadiz, San Fernando, Chiclana, Puerto Real and El Puerto de Santa María.
Its location between the neighbouring Doñana National Park and the Strait of Gibraltar, makes the Bay of Cadiz a key part of the migratory system of many birds.
Beaches, salt marshes, salt flats, intertidal flats, pine forests and tidal channels constitute a mosaic of habitats that serve as breeding, wintering and migration areas for populations of more than 200 species of aquatic birds. Their strategic location between the neighbouring Doñana National Park and the Strait of Gibraltar, makes the Bay of Cadiz a key part of the migratory system of many birds.
In addition, the diversity of present ecosystems, allows the existence of different plant formations that constitute the habitat of numerous species of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, molluscs, crustaceans and other invertebrates that make up the diverse and abundant, rich fauna of this protected natural space.
Therefore, the area occupied by the Park constitutes a highly protected area by the following International Protection Agreements as well as by Autonomous Laws of Protection of the Natural Environment:
- Since 2002 it has been included in the List of Wetlands of International Ramsar Importance.
- In 2003 it was included in the Inventory of Protected Natural Spaces of Andalusia as a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA) and included in the European Nature Network 2000
- Since 2006 it has been included in the List of Places of Community Importance (SCI).
- In 2012 it was declared a Special Conservation Zone (ZEC).
How is the Bay of Cadiz formed?
The Bay of Cadiz has been shaping its landscape over millennia due to effects of the sea, the winds and the Guadalete River. During the glacial periods of the Pleistocene, the torrential nature of the watercourses and the decrease in sea level caused deposits of gravels on the Pliocene basement of the Bay, forming the oyster stone. The Guadalete emptied into a wide estuary that ran from El Puerto de Santa María to Sancti Petri, with the two islands of Cadiz (Eritheia and Kotinoussa) and that of San Fernando (Antipolis) in its interior. After the glaciations, the sediments that were deposited are finer (sands, silts and clays) and the sea level rose. Due to its contact with the sea and the river, sandy barriers (The Levante Beach, Camposto-Sancti Petri, ..) were formed. This action was causing the closure of the estuary, thus facilitating the deposit of sediments in the interior of the Bay and originating the marshes. Furthermore, the wind was dragging the sand away from the beaches, forming coastal dunes like those of Cortadura beach, Camposoto or the Levante beach.
With the settlement of numerous civilisations and towns, the historical use of the bay and its rich resources were not majorly affected. It took advantage of its shellfish and fishing resources, the oyster stone for construction and the transformation of some marshes like salt lakes, which have been known since Phoenician times. However, at the end of the 19th century, human occupation continued to increase and thousands of hectares of marshes were transformed into salt marshes, leaving few as a natural marsh. It was during the 20th century when the bay suffered the greatest changes. Owing to a huge urban boom, the drainage of 5000 hectares of marshes between the Guadalete and San Pedro rivers had to be carried out. There was also the creation of several industrial estates, the conversion of numerous salt mines to fish farms and the construction on the beachfront which led to contamination of water by human and industrial discharges.
This situation led to environmental groups, who had been promoting the protection of the area for years and who were supported by the City Councils of the Bay and the Provincial Council to send a proposal to the Andalusian Parliament in 1989. They wanted the Bay of Cadiz to be included in the Inventory of Natural Protected Areas of Andalusia as a Nature Park, whose Law was being processed, in order to be able to make the conservation of this natural space compatible with the rational use of its resources.
As a particularly interesting fact, it should be noted that the Cadiz Municipal District has approximately half of the protected area as a Nature Park, including three of the most important ecosystems present in the Bay of Cadiz Nature Park: dune beds of beaches, salt flats and plains of intertidal muds, as well as a seasonal freshwater pond.
These spaces of great interest and ecological value of the Municipal District of Cadiz are:
- The ridge of Dunes and Cortadura Beach (including the stretches of El Chato, Torregorda and Santibañez)
- Las Salinas de La Dolores, Roquetas and San Felix.
- The intertidal plains of the inner part of the bay to the left of the Cadiz-San Fernando road, the outside areas of the Salinas Roquetas (Santibañez) and La Dolores, as well as the Caño del Río Arillo, a natural border with the municipality of San Fernando and the Seasonal Pond of La Gallega.
En cuanto a elementos constructivos y arquitectónicos de valor histórico y cultural, en estos espacios se encuentran tres salinas tradicionales abandonadas, la Salina de la Dolores, la Salina La Roqueta o Santibañez y la Salina San Félix; la casa salinera El Ventorrillo de la Dolores; los Molinos de Mareas Río Arillo y Arrierillo o Santibañez o el Enclave Defensivo de Santibañez.
As for constructive and architectural elements of historical and cultural value, in these spaces there are three traditional abandoned salt lakes, the Salina de la Dolores, the Salina La Roqueta or Santibañez and the San Felix Salt Lake; the salt house El Ventorrillo de la Dolores; los Molinos de Mareas Río Arillo y Arrierillo or Santibañez or the Defensive Enclave of Santibañez.
Finally, as features of the Nature Park in the municipal area, there is the Salina de la Dolores Trail, whose route can be extended if you return, passing the Salina Roqueta, which includes an entertainment area with a picnic zone and the Tres Amigos-Río Arillo Trail. Although the trail starts and goes through the Salina de Tres Amigos in the municipal district of San Fernando, it also includes the Molino de Mareas of the River Arillo and returns from the outside by the Caño of the River Arillo of the San Felix salt lake, both belonging to the municipality of Cadiz.