Lagoon of Gallocanta. Natural Protected Spaces in Aragon. Zaragoza, Teruel Natural Patrimony Aragonese. Aragon. 
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Lagoon of Gallocanta. Natural Protected Spaces in Aragon. Zaragoza, Teruel

National refuge of Hunting

It is located in UNDER of the province of Zaragoza, next to Daroca and 1,000 m.s of altitude.
Every winter concentrates up to 100,000 birds, being the point of more important appointment of grullas of Europe.
It is also the place of meeting of diverse species of ducks and ánades as well as of other aquatic birds, esteparias birds and rapaces. Such wealth turns to the lagoon of Gallocanta in one of the more important ornithological paradises of Europe the present time.

It is the greater Spanish esteparia lagoon (6,720 have).

Gallocanta Lagoon


The human poblamiento of the river basin of Gallocanta is very old going back, at least, to the Roman time at which, judging by certain archaeological vestiges, a mythical city next to the lake existed, Lucumtum, in the proximities of the town of Beautiful.

Later, during the long medieval period, the villages of the river basin constituted one of "sexmas" or started off of the villa of Daroca, capital of the Extremadura, southern border, of the old Aragonese kingdom. The castles of Santed, Berrueco, Tornos and Cubel are today dumb witnesses of those centuries of continuous you will battle that they both reached special virulence in the "wars of Pedros" that faced Pedro I "the cruel one" of Castile and Pedro IV of Aragón.
The lagoon of Gallocanta always appears in these cronicas like the element that identifies and equips with an own personality these territories. The history of the lagoon throws many data of interest on the deep ecological changes and of happened attitude of the man in this natural enclave.

Thus, in the manuscripts of the General Description of the party of Daroca, of D. Domingo Mariano de Traggia, we found a passage revealing:

"... to the part the west is the famous lagoon of Gallocanta and by the years of the 1673 only town of Gallocanta it removed from the real renting of its fishing eighty thousand of vellón and ten and eight thousand arrobas of tencas, without the hunting of gansos, anadones, fochas, chilladeras, gumietas, chorlitos of several species and beautiful sparrows, without other strangers who see many years..."

The abundance of fishing, today nonexistent, indicates to us that, at least until century XVII, the waters of the lagoon were much more sweet and abundant that at the present time. Its renting reveals that she was considered like a property inherited from parents of the ribereños towns.

This situation extended until entered good s. XIX with the promulgation, in 1874, of the Law of confiscation of the "public goods in dead hands". The liberal State I consider the lagoon like so, seizing themselves of her and adjudging it in public auction by the amount of 8,001 ptas.

After successive reventas, it is acquired in 1897 by "Banco Agricola, Comercial e Industrial, S.A.", society specifically created for the drying and operation of the lagoon that, once "adjusted", would constitute a called property "Dominions of the Pillar". The ambitious promoters of the project contemplate the construction of a great channel of water-drainage to give exit to waters suspended by the Valley of the Jiloca and to serve, simultaneously, as he guides fluvial for the transport of the future productions until the railroad. In the property, whose surface number in "thousand eight hundred cahices, six hanegas and fifteen almudes" anticipates the establishment of great cultures and the young of cattles of bristle, equine, bovine, wool and cabrío, as well as the elaboration of butters, cheeses, inlays andother articles and the construction of harineros mills, factories of electricity and any other industries.
Luckyly for our lagoon these huge plans got never to undertake themselves, dissolving the society in 1931. Meanwhile, the only advantage that was obtained was the one of its abundant saline deposits being extracted "many mineral cartloads" for the cattles and settling down even a position of customs officers in border NE to avoid its contraband.
Finally, by virtue of the effective Water Law and of article 407-4 of the Civil Code, the lagoon happens to be a public property of the State.

Conscious of the extraordinary ecological and cultural value of this natural space, the General Delegation of Aragón creates by 42/1985 Decree the National Refuge of Hunting of the Lagoon of Gallocanta by which it is equipped with an effective protection to the fauna of the same one and the negative impacts in their surroundings are prepared.
With it the autonomic administration responds of the commitments contraidos by the Spanish State by means of the ratification of the International treaties of conservation of humid zones and of the migradoras species of the wild fauna and its habitats. In these Gallocanta agreements it is classified like "humid Zone of international importance".

Geology and relief

The geologic origin of the lagoon goes back to the Pleistocene, time that, to agree with the periods glaciers, a cold climate much more presented/displayed and rainy that the present one. A great lagoon with an extension twelve times superior to the one of our days existed for that reason. Of her they are vestiges, in addition to Gallocanta, the lagoons of Guial guerrero, the Zaida, the Lagunica and others of smaller organization.

The lagoon of the Lagunica, it must his name to a transcription error that has transmitted by all the maps and publications.
The name real and known by the inhabitants of Tornos from immemorial time is the Navajo located in the Prado of the Tower. Years ago, to assure the level water since they were an excellent grass for the cattle, one became trasvase from Acequia Mother through the "sewer of prao" and, later, will do 35 years, the sewer was eliminated to reduce the level of the water, and the earth were plowed.

The river basin rises on valleys of the Jiloca, Piedra and Ortiz of which they separate the paleozoicas mountain ranges of Santa Cruz and Pardos to the north and the west, the Menera Mountain range by the south and the one of the Boilermakers by the east. The interior of the depression is stuffed of tertiary and quaternary materials that form the impermeable bed of the lagoon.

But the characteristic that for of Gallocanta one of the humid zones more singulars at European level has been the fact that it is inside a endorreica river basin, that is to say, closed and without exit to the sea. But, in addition, unlike most of the endorreicas river basins, the depression of Gallocanta does not have its origin in the climatic dryness but in a phenomenon of tectonic collapse as a result of the appearance of a fault in the Iberian System. One treats, for that reason, of a river basin closed and "hung" to high altitude (1,000 meters on the level of the Sea) in a mountain landscape. This causes that it receives much more abundant water contributions that those of the typical endorreicas river basins of the barren zones and turn to Gallocanta a unique atmosphere which they only have comparison, ourlatitudes, with some lagoons of the high plateaus of Persia and Anatolia.

The climate and the waters of the lagoon

Located heart of the Iberian System in the heat of, the river basin of Gallocanta presents/displays a climate of continental Mediterranean type with oscillations of temperature very accused. They emphasize the lowest winter temperatures that they get to reach 25ºC below cero, not in vain the neighboring locality of Calamocha registers often the national minims. In resistance, during the summer, forts take place heats arriving itself at temperatures from 30ºC.

The precipitations are, by effect of the altitude, relatively abundant with an annual average of 500 mm. Nevertheless, its distribution is very irregular concentrating in the autumn and the spring which originates summer and winter droughts. But the truely characteristic thing of the climate of Gallocanta is the alternancia of periods of humid years with others of dry years. The duration of these cycles comes to be from 12 to 15 years. If they are rainy, the lagoon works like a great collector, surpassing the summer droughts and accumulating waters of year in year. If they are dry, the river basin is transformed into immense evaporímetro and the lagoon is losing water progressively getting even to dry itself completely.

The hydrology of Gallocanta is, therefore, decisively conditional by the precipitation regime of the river basin. Most of waters flows by escorrentia towards the bottom of the depression entering the lagoon by small streams. These superficial water contributions are completed with the underground water filtrations that arise in the border this giving rise to a peculiar system of springs, calls "eyes", of great interest, because the mixture of their fresh waters and I warm up with you cold and brackish of the lagoon it originates a great diversity of ecological conditions that is reflected in a greater wealth of flora and fauna.


The river basin of Gallocanta presents/displays a mosaic of formation vegetal distributed in successive strips based on the relief.
Thus, the slopes of the mountain ranges appear populated by degraded forests of oaks (Quercus rotundifoliae) and, in the shadiest zones, oaks and quejigos (lusitanica pyrenaica Q. and Q., respectively). The ample cerealistas plains extend next that are the base of the local economy. Small surfaces of other cultures also exist between which it emphasizes the one of the saffron, that conserves during years its aroma and flavor and is, for that reason, used as traditional currency of saving.

Or in the margins of the lagoon, the "escorrederas" of the fresh water contributions allow the formation of humid prairies formerly taken advantage of by "dulas" or won communitarian.
The abundance of substantial herbaceous takes step, in encharcados grounds more, to the predominance of the rushes. When approximating us to the lagoon, the increase of the salinity causes that the humid meadows are replaced by saline meadows in which we found peculiar species like the Puccinellia pungens, plant of highest cientifico interest being endemic, are to say only and exclusive, of these atmospheres.

It arrives a little while in which plants only perviven extrictamente "halófilas", with special adaptations to draw for the salinity, like strong roots able to pump nutrients winning the fleshy competition of the salt, or stems in which to hoard the water.
We entered great saline slime beaches thus, called "tarquines here", colonized by species like "mamellada" (Salicornia ramosissima), "tomillejo" (Frankenia reuterii) or the thorny "flagships" (Salsola kali).

The edges of the lagoon that receive continuous fresh water contributions appear towns by species of amphibious life, with submerged roots and emergent stems, as the reeds (Phragmites australis) and espadañas (Thypha sp.) that has their better representation in the zone of the "eyes".

When penetrating, finally, in free waters of the lagoon we will find a vegetal life that adapts perfectly to its characteristics. One is brief waters that, in general, do not reach more of a meter of depth. Its great transparency allows a perfect penetration of the light and its content in I oxygenate dissolved is sufficient at any moment for the development of the life. Nevertheless, their high saline concentration (8-13 CL-/Lt.), one hundred times superior to the one of the fresh water, and, mainly their shortage of nutrients like nitrogen, the phosphorus or the potassium, determine an extraordinary poverty of plancton, represented hardly by some thirty species. They emphasize some seaweed green (Chromulina, Nannochloris) and cianofíceas (Spirulina), as well as, in zooplancton, some copépodos (Arctodiaptomus salinus), rotifers (Brachionus plicatilis) or ciliados (saline Fabrea).

These conditions are, however, the suitable ones for the dense development of great subaqueous prairies constituted by phanerogams filamentous taken root in the bottoms. They dominate two species of "ovas" (Lamprothamnium galoides papulosum and Chara) that, free with the competition of plancton, they cover practically all the bottoms of the lagoon and constitute the nutritional base of the extraordinary concentrations of birds divers who meet in Gallocanta. Drastic disappearance of these prairies, when to dry lagoon, is only apparent, because in the resistant bottoms rains subsist long time oosporas that will allow, when returning, one rapidisima reconstruction of these peculiar submerged meadows.


The described vegetal mosaic corresponds with the presence of an equally rich and hetereogénea fauna. Good proof of it is the 253 species of inventoried vertebrates to date, of which 10 correspond to mammals, 213 to the birds (91 of nidificantes them), 10 to reptiles and 7 to amphibians. The fish only are represented by 3 species that inhabit the heads of some streams.

Making an express crossed by the river basin, we will emphasize in the holms-oak forest and quejigales of the mountain ranges the abundance of doves torcaces (Columba palumbus), red tortolas (Streptopelia turtur) and perdices (Alectoris rufa). Between the mammals we will mention some carnivorous lovers of the thicknesses like the gineta or "minchineta" (Genetta genetta) and garduña or "fuina" (foina Tuesday). Also of habits montaraces, proliferates the jabalies (Suis scrofa) that please to make fast raids to the lagoon in search of tender roots and fresh mires.

The opened spaces of the cerealistas plains constitute in the middle suitable for the observation of esteparias birds like the larks (Alauda arvensis), calandrias (Melanocoryza calenders), ortegas (Pterocles orientalis) and alcaravanes (Burhinus oedicnemus). But they emphasize by his high scientific and conservacionista value two species: one treats, by a side of avutarda (Otis takes), called in Aragón "auca", and today, unfortunately, virtually extinguished of our region, and, on the other hand, of grulla (Grus grus), esbelta long-legged that at the moment has in Gallocanta its main European station of step and wintertime.

The entrance, with the putting of the sun, vocingleros sides of thousands of grullas towards its dormideros of the lagoon, constitutes, without a doubt, one of the most impressive spectacles than the wild fauna can still offer in industrialized Europe.

The juncales and humid praderios of the margins of the lagoon are the habitat preferred by multitude of birds like winter avefrías (Vanellus vanellus), the anxious launderers (Motacilla sp.) or the peculiar zarapitos (arquata Numenius). The extensive beaches of "tarquines" are operated by "the waders" birds with great diversity of species that untiringly cross mud of the borders.

The dense reedbeds of the eyes contituyen, in if same, a particular habitat to which very are bound to great number of insectivorous pajarillos like the notary publics palustres (Emberiza schoeniclus), the carriceros and carricerines (Acrocephalus sp.), the bastard nightingales (Cettia cetti) or "the mustached" singulars (Panurus biarmicus). In addition, birds of greater size like the lagunero eaglet (Circus aeroginosus) or the Blacks raise here fochas (Fulica atra), herbivorous birds that in years of waters got to concentrate themselves in Gallocanta in number superior to the 40,000 units.

In the dominion of free waters it will already surprise the abundance and variety of aquatic birds that coexist harmonically in a common space. The explanation is based in which each species occupies a "particular ecological niche" taking advantage of specific nutritional resources.

Thus, it is possible to mention diverse anátidas granívoras that looks for their firm Earth food of islands and borders. They are the small winter garganeys (Anas crecca) or primaverales (Anas acuta) or voluminous mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). The brief waters are preferred by herbivorous ducks like ánade friso (Anas strepera) and whistle or "chilladero" (Anas penelope) having existed, even, a duck plankophagus, the" spoon "(Anas clypeata), provided with peculiar a tip to filter the microscopic organisms.

In the deepest waters, the prodigious vegetal biomass that offer the subaqueous prairies attracts Gallocanta spectacular amounts of birds divers adapted for "pastar" without rest these efimeros submerged meadows. They honor the gorgeous "red ducks" (Netta rufina), that has gotten to concentrate itself in the lagoon more of 75 % of their population in the western Paleártico, and "bigheaded" or porrones common (Anythia ferina), of which numbers to the 80,000 units have been entered.

By all it, the lagoon of Gallocanta today is considered, yet merit, like one of the little "humid zones of international importance for existing the aquatic birds" in the old continent. Its conservation is of a special importance, when constituting a fundamental link in the long migratory routes of the aquatic birds and supposes, really, for the Aragoneses, the pride to contribute to the common effort for the protection of the natural patrimony of Europe.

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Wildlife Refuge of Laguna de Gallocanta. Natural Protected Spaces in Aragon. Zaragoza, Teruel, rivers, newts, vertebrates, animal kingdom, plants, fungi, landscapes, protected areas, fauna, zoology, ecology, water, humidity, earth, air

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