Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park

Coordinates: 39°30′20″N 8°47′30″W / 39.50556°N 8.79167°W / 39.50556; -8.79167
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
The park in Alvados
Map showing the location of Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park
Map showing the location of Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park
LocationEstremadura and Ribatejo provinces
Coordinates39°30′20″N 8°47′30″W / 39.50556°N 8.79167°W / 39.50556; -8.79167
Area383.93 km2 (148.24 sq mi)[1]
Visitors31,882 (in 2015-2020 (yearly average))[2]
Governing bodyICNF
WebsiteSerras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park

Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park (PNSAC) is a natural park in central west Portugal. It occupies an area of 383.9 km2 (148.2 sq mi) and is the most important repository of limestone formations in Portugal with a variety of geological formations associated with karst topography such as caves (including pit caves), sinkholes, uvalas, poljes, limestone pavements, ponors, among others.[3] It was made a protected area in 1979 with the intend to protect the existing natural aspects and the architectonic and cultural heritage linked to the local populations.[4]


The park is located in the Central-West region of Portugal defining the border between the Estremadura and Ribatejo provinces, and the Leiria and Santarém districts. It comprises part of the municipalities of Alcanena, Alcobaça, Batalha, Leiria, Ourém, Porto de Mós, Rio Maior, Santarém and Torres Novas.[5][6]

PNSAC is mainly composed by mountain ranges (Serras) and plateaus: The Serra de Aire (679 m (2,228 ft)) in the northeast; the Serra de Candeeiros (615 m (2,018 ft)) in the west, adjacent to Aire, between Porto de Mós and Rio Maior; the Santo António plateau in the centre and part of the São Mamede plateau in the north.[7][8]



The characteristic morphology of Fórnea

The park is located in the Estremadura Limestone Massif, a geomorphological unit of Portugal where rocks from the Jurassic flourish to a great extent.[9] The massif was created by the distensive opening phases of the Lusitanian Basin during the Mesozoic and the alpine compressive regimes established from the end of the Cretaceous.[10] The São Mamede Plateau and Serra de Aire are the result of a rollover anticline.


With a vigorous and rugged landscape, the park has some of the most interesting geological formations in the country.[11]

The nature park is evidenced both by its relief, as a prominent mass that rises about 200 m (660 ft) relative to its surroundings, and by its white, highly permeable limestones, which are dissolved by the relatively abundant rains, creating cracks where water infiltrates. These characteristics justify the absence of shallow watercourses, and the presence, instead, of a vast network of underground galleries, being perhaps one of the largest freshwater reservoirs in the country, giving rise to some important water courses, such as the Alviela and Lena rivers.[7] Water, practically invisible on the surface, is the main erosive agent, contributing to some of the most interesting geological formations in the country, such as pit caves, sinkholes, uvalas, poljes, limestone pavements, ponors, etc...[3]

The Minde-Mira de Aire Polje floods in the winter months

Similarly to river dynamics, water is collected in low areas or in depressions (such as poljes) after infiltrating from higher surfaces, enriching the flood beds with sediments. After the wet season, these depressions are emptied, giving rise to fertile terra rossa plains where maize, potatoes, vines are grown, a variety of other crops and even vegetable gardens, resulting in a mosaic of colors and textures with great seasonal dynamics.[3]

The terrain is characteristically dry due to its porosity and the first settlements were dependent on terra rossa for their activities. Currently, with the population less dependent on agricultural and pastoral activities, there has been a dispersion of buildings in the landscape, both for housing and for support of other economic activities. This diversification of the economy is partly responsible for the abandonment of the most traditional activities.[3]



Typical Mediterranean vegetation of the park, overlooking the Ribatejo plains

The natural park is part of the Southwest Iberian Mediterranean sclerophyllous and mixed forests and hosts more than 600 different plant species.[12] The vegetation that characterizes the PNSAC is the result of the bioclimatic influences on the territory. There is a great wealth of species with a diversity of sizes and origin (from Atlantic Europe, the Mediterranean, the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa), rare and unique Portuguese species, paleoclimatic species, some even used for medicinal, culinary, aromatic or ornamental purposes.[8] Though floristically rich, the park has suffered dramatic changes over the years. The Alvados Depression is a clear example of this dynamism; at present its landscape is agrarian; however, centuries ago, at the time of its occupation by its first settlers, the area was a marsh that was surrounded by oak groves, pine groves and strawberry trees. Later, with the romanization, it became an olive grove with grafts of wild-olive.[8]

The park has five main associated landscapes:[8][13]

The typical olive groves and limestone walls

Additionally, the park has 27 different species of orchid, about 50% of all the species native to Portugal[7] and provides habitat for various calcerous flora that is uncommonly found in Portugal including: Iris subbiflora, Paeonia broteri, Paeonia officinalis, Jonopsidium abulense, Himantoglossum robertianum, Orobanche latisquama, Petrosedum sediforme, Scrophularia sambucifolia, Antirrhinum linkianum Teucrium chamaedrys, Salvia viridis, Inula montana, Aristolochia pistolochia, Teucrium fruticans, Ophrys fusca, Phlomis lychnitis, Fritillaria lusitanica and some Portuguese endemics such as Silene longicilia, Arabis sadina, Arrhenatherum pallens, Ulex jussiaei, Narcissus calcicola, Ulex airensis., Saxifraga cintrana and a newly described species in Portugal, Arenaria grandiflora, which is currently only known to exist in the park.[13]


A local robber fly

The distribution and biodiversity of mammals is in part due to bioclimatic and geoecological characteristics. The fauna was drastically affected by the human occupation of this territory, which devastated habitats and destroyed resources.[11] According to Alho (1997), a total of 204 species of vertebrates, of which 136 are birds, have been identified.[8] Mammals located in the park can be divided according to size into micromammals, mesomammals and large mammals.[8][14] Bats represent almost half of the mammal species in the park, with 21 known different species.[7][15]

Among the several migratory and resident bird species the most common are the short-toed snake eagle, the common buzzard, the common cuckoo, the Eurasian hoopoe, the great spotted woodpecker, the crested lark, the woodlark, the Eurasian skylark, the red-rumped swallow, the white wagtail, the Eurasian wren, the European robin, the black redstart, the European stonechat, the blue rock thrush, the Sardinian warbler, the Eurasian blackcap, the Iberian chiffchaff, the short-toed treecreeper, the Red-billed chough, the carrion crow, the spotless starling, the common linnet, the cirl bunting or the corn bunting.[16]

Although lacking any water courses, the park has a surprising amount of amphibians, 13 species are known, which include the marbled newt, the Iberian ribbed newt, the western spadefoot, the common midwife toad, the Iberian painted frog, the Mediterranean tree frog, the Iberian frog, the Perez's frog, the common parsley frog, the common toad, among others.[8][7][15]

Unlike water courses, underground galleries are vast and a number os endemic species inhabits these spaces, among them are Nesticus lusitanicus, Trechus machadoi, Trechus gamae, Trechus lunai in the Troglofauna, and Proasellus lusitanicus in the Stygofauna.[17]

The park has around 17 species of reptiles, which include the spiny-footed lizard, the common wall gecko, the Carbonell's wall lizard, the Iberian wall lizard, the Spanish psammodromus, the Algerian psammodromus, the ocellated lizard, the Lataste's viper, the horseshoe whip snake, the viperine water snake, the southern smooth snake, the ladder snake or the Montpellier snake[8][7]

Fish recorded in the park include the Iberian nase and Achondrostoma oligolepis.[14]


Despite the great annual precipitation, the park has a large water deficiency in the summer due to its climate and the porous nature of its soil, as seen in the margin of the Serra de Santo António plateau

The park has a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and cool to hot, dry summers but variations in temperature, precipitation and insolation occur throughout the region. Areas closer to the Atlantic in the west have warm summers (with average summer highs around 24 °C (75 °F)) whilst areas that border the Ribatejo to the east tend to have hot summers (with average summer highs around 28–29 °C (82–84 °F). Altitude also plays a role. At altitudes above 400 m (1,300 ft), precipitation is plenty, with values above 1,200 mm (47 in) per year, but can go down to 800 mm (31 in) at lower altitudes.[7] Average temperature ranges from 13.5 °C (56.3 °F) at the top of Serra de Aire, to 16.0 °C (60.8 °F) at the lower plains.[8][18][19]

The prevailing N-NW winds carry air masses loaded with moisture that cause intense fog and strong winter rainfall.[17] As summer approaches, the Azores High moves further north. Clear skies become more frequent and rain is scarce between July and August. Fog is very common in winter, and in the summer, fog created by the marine layer can move from the Atlantic to the interior, but usually evaporates by midday. Average relative humidity is very high in the winter and values in the summer can have extreme variations, often below 40% during the day and above 80% at night. Temperatures at night are generally cool year-round but the high humidity along an absence of wind can make it more pleasant. Insolation varies between 2300 hours in the northwest mountains (south of Porto de Mós) and 2650 hours in the east.[18][19] In general, Serra dos Candeeiros receives a larger influence from the Atlantic, whereas Serra de Aire has a more Mediterranean influenced climate.[8]

Climate data for Serra de Santo António, altitude: 353 m (1,158 ft), 1984-2002
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average precipitation mm (inches) 199.9
Source: Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente[20][21]

Natural heritage[edit]

Karst landscapes[edit]

Santo António Caves

There are over 130 identified caves in the park.[11] Some notable cave complexes include the Mira de Aire Caves, the Alvados Caves, the Almonda spring caves (including the Cave of Aroeira) and the Algar do Pena.[22]

Other notable geological formations include:

Paleontology and archaeology[edit]

The park contains two Middle Jurassic tracksites: the sauropod footprints of Serra de Aire and the dinosaur footprints of Vale de Meios. Both are the oldest known dinosaur footprints in the Iberian Peninsula.[28] The Serra de Aire tracksite is one of the few sites in the world where Middle Jurassic sauropod dinosaur tracks can be found.[29] The Vale Florido biostromes have fossilized coral and algae.[30] Ammonites, belemnites, brachiopods, bivalves and ichnofossils have been discovered in a stratum in Barranco de Zambujal.[31] The Jurassic Beach of São Bento, discovered in 2003, has a variety of fossilized echinoderms.[32] The Cave of Aroeira near the park has the earliest recorded human trace in Portugal, along with deer, equids, rhinoceros, bear, a large bovid, a caprid, and a Testudo tortoise. Squeletal remains of Pleistocene brown bears have also been discovered in Algar do Vale da Pena, near the village of Moita do Poço.[33] A Chalcolithic dolmen that was Christianized into a chapel still remains close to a church in Alcobertas.[34] There are also Roman remains, notably a road in Alqueidão da Serra, Porto de Mós which dates between the centuries I BC and I AD.[35]


Wind turbines and quarries are the main threat to PNSAC's ecosystem

Even though a protected nature area was created to protect the existing natural aspects and architectonic heritage, the construction of quarries and wind turbines have increased since then, placing many of the local fauna and flora at risk. Every year, dozens of birds and bats are killed by the blades of wind turbines and severe numbers of reptile and amphibian species are roadkilled.[7] Some measurements taken to prevent this include the investment in nature tourism, scientific investigation and agriculture, particularly biological farming.[36]

Views of the park from urban centers[edit]


  1. ^ "Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Nature Park". Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  2. ^ "Número de visitantes que contactaram as áreas protegidas". ICNF. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d "Programa Regional de Ordenamento Florestal" (PDF). ICNF. p. 92. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  4. ^ "Decreto-Lei 118/79, 1979-05-04" (in Portuguese). Diário da República. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  5. ^ "Enquadramento Geológico e Geomorfológico". Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  6. ^ "Parque Natural das Serras de Aires e Candeeiros". Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h "Avaliação dos Impactes Ambientais dos Parques Eólicos em Áreas Protegidas: O Caso de Estudo do Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros" (PDF). Catarina Isabel Augusto Coelho. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Redondo García, María Manuela (2002). "Estudio biogeográfico del Parque Natural das Serras D'Aire e Candeeiros (PNSAC)". Observatorio Medioambiental. 5: 249–277. ISSN 1139-1987. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  9. ^ M. F. Carvalho, Jorge; M. Prazeres, Cátia; Lisboa, José Vitor; J. Sardinha, Rui. "Rochas ornamentais do Maciço Calcário Estremenho: breve caraterização dos recursos, dos centros de produção e delimitação preliminar de áreas potenciais". Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  10. ^ "Geological heritage assessment in mining areas of serra de aire and candeeiros natural park". Jorge Manuel Ferreira Carvalho. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d "Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros". Infopédia - Dicionários Porto Editora (in Portuguese). Infopédia - Porto Editora Dictionaries. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  12. ^ "Serra de Aire e Candeeiros". Minde Parish Council. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  13. ^ a b "área protegida: serras de aire e candeeiros". Flora-On. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  14. ^ a b "Serras de Aire e Candeeiros". Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Parque Natural das Serras de Aire e Candeeiros". Turismo Médio Tejo. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  16. ^ "Serra de Aire". Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  17. ^ a b Sofia Pereira Serrenho Reboleira, Ana. "Coleópteros (Insecta, Coleoptera) cavernícolas do Maciço Calcário Estremenho: uma abordagem à sua biodiversidade" (PDF). University of Aveiro. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  18. ^ a b Paulo Jorge Silva Ferreira. "O património edificado molinológico no concelho de Porto de Mós: Reflexão para a sua preservação e reutilização na Serra de Candeeiros" (PDF). Universidade Lusófona. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  19. ^ a b "Prospect". Solaris. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  20. ^ "Serra de Santo António (16E/04U)". SNIRH. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  21. ^ "Estudo de Impacte Ambiental da "Pedreira Vale do Mar"" (PDF). APA. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  22. ^ "Algar do Pena". Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  23. ^ "Mira Minde Polje and related Springs | Ramsar Sites Information Service". Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  24. ^ "Inventory of Sites with Geological Interest: Polje de Minde". Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  25. ^ "Fórnea (Chão das Pias)". (in European Portuguese). Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  26. ^ "Lagoas do Arrimal". Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  27. ^ "Salinas de Rio Maior". Salgema (in European Portuguese). Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  28. ^ "Pegadas de Dinossauros de Vale dos Meios – Alcanede". Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  29. ^ Vanda F. Santos, José J. Moratalla, Rafael Royo-Torres (2009). "New Sauropod Trackways from the Middle Jurassic of Portugal". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 54 (3). BioOne: 409–422. doi:10.4202/app.2008.0049. S2CID 54034942. Retrieved 15 December 2020.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  30. ^ "Biostromas de corais e algas de Vale Florido". Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  31. ^ "Corte Geológico do Barranco de Zambujal". Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  32. ^ "Praia Jurássica de São Bento". Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  33. ^ Dário Estraviz-López, Octávio Mateus. "Tracks and multiple skeletons of brown bear (ursus arctos) in Algar do Vale da Pena, Portugal" (PDF). NOVA University Lisbon. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  34. ^ "Dólmen e Igreja Paroquial de Santa Maria Madalena". Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  35. ^ "Estrada Romana - Alqueidão da Serra". Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  36. ^ "Quercus faz balanço da intervenção no Parque Natural da Serra de Aire e Candeeiros, que cumpriu recentemente 35 anos". Quercus (organization). Retrieved 15 December 2020.

External links[edit]