Sistema Ibérico

Coordinates: 41°44′45″N 01°46′53″W / 41.74583°N 1.78139°W / 41.74583; -1.78139
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Iberian System
Sistema Ibérico
Highest point
Elevation2,313 m (7,589 ft)
Coordinates41°44′45″N 01°46′53″W / 41.74583°N 1.78139°W / 41.74583; -1.78139
Location of the Sistema Ibérico in the Iberian Peninsula
CommunitiesAragon, Castile and León, La Rioja, Valencian Community, Catalonia and Castile-La Mancha
Age of rockTertiary
Type of rockNummulite limestone, marble and sandstone
Laguna Negra (Black Pond), Soria
Cerro del Padrastro hill close to Atienza, in the transition zone between the Sistema Ibérico and the Sistema Central
A griffon vulture
The Iberian wolf is a subspecies of grey wolf that is still found in some ranges of the system.
The marbled newt is common in humid areas of the system, especially in the northwestern region.

The Iberian System (Spanish: Sistema Ibérico, pronounced [sisˈtemajˈβeɾiko]) is one of the major systems of mountain ranges in Spain. It consists of a vast and complex area of mostly relatively high and rugged mountain chains and massifs located in the central region of the Iberian Peninsula, but reaching almost the Mediterranean coast in the Valencian Community in the east.

The system is hydrographically important, as it separates the watersheds of most of the major rivers in Spain and Portugal, including the Ebro basin to the east from the basins of the Douro, Tagus, Guadiana (Záncara-Gigüela), Júcar and Turia to the west and south.

There are important mining areas in some of the ranges such as Sierra Menera, Sierra de Arcos and Sierra de San Just, making the system one of the chief mining regions in Spain since ancient times.[1][2] One of the comarcas of Aragon located in the Iberian System was given the name of Cuencas Mineras, lit. 'Mining Basins', since mining is the main activity in the comarca.[3]

Location and description[edit]

The Sistema Ibérico mountain range borders the Meseta Central on its eastern end and separates the Meseta Central from the Ebro valley and from the Mediterranean coast.

This system runs northwest-southeast between the Ebro plain and the Meseta Central for over 500 km, from the La Bureba corridor in Burgos Province close to the Cordillera Cantábrica to the Mediterranean sea close to Valencia in the south and close to Tortosa and the Ebro Delta in the east. The bulk of the Sistema Ibérico is located in the southern half of Aragon. The Prebaetic System rises south of the southernmost end of the Iberian System.

The geology of the Iberian System is complex, for it can hardly be defined as a homogeneous system. It is composed of a haphazard and motley series of mountain ranges, massifs, plateaus and depressions without a definite common petrologic composition and overall structure. Nummulite limestone, marble and sandstone are common throughout the area. Some of the parts of the system stand geologically isolated, interrupting the continuity of the whole, linked to the other parts through high plateaus of varying altitudes.[4]

Ecology and human activity[edit]

Population decline[edit]

Large zones of the mountainous Iberian System have undergone heavy depopulation since the early 20th century. There are many ghost towns and abandoned villages scattered across different parts of the Iberian System, especially in Teruel Province.[5] Currently a great number of surviving towns have only a residual population. In some cases, many of the inhabitants are not natives anymore but immigrants from Romania or the Maghreb working as contract laborers in agricultural activities.[6]

The exodus from the rural mountainous areas in Spain rose after General Franco's Stabilization Plan in 1959. The population declined steeply as people emigrated towards the industrial areas of the large cities and the coastal towns where the tourism industry was growing. Other causes of high emigration have been the abandonment by the local youth of traditional agricultural practices that were the mainstay of the village economy, such as sheep and goat rearing, as well as the lifestyle changes that swept over rural Spain during the second half of the 20th century.[7]


The heavy depopulation has favored wildlife so that one of the last colonies of griffon vultures in Europe is in the Iberian System. Wolves and eagles (Aquila chrysaetos, Hieraaetus fasciatus, Hieraaetus pennatus, Circaetus gallicus) are also relatively common in the lonely heights. Among the mammals, the Spanish ibex, roe deer, wild boar, European badgers, common genets, among others, have their habitat in many of these desolate mountain ranges.[8]

The most common reptiles in the Iberian System are Lacerta lepida, Psammodromus algirus, Psammodromus hispanicus, Podarcis muralis and Podarcis hispanicus. Chalcides chalcides, Chalcides bedriagai and Anguis fragilis, are relatively rarer. The snakes present in these mountains are Natrix maura, Natrix natrix, Malpolon monspessulanus, Elaphe scalaris, Coronella girondica, Coronella austriaca and Vipera latastei.

Some amphibians are abundant in or near ponds and rivulets throughout the whole system, such as Rana perezi, Bufo bufo, Bufo calamita, Alytes obstetricans, Triturus marmoratus and Lissotriton helveticus, the latter also at high altitude, whether in intermittent or permanent bodies of water. Hyla arborea and Salamandra salamandra are somewhat rarer, but still having a wide distribution, especially in humid forested zones. The Iberian ribbed newt (Pleurodeles waltl), however, is rarely found in the mountainous areas. Aquatic invertebrates, including the Austropotamobius pallipes crayfish, and certain fishes, such as Salaria fluviatilis and Cobitis paludica are common in the upper course of the Sistema Ibérico rivers.[9] Some mountain streams have been stocked with trout.[10]

Traditional cattle rearing activities, formerly so important in central Iberia, still survive on dry grasslands in certain villages around the system. There are also many hunters visiting some of the ranges, mainly those that are relatively closer to the urban areas and especially on weekends.[11]


Some ranges have forested patches, consisting mainly of Pinus pinaster, Pinus sylvestris and Pinus uncinata pines and Quercus rotundifolia, Quercus pyrenaica and Quercus faginea oaks, even Fagus sylvatica beeches and Betula pendula birches grow in some humid slopes, where Pteridium aquilinum, Polypodium vulgare ferns may also be found.

Other ranges are rocky and quite bare with heath (Erica arborea, Erica vagans, Calluna vulgaris), broom as well as thyme and Festuca and Nardus stricta grasslands. Thin forest or shrubland may include Juniperus communis, Juniperus thurifera, Cytisus purgans, Erinacea anthyllis and Calluna vulgaris shrub. Often the southern slopes are drier than the northern ones and may be subject to wildfires in periods of prolonged drought, especially in the summer.

Bogs are not common in the Iberian Peninsula, but high altitude bogs form in the few areas of the Sistema Ibérico where the water remains stagnant, such as near Orihuela del Tremedal, Bronchales and in the place known as Fuente del Hierro, at an altitude between 1.400 and 1.550 m. The plants growing in these bogs are mainly Polytrichum mosses, Potentilla erecta, Pinguicula vulgaris, Vaccinium myrtillus, Calluna vulgaris, and also Drosera rotundifolia, a carnivorous plant that does not grow further south in Western Europe.

Centaurea pinnata is an endangered species of plant present in the Sierra de Vicort and Sierra de Santa Cruz mountain ranges.[12]

Mountain ranges[edit]

The Sistema Ibérico comprises several mountain ranges and massifs:

Main subranges and features[edit]


The main peaks of the system are: Moncayo (2,313 m), Monte San Lorenzo (2,262 m), Pico de Urbión (2,228 m), Peña Cebollera (2,129 m), Javalambre (2,020 m) and Peñarroya (2,019 m). Other locally important summits are Cerro Calderón (1,837 m), Mont Caro (1,441 m), Tossal d'Orenga (1,144 m) and Montegordo (837 m),


The Sistema Ibérico is not as high as other mountain systems in Spain. It is, however, very significant from the hydrographic point of view for important rivers of the Iberian Peninsula have their source in its mountains, which divide the Atlantic from the Mediterranean watershed. The following rivers rise in the Sistema Ibérico:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Recursos minerales de España - Universidad de Zaragoza". Archived from the original on 2011-08-10. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
  2. ^ Luis Diego Arribas, Contemporary Art and Opencast Mining, University of Zaragoza, 2009
  3. ^ Comarcas de Aragón - Cuencas Mineras
  4. ^ Natura Xilocae - Entre la sierra de Caldereros y el Maestrazgo de Teruel
  5. ^ Pueblos deshabitados - Collado de la Grulla (Teruel)
  6. ^ Un pueblo de Teruel, salvado por la inmigración
  7. ^ Despoblación en Aragon Archived 2012-08-23 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Walking In Spain
  9. ^ "Número de especies y endemismos". Archived from the original on 2013-06-19. Retrieved 2011-06-20.
  10. ^ Mapa de la trucha del Sistema Ibérico Archived 2012-03-25 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ MARM / Biodiversidad - Sierra de Vicort Archived 2011-08-07 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ De Rutas - Sierra de Vicor Archived 2011-05-28 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Country Studies
  14. ^ Montipedia - Spanish Archived 2012-09-05 at

External links[edit]