Peñalara Massif wetlands

Charca de alta  montañaAt the Peñalara Massif there are several wetlands with a great interest and ecological value, which origin is linked to the glacial activity of the last glaciations period. Among all of them we should emphasize the Peñalara Lake (La Laguna Grande de Peñalara) due to its size and location at an extraordinary beautiful cirque. There are however other of less entity such as The Birds lake (La Laguna de los Pájaros) and The Carnations lake (La Laguna de Claveles), and numerous ponds and peat soils disseminated all over the massif. This high-mountain aquatic ecosystems richness has allowed the Peñalara Massif Wetlands inclusion as a Ramsar Site on the list of wetlands of international relevance.

When those lacustrine enclaves are located sporadically in a region, they reach a remarkable representative degree and even an emblematic character, very often proper of other latitudes great lakes. That is the case of The Peñalara Lake, one of the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park visitors’ favorite destinations. In the past that lake suffered an important damage due to an inappropriate tourist use, leading to the accomplishment of a relevant ecologic restoring project. At the present time this enclave visit is limited in certain aspects to maintain its ecological status in excellent conditions.

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Those lakes may turn out not so eye-catching, if we compare them to other lakes with identical origin of other mountain ranges, such as The Pyrenees or The Cantábrica Chain. However its location at The Central Mountain Range grants them an interesting biogeography transition character between the Peninsula northern alpine areas, very related with the central Europe Mountains such as The Alps, and the great Sierra Nevada mountains range with a high Mediterranean character.

The Peñalara Lake (La Laguna Grande de Peñalara)

Laguna Grande de PeñalaraThe Peñalara Lake, located at 2.019 m of altitude at the Peñalara glacial cirque, presents much reduced dimensions in comparison with some Iberian Pyrenean lakes. It is however very similar to lakes of other mountain chains, like the Iberian Range, the Peninsula Northwest sierras, the Sierra Nevada range or the closer Sierra de Gredos. Its small volume of 11.563 m3 ensures that certain environmental factors such as the wind or the rain have a quicker and more drastic influence in the water mass conditions than in larger lakes. Its maximum depth attains 4,7 m, and its water surface reaches 5.779 m2.

A limnology tracking is taking place at the Peñalara Lake, obtaining a large amount of data related to this lake ecology.

The Carnations lake (La Laguna de los Claveles)

Laguna de ClavelesIt is located at a moraine arch in the superior zone of The Pepe Hernando cirque. It is a temporary lake, drying generally in the mid summer season. The depression bottom is occupied by middle size stones (0,1-1 m of diameter), with barely silt deposits, which grants it a very permeable condition. Although its depth attains 2,6 m, after the thaw it reaches a total volume similar to the Peñalara Lake one, and a surface slightly larger.

The Birds lake (La Laguna de los Pájaros)

Laguna de Los PájarosLocated at the north side of the Peñalara Massif, and nearly on the ridge divisor line, it is the highest lake (2.170 m of altitude) and the smallest of the massif principal ones. It shows a curious shoe sole shape, with a maximum depth of 0,5 m. Unlike the previous one, it is a permanent lake during the whole year, with a small fluctuations level, due to the presence of a silt substrate blocking the water infiltration on the soil.

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Scattered all over the Peñalara Massif extension, there are more than 240 wetlands of different types and sizes. Those wetlands, generally small ponds, very often temporary, and as well some easily waterlogged or hygropeaty meadows, tend to be grouped in certain zones.

Charca del ZabalaThen at the north side of the massif are located the Peñalara Plains (Los Llanos de Peñalara), zone of ice accumulation at the glacial epoch, where sites not only the Carnations lake but as well many other ponds of variable dimensions. In the same zone of the National Park at a lower altitude, are located two small cirques full of hydromorphic soils and temporary small ponds: El Regajo de La Pedriza and El Brezal Stream. At the south of that zone is located the Pepe Hernándo Cirque, a tectonic landing zone with easily waterlogged areas and small temporary ponds interconnected by small streams and brooks.

Finally at the south of the Massif is located the Peñalara Vale (La Hoya de Peñalara), originated by the erosion of the extinct Peñalara glacier tongue. It is a large zone full of hygropeaty and matgrass (Nardus stricta) soils, crossed by several brooks and small ponds fed by the Peñalara Lake drainage.

Generally, we can speak about similar chemical characteristics of the water at the Peñalara Massif, in comparison with other lower altitude aquatic ecosystems, but with little variations due to the ponds location and the cattle presence.

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