The Biosphere Reserve, one of the largest in the Iberian Peninsula, covers the entire Upper Miño Basin, having this river and the different tributaries as common threads.
With altitudes ranging between 100 and 1,200 m, it is home to some of the best examples of natural ecosystems and traditional agrosystems in the European Atlantic region.
The landscapes of the Miño and the Sierra del Xistral are the axes that hold the most valuable ecosystems: fragas (forests), insuas (river islands) in the rivers and peat bogs (queirogais).
The heart of these lands is the Terra Chá plateau with its characteristic agricultural landscapes and unique wetlands, such as Laguna de Cospeito, Laguna de O Rei, Lagunas de Riocaldo or Charca de Alligal.


This Reserve houses an important area of wetlands, both mountainous and associated with depressions, including lacunar, hygrophilous and hygroturfophilous wetlands. This is the most important wetland complex for the conservation of biodiversity in SW Europe. The morphological, hydrological and sedimentological characteristics of the basin favor the existence of a complex system of topogenic wetlands, as well as a large number of small aquifers interrelated with the river system, which is of great importance.

The northern mountainous area (ZEC Serra do Xistral) is home to an important area of mountain wetlands made up of humid heathlands, high peat bogs and blanket peat bogs. The blanket bogs of the Sierra del Xistral, considered a priority habitat, are the only representations of this peculiar type of peat bogs present in the Iberian Peninsula. These mountain wetlands support a rich and rare flora of bryophytes, higher plants and invertebrate communities.

The Reserve is home to a good representation of climax forests made up of various types of oak forests (Quercus robur, Quercus pyrenaica), with a great diversity of vascular species.

The river sections that run through the lower altitude areas probably show the best representation of alluvial and gallery forests in the North of the Atlantic Peninsula. Some of the riparian forests have more than 60 species characteristic of nemoral environments. Consequently, the river channels host a rich and varied diversity of species, both bivalves (Margaritifera, Unio, Anodonta), vascular plants (Isoetes, Luronium) and vertebrates (Lutra).

In the different ecosystems, and mainly in wetlands, there is a significant number of species protected by the Birds and Habitat Directives, as well as species included in the National Catalog of Endangered Species and the Galician Catalog of Endangered Species. The territory is also the western distribution limit of numerous species. Among them it is worth highlighting Fagus sylvatica.

Map of the natural heritage of RB Terras do Miño

Lagoa de Cospeito and Horses in Sierra del Xistral

Roman Wall of Lugo and Castro de Viladonga


The Reserve includes a large number of archaeological sites ranging from the Final Upper Palelithic to the Middle Ages.

Within this broad period, the Reserve sites acquire great relevance at the NW Iberian level as they are the only records for certain periods of the Pleistocene, as is the case of the Pleistocene levels (50-40,000 years) of the Cueva de A Valiña, or the levels at the end of the Peña Grande Tardiglacier. With the adoption of agriculture and livestock in the territory (6,000 years ago), the number of archaeological sites progressively increased, either of a funerary nature (medoñas), or in more recent periods of fortified towns or forts, such as Castro from Viladonga.

In relation to the Roman occupation, the Roman wall that surrounds the center of the city of Lugo stands out (the only one in the world that has been preserved entirely), as well as the Roman baths, whose remains are visible inside the current spa.

UNESCO has recognized the Camino de Santiago (Northern and Primitive Way) as a World Heritage Site in 1995, which runs through the Reserve, as well as the Roman Wall of Lugo, in 2000, and the Cathedrals of Lugo and Mondoñedo (in 2015). It has also declared the walls built with dry stone (without connecting mass or settlement) as intangible cultural heritage.


The Biosphere Reserve includes a large number of historical elements linked to the traditional use of natural resources (granaries, caneiros, mills), infrastructure (bridges), as well as religious elements (monasteries, chapels, churches, cathedral) and civil.

On the other hand, cultural biodiversity, taking water courses as a unifying axis, discovers various elements and uses associated with them, including the following:

  • Caneiros, are small artisanal constructions dating back to the Middle Ages.
  • Fishing gear adapted to the species and particular conditions of the rivers, among them it is worth highlighting the nets, trammel nets, and rateles. There is a good example of these arts at the Terras do Miño Interpretation Center (Lugo).
  • Windmills and mallets, highlighting the Mazo de Santa Comba (Lugo).
  • Blacksmiths and forges.
  • Batuxos, small traditional boats used as a means of passage between shores, logo of the Biosphere Reserve.

Intangible heritage is equally important, although poorly studied. It is possible to highlight the rich and little studied toponymy of the territory, the numerous legends of oral tradition, the traditional celebrations, the traditional trades of the area such as oleiros, canteiros, ferreiros, carpinteiros, serranchíns, fiandeiras, tecedeiras, afiadores, feirantes, seitureiros, tanners, shoemakers, telleiros and muiñeiros in many of which the influence of the Jewish colony present in the territory can be observed.

Batuxo (photo by Manuel Valcárcel) and Olería de Bonxe

Grelos Fair (Abadín) and Clogs Museum (Muimenta, Cospeito)


Among the traditional activities, it is worth highlighting extensive grazing (horses, cows) in a semi-freedom regime, hay meadow systems with highly diverse praticultural formations, the development of small-scale horticultural crops with traditional ecotypes, non-industrial cheese factories, production of meat products, etc.

These productions, of a local and artisanal nature, result in the existence of numerous products of differentiated quality, endorsed with PDO relating to the types of cheese (“San Simón da Costa”, “Tetilla”, “Cebreiro”), as well as a set of PGI, among which are “Galician Veal”, “Faba de Lourenzá”, “Grelos de Galicia”, “Patata de Galicia” or “Tarta de Santiago”, among others.

This work was fully financed by the Next Generation funds of the European Union through the subsidy called by the Xunta de Galicia “Aid for actions by the management bodies of the biosphere reserves of Galicia under the Recovery Plan , Transformation and Resilience, financed by the European Union-NextGenerationEU, for the years 2022 and 2023.” However, the views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the European Commission is responsible for them.

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