Gallocanta

The Laguna de Gallocanta is the largest inland lagoon in Spain and the country’s largest natural water body with 1,400 ha. It is located in an endorrheic basin in the extreme southwest of the province Zaragoza and the northeast of Teruel in the Aragon in an area of extreme continental climate (absolute temperatures are 39°C maximum and -21°C minimum with winds frequent and often above 80 km/h.). The lake’s size fluctuates massively due to the sporadic nature of rain here (average annual rainfall around 500 mm). Gallocanta is renowned for the biannual crane migration (November-December + Late February-March). Some years as many as 60,000 gather here to roost.

Crane at Gallocanta by Marek Szczepanek (wikipedia)

Information below adapted from Ramsar Directory of Wetlands of International Importance. More here

Importance Gallocanta is especially known as the most important staging area in Spain for cranes Grus grus . About 80% of the entire western population (more than 60,000 individuals counted in autumn 1989) visit the site during migration. In winter, an average of 47,000 waterbirds (36,000 Anatidae) were recorded during the period 1972-1989, including large concentrations of Anas strepera , Netta rufina , Aythya ferina, and Fulica atra . Nesting bird species include Pterocles orientalis , Recurvirostra avosetta , Himantopus himantopus and Glareola pratincola . The halophytic vegetation communities, and the zoo- and phyto-plankton of the lagoon include endemic species.

Wetland Types:The Laguna de Gallocanta is a seasonal brackish to saline lake, with some seasonal freshwater elements depending on water supply, surrounded by agricultural land.

Biological/Ecological notes:The flora of the Laguna de Gallocanta and its surroundings is rich and varied. Deciduous trees with Salix spp ., Ulmus sp. and planted Populus sp. are found along the streams and channels which run into the lagoon. Beds of Phragmites australis , Typha sp., Scirpus maritimus and S. lacustris form a narrow belt along the banks of the lagoon. The location and size of open areas of low, halophytic vegetation with Salicornia ramosissima, Suaeda maritima, Suaeda splendens and Puccinellia fasciculata, varies with water level fluctuations. Brackish rush beds with Juncus maritimus, Elymus pungens, Schoenus nigricans and Puccinellia pungens, fringe the lake, covering extensive areas in places. The submerged aquatic flora includes Potamogeton sp., Groenlandia sp., Ruppia sp., Zannichellia sp., Lemna sp., Myriophyllum sp., and Utricularia sp. Extensive beds of Lamprothamnium papulosum and Chara galoides partially cover the bottom of the lagoon. The lake is surrounded by highly modified pastures and grassland, and irrigated and non-irrigated crops. Small numbers of the bustard Otis tarda occur outside the breeding season. The area is rich in butterflies (70 species), including endemic species of the Satyridae family.

Hydrological/Physical notes:The saline Laguna de Gallocanta is the lowest point of the largest endorheic (enclosed) basin (54,335 ha) of the Iberian Peninsula. The lagoon is supplied mainly through rainfall runoff through small streams and channels. Supply is irregular over the year. Some groundwater also filters through, mainly in the vicinity of the northeast shore of the lake. In times of drought the lake may dry out totally (e.g. 1983-86), while in rainy years the lake depth can reach 2.5 m and the surface area may extend to 1,330 ha. Salinity varies considerably (16 g/l in 1977 when the lake was full, compared with 105 g/l in October 1981 when the water level was very low

Human Uses: The land around the lake is used for agricultural crops and grazing. Hunting is not permitted.

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