The Pyrenean Glaciers Natural Monuments is an environmental protection designation by the Government of Aragon, with various locations in the regions of Alto Gállego, Sobrarbe, and La Ribagorza, all within the province of Huesca (Aragon, Spain). It covers an area of 3,190.4 hectares and an additional 12,897 hectares of peripheral protection zone. The altitude ranges from 2,700 to 3,404 meters above sea level.
These Monuments were declared as such on March 21, 1990, by Law 2/1990, declaring the Pyrenean Glaciers as Natural Monuments. They were expanded on July 23, 2002, through Decree 271/2002, by the Government of Aragon, which modified and expanded the protected area of the Pyrenean Glaciers Natural Monuments, established peripheral protection zones, and approved their Protection Plan. Finally, the last expansion took place on September 4, 2007, through Decree 216/2007, by the Government of Aragon, which expanded the protected area of the Pyrenean Glaciers Natural Monuments and modified their Protection Plan. Significant parts of these Natural Monuments belong to two Protected Natural Areas in the Aragonese high mountains: Posets-Maladeta Natural Park and Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park.
They include the following massifs (specifying the affected municipalities):
- Balaitús (Sallent de Gállego).
- Infierno (Panticosa and Sallent de Gállego).
- Viñamala (Torla-Ordesa).
- Monte Perdido (Bielsa and Fanlo).
- La Munia (Bielsa).
- Posets (San Juan de Plan, Sahún, and Benasque).
- Perdiguero (Benasque).
- Maladeta (Benasque and Montanuy). This includes the peak of Aneto.
In addition to the glacial masses, these areas also exhibit other manifestations of glacial geomorphology, such as moraines, glacial lakes (ibones), and U-shaped valleys.
The Natural Monuments of the Pyrenean Glaciers represent the southernmost ice masses in Europe. They are the last remnants of the glaciers that, along with other shaping agents, formed the main features of the Pyrenean landscape. The uniqueness and fragility of these small but beautiful cold remnants have made them of high scientific, cultural, and landscape interest.
Currently, Pyrenean glaciation is limited to certain residual spaces above 2,700 meters above sea level. The reduction in glacial surfaces has been a constant since the end of the Little Ice Age (LIA), a cooling period between the 14th and mid-19th centuries that led to glacial reactivation in the Pyrenees and many other mountains worldwide. The reduction in glacial surfaces has accelerated since the 1980s.
The climate in these high mountain areas is extreme, which leads to a scarcity of plants and animals due to their difficulty in adapting. Only a few species, such as chamois and snow partridges, can be seen in the vicinity of the glaciers. The dominant species in the glacial lakes is a rare endemic amphibian, the Pyrenean newt (Euproctus asper).
In order to understand the climatic characteristics of these unique environments, it is important to install monitoring systems. This is the case with the snow and weather station owned by the Patronato de los Monumentos Naturales de los Glaciares Pirenaicos (Board of Natural Monuments of the Pyrenean Glaciers) near the summit of Mount Aneto.
Due to its location, with difficult access and maintenance conditions, Arantec has been chosen to update the technological equipment of the station. This company has specialized personnel experienced in installations of this kind, as well as in high mountain environments.
The data provided by this snow and weather station will contribute to a better understanding of the environmental and climatological conditions of the Aneto Glacier and its evolution, in the current context of significant reduction in glacial masses.
Arantec’s work ensures the proper maintenance of this high mountain station and the collection of snow and weather data.
Mario Losáñez Tejedor
Civil Engineer specializing in Roads, Canals, and Bridges.