Climate change and the Pyrenees

Cet article est également disponible en: French

Pyrénées à la croisée des climats : la montagne face aux défis du changement climatique, by Santiago Mendieta, éditions Privat, 2011

I’ve been wondering for some time how the Pyrenees will face up to global warming and Santaigo Mendieta’s book is just what I have been looking for. It’s not all bad news.

In fact it is two books in one. On the one hand, the eternal mountains of the photos: despite the impressive photos showing just how much the glaciers have retreated, there are still crimson sunsets, splashing waterfalls, gloomy forests and immaculate fields of snow. And on the other hand, there are the changing mountains of the text, with the figures on global warming, the diminishing fertility of the fish, and trees marching north, invading the plains. Nothing will ever be the same again.

The statistics which most impressed me? The conclusion that in the mountains the isotherm is rising by 3 metres a year. And on the plain, in order to find the same average temperature, you have to move northwards 1–3km.

On the Aneto, 2012

On the Aneto, 2012


Glaciers have become a symbol of what is happening in the Pyrenees and further afield. In 2000 Moraine, an association dedicated to studying them, found 44 which covered an area of more than 2 hectares. By 2007 there were only 12.





And what about the animals? Marmottes, bears, wolves, isards, deer, vultures: how are they going to react? In theory they are very adaptable. In any case we humans have been managing them for some time. They may live in the wild, but they are not as wild as all that. If their populations are in general increasing, it’s thanks to man and not to climatic change.

Even so certain species remain threatened, the rock ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) and the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), for example.


Forest in the Spanish Pyrenees, gaining ground because of the decline in sheep farming

Forest in the Spanish Pyrenees, gaining ground because of the decline in sheep farming

Les Pyrénées à la croisée des climats is a book which covers many aspects of the mountains, an inventory of the present and a warning for the future. Despite the alarming predictions it is a pleasure to read such a well-documented book full of magnificent photos.

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