The Sierra Espuña is a mountainous massif that is part of the Betic system, within the Segura basin. It forms a Regional Park of 17,804 hectares that includes the municipalities of Alhama de Murcia, Totana, and Mula. However, it should be noted that the mountainous complex has over 25,000 hectares, housing a total of seven municipalities: Aledo, Murcia, Librilla, Alhama de Murcia, Mula, Pliego, and Totana. Its highest altitude is held by the “Morrón de Totana”, reaching 1,585 meters.
In 1931, the Sierra Espuña was declared a Natural Site of National Interest, and in 1992 it was declared a Regional Park. It is also listed as a place of community importance (SCI) and a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA).
This mountain range underwent a process of reforestation, since at the end of the 19th century it was in a lamentable ecological state, having lost almost all of its vegetation cover to serious desertification. In the vegetation of the Sierra Espuña stand out the sources, the forests, the ravines, as well as different crops.
Records made in the province of Murcia indicate that the Sierra Espuña contains approximately 1,000 plant species, which corresponds to 33% of the total species found in the province of Murcia. A number of them are protected because they have botanical-geographic or historical value.
The arboreal species with the greatest presence is the Aleppo pine, while in the higher areas there are Black pine and Maritime pine. There are also, to a lesser extent, Montpelier maples, Holm oak, and Valencian oak. In the higher altitude areas, the vegetation contains plants adapted to extreme weather conditions.
In the dry riverbed and near waters, such as sources and streams, are: Poplar, Honeysuckle, Elm, and Common smilax, among those with the highest presence. In the undergrowth are the Strawberry tree, Common juniper, Mastic, Common hawthorn, and Kermes oak, among the most outstanding. In the summits are the Cytisus oromediterraneus and the Spanish juniper.
Regarding fauna, a significant variety of species have been identified. There are 123 species of birds, 38 species of mammals, 17 species of reptiles, and eight species of amphibians. Among the insects, we must highlight the great variety of butterflies, which are estimated at more than 500 species. Among them, the Aricia morronensis and Cupido carswelli butterflies deserve special mention.
Birds are present in all the different ecological spaces in the mountains. In the forest areas, one can see the great tit, the long-tailed tit, and the crossbill, as well as birds of prey such as the Eurasian sparrowhawk.
Night birds include the eagle owl and the tawny owl; this is one of the few points in the province where its song can be heard. Towards the pine forest, there are ortolan bunting, song thrush, and true finches. Golden eagles and booted eagles also have an important presence.
The presence of some of these species in Sierra Espuña has motivated the declaration of this area as a Special Protection Area for Birds (ZEPA), being of community importance in Europe—more specifically due to the eagle owl and golden eagle communities.
Other birds with a presence in the Sierra Espuña are the Bonelli's eagle, Dupont's lark, Leonardo's vulture, peregrine falcon, Eurasian stone-curlew, and red-billed chough.
Among the mammals, the Barbary sheep deserves special mention for its uniqueness and beauty. In addition, the beech marten, the common genet, the European badger, the wild boar, the dormouse, and the wildcat are present in the mountains. It is worth mentioning the presence of squirrels (endemic subspecies), in addition to Spanish wild goats.
The natterjack toad, the Iberian painted frog, and the Betic midwife toad are distinguished among amphibians. Among the reptiles, the Montpellier snake, the ocellated lizard, and the Lataste's viper stand out.
Among the historical sites, it is worth highlighting the “Huerta Espuña”, which at the end of the 19th century was a site of study and operations to determine the plants for the reforestation of the mountains. The snow pits are other historical sites, which were built in the late 16th century to store the snow that fell in the mountains, for distribution to cities, towns, and hospitals in the province of Murcia.