HA 001: Árida

Documenting Spain's deserts

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Images & Story by Jordi Jon Padro | Instagram | Website

Reading Time: 10 Minutes (14 Images | 705 Words)


Like much of the Mediterranean around 80% of Spain is facing desertification inside the 21st century. Investigations led by the Spanish Environmental Ministry have indicated that the regions most at risk are Murcia, Almeria and their respective mountain ranges, all situated in the south-east of the country.

Desertification is the degradation of lands that are arid, semi-arid, or sub-humid. It’s driven to a large extent by human activities for example, through clearing vegetation or using excess water, yet global climate change will also have consequences, delivering prolonged droughts and more regular fires and floods. The combination of human and climatic causes creates a cycle that drives desertification, yet through careful management, the effects can be mitigated.


South-East Spain is in many places a dry desertlike area already, however, the combination of droughts and floods continues to alter the landscape and ecosystem.

Instead of water, there’s football. Young Senegalese men enjoy a game each day at 7 pm, excluding Mondays, on the outskirts of Cuevas del Almanzora (Almeria). The Almanzora River, which flows nearby, has almost completely dried out due to droughts and agricultural practices in the area. Cuevas del Almanzora, August 2020.
Workers remove a car from the rubble in Benferri after the strong autumnal rains known as “Gota Fría”. Hundreds of cars were carried away by the floods, some spotted in other towns and others lost to the sea. Benferri, September 2019.
Land degradation is further increased by flash flooding in Spain. In the picture, an indoor football field faces the effects of floods caused by Gota Fria. Benferri, September 2019.
Felix, a 64-year-old retiree from El Paraje del Cabezo, poses in the kitchen of his house. “Despite my home being completely flooded, I consider myself lucky because I had the car in the repair shop”. Benferri, September 2019.

Where vegetation is cleared and soil is ill-treated the risk of desertification grows. These drivers are often related to industries, such as agriculture or mining, but more generic practices such as urbanisation can also be catalysts.

The entrance to one of the greenhouse fields of Southern Spain, also known as ‘Mar de Plástico’ (Sea of Plastic), in the province of Almeria. Around Adra, gates hide not just hectares of greenhouses but the dying lands affected by waste pollution and chemicals. Adra, December 2019.
From Algeria to Almeria. Migrant farmworkers in southern Spain suffer poor conditions to supply fruit and vegetables to the European Union. San Juan de Los Terreros, August 2020.
A quarry worker throws sand into a mound in Baix Camp county, in Southern Catalonia, one of the Spanish regions with the highest concentration of quarries. These cause negative environmental impacts through vegetation loss, ecosystem disturbance and a raft of other contributing factors. Vilanova d’Escornalbou, November 2020.
Dust clouds are a common phenomenon around the Levantine coast of Southern Spain caused by wind and industrial vehicles, like combines and tractors, whipping up the dry soil. Cuevas del Almanzora, August 2020.

The unique landscape in South-Eastern Spain attracts a diverse crowd, each for their own purposes but all drawn by the same, growing desert.

As the only desert in Europe, Almeria provides a unique environment in which to live as well as to express oneself. In the photograph, an old BMW has been set on fire by the visual artist Ada Zielinska. San Juan de Los Terreros, August 2020.
In Tabernas there are authentic Western-style theme parks due to the dry conditions. In the picture, an actor working at “Oasys Mini Hollywood” poses for the camera. Tabernas, May 2019.

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