The deforestation carried out in this area since time immemorial has given rise to the open countryside we know today. Throughout history, man has exploited this gently sloping land to cultivate dryland crops, mainly wheat, barley and alfalfa. As a result, a community of birds that require woodless terrain has settled here, namely steppe birds such as the little bustard, the stone curlew, the black-bellied sandgrouse, the calandra lark and the short-toed lark. The great bustard stands out among these on account of its great size and weight, its courtship ritual and because the reserve provides shelter to over 2,500 individuals, constituting the greatest population of this species in Spain.
People have enhanced the landscape with adobe and mud-wall constructions built in the popular style, outstanding among which are the dovecots, some being round with an inner yard, while others are rectangular in shape. The resulting abundance of doves and pigeonshas favoured the permanent presence of a fair-sized population of peregrines. Another species of falcons that usually breed in weep holes or under Arabic tiles, the endangered lesser kestrel, has also made use of these and other constructions built in the popular style. Projects aimed at restoring and refurbishing dovecots have contributed to this small bird of prey maintaining a breeding population of more than 300 couples, one of the largest in the country.
The lakes and ponds occupy an area of around 600 hectares, the major ones being Laguna Grande, Barillos and Las Salinas. They suffer acute low water seasons, drying up almost completely in the summer, a time at which the saline nature of the wetland becomes apparent due to the white crusts of salt that appear after the water has evaporated. The vegetation in and around the lakes is typical of saline areas. This salt has been exploited since the Bronze Age, until this practice fell into disuse in the 18th century on account of its low profitability. The lakes and ponds of the nature reserve are not currently exploited in any way whatsoever, access to them being restricted for conservation reasons. As a result, more than 25,000 greylag geese usually winter in the wetlands alongside thousands of mallards, gadwalls, shovelers, teals and garganeys, among other species. In November, it is an obligatory stopover for cranes from Northern Europe on their journey to Extremadura. The aforementioned species are accompanied by waders such as dunlins, stints, sandpipers, green- and redshanks, sandpipers, ruffs, golden andringed plovers and lapwings, as well as large numbers of passerines such as meadow pipits and skylarks. If we add to these nesting waterbirds such as the black-winged stilt, the avocet, the water railand the gull-billed tern, among others, the exceptional importance of these lakes and ponds is clearly demonstrated.