Networks of protected areas are one of the main strategies used to address the biodiversity crisis. These should encompass as many species and ecosystems as possible, particularly in territories with high biological diversity, such as the Spanish arid zones. We produce a priority ranking of the arid zones of south-east Spain according to the rarity and richness of their characteristic flora and the level of endangerment. The resulting hierarchy shows that optimal zones for the preservation of the flora are located outside the network of protected areas. In particular, it is important to extend the network and encourage the creation of microreserves in the depression of the River Guadiana Menor (Granada), where there is least protection. This river valley is a particularly important arid site because of its unique flora and fauna, and palaeontological and archaeological findings.