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Island Ecology

Island Ecology

by José P Ribas



Ibiza Ecology

The Islands of Ibiza and Formentera have been blessed by Mother Nature, providing them with a great variety of life displayed in a wonderful scenery and almost the best climatic conditions (we could do with a bit more rain).

It offers both inhabitants and visitors a real feeling of authentic quality of life, peace and harmony.

There is not another natural green spot like these little islands in Southern Europe and all the Mediterranean. Ask people who have been travelling in the same latitudes in mainland Spain, the South of Italy, Turkey or the Greek Islands. They know what we are talking about.


The Flora of the islands contains about 1,500 species of plants. Between 900 and 1,000 are autochthonous, some are endemic and the rest have adapted in the last centuries. This number is one of the largest percentages in the world, just below that of the tropical jungles and over 45% of all the species in the UK.

Botanical researchers from many countries have been to the islands to study this phenomenal variety. Some of these plants ("tangsi gargarea", "aloe vera", among others) are now being exported to several countries, including China and South Africa, to produce new medicines and beauty products.

There is also a very good local team of scientific advisers working on a new catalogue, the "Nova Encyclopaedia de les Illes Balears."

In future editions I hope to pass on the knowledge of these botanical experts to guide us through this amazing world of plants.


The local Fauna seems to be in harmony with the size of the islands.

There are no big autochthonous terrestrial mammals or reptiles. In fact, all the earliest fossils found on land are sea creatures. The first mammal fossil bones that we know of belong to a type of marsupial bat that became endemic for a few millions years. There are also remains of three or four endemic species of rats and mice. Some saurian reptile fossils (lizards and geckos) have also been classified. But there is no evidence of Ophidians or terrestrial-turtles.

The largest fossil skeleton found belongs to an eagle, larger then any living eagle nowadays in Europe (it was shown in Sant Antonio last winter, together with other bones of several birds also extinguished, in an exhibition called a "Natural History of the Balearic Islands").

There are more species of birds then any other kind of animal, apart from insects. Amateur naturalists have classified some new specimens of insects in recent years, and they say that there is a long job to do with quite a few waiting to be classified. (If you find a new one, you can call it after your own name or your best friend's or worst enemy's, as you wish).

All the rapacious birds on the Islands are now protected. There are about a dozen, as well as one type of albatross, known locally as "Virot."

The last colony in the World of this autochthonous bird ("Puphinus Mauretanicus") survives in Formentera and the little islands around. We also have a lot of tourist birds coming to visit us on their way to Africa, like flamingos, starlings, thrushes and herons. Some, such as the blackbird, have decided to stay with us all year round and have become a real pest for the local farmers.

This spring, the leaders of the co-operatives went to the local government for help, as it is forbidden to kill them. They blame the blackbirds for eating all the fresh fruit from the trees.

Personally I like their saxo-jazz melodies, the way they sing, but I understand the farmers' point of view. Perhaps we should recognise the big amount of insects they also eat and of the amount of good the blackbirds do, or can do. Even so, if there is a good solution for all, it should be found. Any ideas are welcome.

Practically all the mammals of the islands came with settlers, including rabbits, goats, sheep, pigs, donkeys, genets, ferrets, martens, hedgehogs, dogs and cats.

There is a lot to say about them all, as there is a lot to say about the birds and the Flora. We have not mentioned yet the Fauna of the sea coast and closer waters. We will be back on them all regularly.

I want to speak about Nature in general and of the ecological problems. I cannot be - or even try to be - too profound, but will try to answer all your questions in the most honest and wise way I can. (And I can... with a little help from my friends).

I especially want to inform readers of the local ecology and today's problems. I will interview the experts - and the politicians - to see and understand the Spanish and local laws about the environment. Together we will discover the different areas of Ibiza, the different ecosystems there are, the amount of different grades of protection they have, the present and the perspectives in short terms.

We have to speak about the water supply: what are the true needs? What is the waste?

The increase of artificial beaches and the damage that this extra amount of sand does to the seashore and seabed.

Energy, consumerism, the cost of living, traffic, pollution and the demands of tourism.

The alternatives. The new technologies.

Forest fires.


The Eco-tax. Can we just keep building?

And any other problem or news that may come along meanwhile

The Good News

The good news is the opening last Sunday (10th June 2001) of ECOLANDIA; a new centre dedicated to all kinds of activities to do with Ecology.

In this large park, you can find a good selection of natural, local products, marmalades, honey, wines and liqueurs, bread, cheese, herbs, cakes, dry and fresh fruit, perfumes etc., handmade artisan goods, clothes, silver. There is a little snack bar with vegetarian food.

There's an information office where you can find out anything to do with the local environment and Nature in general. Visitors can bring their organic waste from home to produce compost, which will be used in the park gardens where there is plenty of room for children to play.

School children will visit the centre to learn the first steps on natural disciplines and proper behaviour towards the environment.

Ambitious plans of ecological work are almost ready to be put into action.

Chris Dews is the director and the creator of the Eco Park. He is one of the pioneers of the local ecological groups. In 1990 he and a few friends founded "Amigos de la Tierra-Ibiza" and became the first president of the organisation. Since then, he has not stopped working for the Nature of the island. I want to express my respects to Chris, to all the team that works with him and to the Gaspar family (the owners of the finca)

To all of you I say thank you for the great job you are doing. Ibiza is in debt to you.

Ecolandia is on the Ibiza-Sant Antoni road, Km. 8.500, finca "Can Gaspar de Sant Rafel"

There is a bus stop nearby and ample parking.

Good luck and long life to Ecolandia.

José P Ribas