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Ibiza has two protected areas: Parc Natural de Ses Salines and Reserva Natural de Cala d’Hort.
Four important elements in Ibiza were declared World Heritage in 1999 under the denomination “Ibiza, Biodiversity and Culture”: The meadow of Neptune grass which lies within the marine reserve between Ibiza and Formentera, the walls of Dalt Vila, the ancient archeological site of Sa Caleta and the burial site at Puig des Molins.
18 areas in Ibiza have also been included in the European Natura 2000 Network as Sites of Community Importance and Bird Important Areas due to their extraordinary natural value.
Ses Salines Natural Wild life Reserve
The Natural Reserve on the islands of Ibiza and Formentera consists of a variety of ecosystems. Among these are coastal lagoons, the well-known salt flats, a wide stretch of sea that connects Ibiza and Formentera and the many tiny islands dotted between the two main islands.
The terrestrial component of the site includes wetlands, sandy beaches with well-developed dune systems and woodland areas where juniper trees are common (Juniperus oxicedrus and J. Phoenicia). The reserve harbours 11 species of endemic plants, 7 rare species and 8 considered vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). More than 200 different species of birds have been observed the area, of which 171 are migratory species. And there are 56 species of invertebrates, 11 species of terrestrial reptiles and 5 species of mammals found only in Ibiza and Formentera.
The marine area is characterised by the presence of dense and very well preserved meadows of oceanic seagrass (Posidonia oceanica). Oceanic Posidonia, commonly called Neptune grass, is an endemic species only found in the Mediterranean Sea. Its conservation is of great importance not only because it helps to oxygenate, purify and maintain the quality of the seawater, but also because the dense growth of its root systems (rhizomes) over hundreds of years has generated a reef that protects beaches and coastal areas from the damaging erosive effect of rough seas and storms, contributing to the preservation of sand-dunes. The Neptune grass banks in the reserve of Ses Salines are the best developed in the Mediterranean and the largest reported worldwide, reaching four metres high. It is also thought to be the biggest living organism in the world, measuring an area of 700 square kilometres. Moreover, the Neptune grass has an extraordinary biological productivity, similar to that of a tropical forest. Well-preserved Neptune grass meadows harbour an extraordinary diversity of marine life and are a very important hatchery for a variety of fish.
Neptune grass meadows are therefore critical for the maintenance of fish stocks, and an essential element for sustainable fisheries. Furthermore, Posidonia acts as a “carbon sink”, transforming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into oxygen and thus helping to slow down global warming.
Some Neptune grass areas were included in the Ibiza World Heritage Site, but are still threatened by boat traffic and anchoring, water pollution and infrastructure projects.
More information at the official site (in Spanish): Parque Natural de Ses Salines
Cala d’Hort Natural Reserve
The islands of es Vedra, Vedranell, Illots de Ponent and surrounding marine environment, form the Cala d’Hort Natural Reserve. The small islands are rich in endemic plants and important for bird life. It is an extremely valuable natural area forming part of the European NATURA 2000 network due the presence of rare, endangered species and important ecosystems and two sites are also Important Bird Areas.
Endangered endemic species include the Balearic shearwater, a highly threatened marine bird that breeds in the coastal cliffs, as well as endangered Audouin’s gull, and Peregrine and Eleonorae’s falcon, present in coastal areas and in the small islands. In addition, marine areas harbour protected fauna, such as the Loggerhead turtle and the Bottlenose dolphin.
A larger area of Cala d’Hort was granted protection in 2002, after years of intensive campaigning and massive public mobilization to stop urbanization plans and a golf project in the area. But the protection was short-lived, when in 2007, the protected area was reduced from the 2.700 hectares originally included in the Park to the coastal areas, some 234 hectares. However the golf project was stopped. Nevertheless, urban development remains a constant and significant threat not only to the few remaining, unspoilt coastal areas, but also to valuable inland habitats.
More information at the official site (in Spanish): Reservas Naturales