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Fragility of wetlands

04 September 2023

Last week, two news items have appeared in different media and with different voices, but they show that what is happening to wetlands such as Doñana or the Tablas de Daimiel is not something that is so far away and that it has potentially catastrophic consequences for a multitude of species of fauna and flora.

migración aves Ibiza

The totally irresponsible use of the aquifers that feed wetlands, added to the consequences of climate change, is in practice killing off part of the wetlands of the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands. This, of course, is altering both the flora and fauna of these environments. Through the data collected in the scientific ringing campaign carried out by the SOM in the pre-nuptial passage (during the spring) in Illa de l'Aire, it can be seen that there is a historical downward trend in terms of the number of birds. This decrease can be explained basically by two reasons: as a consequence of climate change and as a consequence of the loss of ecosystems as a result of human activity. Illa de l'Aire is a small islet located to the southwest of Menorca, which is an important resting and recuperation point for thousands of birds that cross from Africa to Europe. On this small islet, the SOM has been carrying out this ringing campaign since 1995. In the link below, you can access the report which details everything related to the 2023 campaign, the more than 3000 new ringings that have been made, and the geographical and historical context and dates in which it takes place:

albufera de Mallorca

On the other hand, we have the news regarding the state of the Albufera de Mallorca, where the GOB is warning us of the consequences of the overexploitation of the hybrid resources that feed it. This depletion of the flow of fresh water reaching the Albufera is leading to a salinisation of the remaining water, which is transforming both the existing flora and fauna. In practice, this is condemning the species typical of freshwater areas to disappear. As mentioned above, it does not seem to be necessary to leave the Balearic Islands to find a "Doñana" or a "Tablas de Daimiel".


The wetlands in Eivissa

In Ibiza we have, broadly speaking, 2 wetlands. On the one hand, the Parc Natural de Ses Salines de Eivissa i Formentera, where the water is salty, and on the other, Ses Feixes, which is the most important freshwater wetland on the island. In neither case is there any reason to jump for joy at the current state of affairs. It is true that the natural park has a certain degree of application of its protected status and recognition of its tremendous importance for the island's biodiversity, and if we compare it with the prevailing nonsense at Ses Feixes, the situation is infinitely better... but that does not make the over-exploitation of the whole area surrounding the park (and the park itself) for purposes totally unrelated to the environment or conservation disappear. At the same time, the presence of invasive plant and animal species is also a reality, the most worrying case being undoubtedly the snakes, for which there does not seem to be a clear roadmap for control and eradication in the short or long term.

But let us return to Ses Feixes, which as a freshwater wetland, for an island as small as Eivissa should be of vital environmental importance, which it certainly is not. Every now and then there are headlines saying that this or that is going to be done, but the objective reality is that beyond cleaning the canals out of pure necessity for the residents of the area, and the small reconditioning of a small plot of land that the Vila Town Council has in the Talamanca area, nobody here is changing anything about the agonising state of this wetland. It is true that the bird observatory recently installed on the aforementioned council plot, together with the flooding of the plot, has given a breath of "life" to the area, making it more attractive to people who were unaware of it and also to the waders and ducks of the wetland. But it is also completely true that this did not change the mountains of rubbish that are everywhere, the existence of substandard housing, the presence of colonies of cats, one of which is authorised by the council itself and the rest as if they were because nothing is being done either. Feral cats are a big environmental problem, contrary to the opinion of those who have in mind the image of a flat cat, when a cat finds itself in an environment with the presence of wildlife, they hunt, and they hunt even without the need to eat, they do it purely out of instinct, play, courtship? And among their prey, there are many types of birds, reptiles, micro-mammals, etc. Consequently, the existence of feral cats, whether they have feeders or not at their disposal, in a sensitive environment such as a wetland area, is totally opposed to the preservation of the biodiversity of this area. There is one indisputable fact about Ses Feixes, and that is that no one in the public administration seems to dare to seriously and consistently address the recovery of this area for what it is, with the urban planning implications that this would have:

  1. A very important spot for the local fauna and flora related to the freshwater aquatic environment and which has unique characteristics in the Pitiusas archipelago: there is no "other Ses Feixes" in the Pitiusas.
  2. As with Illa de l'Aire and other islets scattered throughout the Mediterranean, the Pitiusas also act as the first point of entry for the thousands of birds that come from Africa during migration (or exit when it comes to return). This fact, makes that what for some is a "mosquito breeding ground", actually has a tremendous importance for the survival of dozens of bird species; and this in spite of the tremendously degraded and mistreated state in which the area is. Birds can only find food in their natural environment, that is to say, if we allow a freshwater wetland such as Ses Feixes to die, the repercussions will be tremendously negative for all those birds that need this environment to maintain the fat reserves that make their survival possible. That birds weighing 20, 15 or less than 10 grams are capable of crossing the Mediterranean without stopping to rest until they reach the north coast of Africa is something as incredible as it is easy to endanger, and the objective data are telling us that little by little we are condemning to disappear the natural environment on which hundreds of species depend, both residents and migrants, whether they are birds, amphibians, reptiles, plants...

Ses Feixes is of enormous importance, and its renaturalisation and protection as a protected natural area (or so it is supposed to be), should be a reality that is perfectly possible. On Ses Feixes, on the occasion of Wetlands Day, we made a small entry last February, which may be of interest to those who want to know a little more about this site. However, whenever there is the possibility of doing so, it is always advisable to arm yourself with binoculars and get to know it by walking around the area!


Text: own elaboration.


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