I draw attention to all our readers that the main site of a species of Orchid found nowhere else in Europe is imminently threatened with destruction. TAIB has been monitoring the orchid populations of the Albufera, Mallorca, for nearly 20 years. The main interest has been a species which was known as Orchis laxiflora palustris but over the years, and after much study by specialists including of its DNA, has been discovered to be more closely related to the genus Anacamptis and has been given the name Anacamptis robusta (T Stephenson) R.M. Bateman 2003.

The new nomenclature remains somewhat controversial but nevertheless it is widely recognised that this is a distinct genetic form with, it seems, no other population in Europe and only two isolated ones in North Africa. It should therefore be of highest conservation priority not just for the Balearic government but under the Convention for Biological Diversity (Rio, 1992) and for the European Union. However, more than two-thirds of the population in 2007 (and nearly 80% in 2006) lies in an unprotected area, called Son Bosc, which is now threatened by golf course development. The site was given protection as part of the Albufera Natural Park in 2003 but taken out again a few months later by a newly elected Balearic government – which has given the opportunity for a golf course development company to put forward this new project.

All attempts at the Balearic level have failed to persuade the authorities to act in favour of protecting the orchid and the development company has this week approached the Municipal Council of Muro (in whose jurisdiction the land falls) requesting a licence to go ahead with the development. If the Municipal Council grants the licence, the only way the golf course development could be stopped would be to persuade the Balearic government to intervene; and this appears unlikely unless pressure is applied at the international level.

There is a local action group which has asked me to place the issue into the international arena. In order to do this, I have drawn together some notes which demonstrate the importance of the area not just for this rare orchid but also as the site which, arguably, has the highest biodiversity in the whole of Mallorca.

You can help by sending an automated message of concern via GOB-Mallorca or, by alerting the international authorities (e.g. the environment DG of the European Union); or by providing TAIB by email with other contacts who may be able to act internationally on behalf of saving the destruction of a sizable proportion of the European population of this orchid.

Many thanks,

Nick Riddiford
Principal Investigator, The Albufera Initiative for Biodiversity (TAIB)