Category Archives: Invasive species in Spain

Invasive species are non-native plants and animals that are introduced into a new environment, where they can cause harm to the local ecosystem, economy, and human health. There are many invasive species in Spain that pose a threat to the natural environment and biodiversity.

Some of the most notable invasive species in Spain include the American mink, the Asian tiger mosquito, the giant hogweed, the red-eared slider turtle, and the zebra mussel. These species can outcompete native species for resources, alter the natural balance of ecosystems, and spread diseases.

Invasive species also have economic impacts, as they can damage crops, fisheries, and infrastructure. Spain has implemented several measures to control and manage invasive species, including the development of early warning systems, rapid response plans, and public awareness campaigns. The management is an ongoing challenge for Spain and requires the cooperation of scientists, policymakers, and the public to protect the country’s natural resources and biodiversity.

The Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia)

The Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia), also known as the arrui, is a species of wild sheep native to the arid regions of North Africa, including the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. It was introduced into Spain in the 1970s for hunting purposes. It has since established populations in several regions of the country, such as Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha, and Murcia feeding on grasses, bushes, and lichens.

The largest free-range population in Spain is found in the Southeast of Spain, mostly from the Sierra Espuña to the Sierra Cazorla.

In Spanish the barbary sheep is called arruí, muflón del Atlas or carnero de berbería.

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Hornets in Spain

Hornets are often considered pests, as they aggressively guard their nesting sites when threatened and their stings can be more dangerous than those of bees. There are now four types of hornet in Spain with three being introduced, considered invasive and a threat to endemic wildlife. (A fifth is often mentioned in the press but the Asian giant hornet (Vespa Mandarina) is NOT present in Spain).

  • Hornets (insects in the genus Vespa) are the largest in the wasp family and some species can reach up to 6 cm in length. There are around 22 species of Vespa in the world and most only occur in the tropics of Asia.
  • Like other social wasps, hornets build communal nests by chewing wood to make a papery pulp. Each nest has one queen, which lays eggs and is attended by workers that, while genetically female, cannot lay fertile eggs. Male hornets are docile and do not have stings.
  • Most species make exposed nests in trees and shrubs, but some build their nests underground or in other cavities.
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Lost Heritage: Cochineal and the Endangered Prickly Pear in Spain

In recent years, the uncontrolled spread of the Cochineal, Dactylopius coccus (Cochinilla del Carmin) has led to the near disappearance of the prickly pear (higo chumbo) in Spain.

Historical Significance

The introduced prickly pear (Opuntia maxima), originating from Central America, has played a vital role for centuries. It served various purposes, including being a source of food (prickly pears, higo chumbos), livestock feed, agricultural support, slope stabilization, and hedges.

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Zebra Mussels Discovered in La Pedrera Reservoir: A Critical Observation in Alicante

In a significant development, technicians from the Segura Hydrographic Confederation (CHS) recently announced Zebra Mussels Discovered in La Pedrera Reservoir located in the Vega Baja region of Alicante. This finding emerged during the CHS’s targeted campaign to monitor zebra mussel larvae and adults in various reservoirs associated with the Tajo-Segura transfer infrastructure.

The ongoing campaign involves technicians actively collecting samples from reservoirs such as Talave, Camarillas, Azud de Ojós, Crevillente, and La Pedrera.Technicians made this discovery during routine monitoring in La Pedrera, further expanding the list of affected reservoirs in the region.

Zebra mussel - Dreissena polymorpha - Mejillón cebra
Zebra Mussels Discovered in La Pedrera Reservoir

The invasion of zebra mussels poses a significant threat to continental waters. In just a few years, these invasive species rapidly expanded in the Camarillas and Talave reservoirs, prompting urgent measures from the CHS.

In response to this critical discovery, the CHS urges water users and individuals active in basin reservoirs to diligently clean any equipment that has come into contact with the waters. Accompanying this revelation is the CHS’s specific dissemination campaign under the slogan “Alert!, zebra mussel. Don’t let it get to you.” The goal is to raise awareness about the potential inadvertent spread of water pollution.

The zebra mussel, identified as one of the most impactful exotic invasive species in continental waters, has prompted controlled decreases in water levels in affected reservoirs. The CHS, aligning with its 2022-23 Zebra Mussel Shock Plan, aims to eliminate adult specimens and weaken larval populations through strategic measures.

Read about Zebra mussels here:

This discovery emphasizes the collective responsibility to mitigate the ecological and economic impacts of invasive species. As the CHS continues its efforts, it calls on the community to actively participate in safeguarding water bodies and preventing the further proliferation of zebra mussels.

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