The long-term prosperity of Ibiza and Formentera depends on the preservation of our land and sea and other natural resources, such as water and healthy ecosystems. Natural resources are key assets for our well-being, but they are also crucial for a sustainable and prosperous economy.
For a thriving natural environment and long-term economic prosperity, we need to address issues impacting the islands and the well-being of its residents. These include:
- Tourism and human pressure
- Land use
To gain a better understanding of these issues, we funded and coordinated a major study on the social and environmental carrying capacity of Ibiza. The study produced a set of sustainability indicators based on these key issues.
The indicators provide a solid fact-base to engage stakeholders and inform local decision-making on the future development of Ibiza.
Tourism and human pressure
Ibiza and Formentera’s exceptional beauty, warm climate and pristine seas have made the islands one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. Since 2001 the number of visitors to the islands has more than doubled, reaching almost 4 million in 2016. This growth in tourism has placed an enormous pressure on our land, water, ecosystems and local environment.
Tourism has also created social challenges. In 2016, Ibiza and Formentera reached a 25/56 tourist to resident rate – the second-highest in the world. This has created an ever-growing need for larger infrastructure, such as roads, desalination plants and sewage treatment facilities, which must be provided and paid for by the local community. Another side-effect is an increase in rental prices. Households now spend an average of 82% of their income on housing. In the EU, a household is considered “cost burdened” when the cost of housing exceeds 40% of total income.
Urban development has transformed large parts of Ibiza and Formentera’s landscape, and a tourism-focused economy has resulted in the abandonment of farming and traditional land-management activities.
Between 1990 and 2012, an estimated 31.14 km2 of natural areas and farmland was lost to development. In the same period the urbanisation of coastal areas increased by 60.8%. This has impacted some of the islands’ most valuable landscapes, in particular coastal areas.
As well as an increase in urbanisation, 73.7 km2 of land changed from agricultural use to forest cover. This change has led to a loss of rural landscapes and the disappearance of local plant varieties, animal breeds and traditional knowledge. The islands’ food supply is now largely dependent on imports, and the invasion of pine trees poses a significant risk of forest fires.
To address some of these issues, the IPF supports projects to re-plant traditional crops such as almonds, promote the consumption of locally-grown food, and encourage new farmers to the land via a land bank.
Escalating water demand from tourism in the past decades has led to depleted and polluted aquifers and a growing dependency on desalination plants. Desalination plants can contaminate coastal waters and contribute to Ibiza and Formentera’s soaring energy demand.
In 2015 we supported a study, coordinated by the University of Baleares, to obtain the best available information regarding Ibiza water situation. The research reports that aquifers are heavily contaminated with seawater as a result of overexploitation, as well as the difficulties of using recycled water, due to a heavy concentration of salt. The report also includes 10 recommendations for a better water management.
You can download the full report in English here. (27Mb)
For information on wastewater treatment, see our report.
Waste is a major environmental challenge in island economies like Ibiza and Formentera. And the seasonal nature of tourism exacerbates collection and disposal problems. Solid waste generation in Ibiza and Formentera is remarkably high, with a per capita average (3 kg/per person/per day in 2016) more than double the Spanish and European average (1.18 kg and 1.30 kg).
Between 2007 and 2016, Ibiza and Formentera’s urban solid waste increased by 35% with only 16.7% of the total being recycled. This means large amounts of rubbish, including organic waste, is dumped in the Ca na Putxa disposal site. As the only solid waste facility operating on the islands, this site is rapidly filling up.
To comply with EU legislation that requires 50% of waste to be recycled by 2020, selective waste treatment facilities should be in place but their construction has been deferred. If the existing disposal site can seal waste, the risk of hazardous leaching of pollutants into groundwater is a significant environmental concern.
For information on recycling in Ibiza and what you can do to reduce waste, click here.
Energy use is an important environmental challenge but also a significant financial burden on economies like Ibiza and Formentera that rely almost exclusively on imported fuel to supply energy. As islands, we are vulnerable to security of supply issues and exposed to higher prices.
Between 2000 and 2016, total energy use increased by 51.4%. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fossil fuels did not experience the same rapid rise, largely due to a shift from burning oil fuels to less-polluting natural gas at Ibiza’s power plant. However, by 2020 the islands must reduce GHG emissions by 6.9% to comply with the EU Strategy on Energy and Climate Change.
Despite our considerable solar potential, in 2016 only 0.34% of Ibiza’s energy supply came from renewable sources. To comply with EU Strategy targets, renewable production must be scaled up 58 times by 2020.
Solar energy is a key element in the islands’ transition to a carbon-free energy mix. This transition can also make a positive contribution to the local economy. A report coordinated by the IPF shows existing regulations and government subsidies provide attractive opportunities for the development of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy in Ibiza. Read the report here.
Ibiza and Formentera harbour a remarkable biodiversity. Endemic plant and animal species are well preserved and the islands shelter important breeding colonies for the Balearic shearwater, Europe’s most threatened seabird. In our waters, meadows of Posidonia oceanica – a sea grass found only in the Mediterranean – support a diversity of marine life.
Many of Ibiza and Formentera’s valuable land habitats are fragile coastal areas, threatened by urbanisation, land-use change, invasive species and forest fires. Marine habitats are also at risk due to pollution, boat anchoring, as well as oil prospecting in the Mediterranean Sea.
A significant portion of Ibiza and Formentera is protected – 35.39% and 43.15% respectively. But conservation commitments are often ignored. Between 2000 and 2016, areas designated as Natural Reserves and Parks in Ibiza were reduced. And protection under land-planning regulations (ANEI) has swayed erratically, from strict protection of biodiversity to permissive tolerance of development.
Recent measures to preserve marine biodiversity are encouraging. In 2014, nine marine sites were included in the EU Natura 2000 network, covering virtually the entire marine area surrounding the islands. A new marine reserve was also proposed in 2015. However, providing these areas with sufficient personnel and means to safeguard marine habitats and biodiversity remains a challenge.
For more information on the islands’ protected areas, click here.
A strong reliance on private vehicles has led to growing congestion on Ibiza and Formentera’s main roads. In 2016, the rate of motorisation in Ibiza reached 963.8 vehicles per 1000 people – double the vehicle per person rate than the rest of Spain. This figure does not take into account the estimated 18,000 cars offered for rent, which are largely registered outside the island. Private vehicles are now the main source of CO2 emissions in Ibiza, accounting for 31% of the total.
Our reliance on cars can have significant environmental impacts due to greenhouse gas emissions and the need for increasingly-larger road infrastructure, as well as economic impacts associated with costly, imported fuels and road congestion. Our reliance on private vehicles can also impact the provision of public transport, walking and cycle routes.