Biodiversity at Pals Beach

200 species hidden among the dunes

We organised a bioblitz at Radio Liberty to raise awareness about the great local biodiversity. More than 200 species have been recorded, including some that are extraordinarily rare, vulnerable, or endangered. This data highlights the importance of preserving not only the historical and archaeological heritage but also the natural heritage.

The dunes in full bloom during the bioblitz day.

On April 20th, a participatory bioblitz was held in the Radio Liberty area with the aim of promoting the richness of the natural heritage and biodiversity. The event was organized by Empordà iNat-IAEDEN, the Catalan Society of Herpetology and Salvem la Platja de Pals, with experts from various fields photographing and identifying species using the iNaturalist app.

iNaturalist app fits within the framework of Citizen Science, offering a tool that aids in the identification of plants and animals while also contributing to generating data for scientific research and conservation. You do not need to be an expert to participate. It can be used to record your own observations, get help in identifying them better, collaborate with others to gather information for a common purpose, or access observation data collected by various users.

Participants search for specimens during the bioblitz

Currently, around Radio Liberty, there have been 400 sightings of over 200 different species of local fauna and flora, collected by 34 observers. Some of these species are very exceptional entomologically, such as the metallic-coloured beetle Anthaxia parallela; the very small and extremely rare Cleonymus; the colourful-eyed dipteran Metedera aglaops; the large-jawed coleopter Scarites buparius, which is exclusive to dune environments; the small Eurasian spider Talavera aequipes, with scarce sightings on the peninsula and known for wintering within empty snail shells; the scorpion Buthus pyrenaeus, and the tuberculated crab spider Tmarus staintoni.

At the same time, it was found that embryonic dunes are home to one of the most important communities of the peninsula of the East Iberian sand racer, Psammodromus edwarsianus. In the intersmost area of the pine forest on the dune, this lizard species shares its habitat with the long-tailed lizard Psammodromus algirus, the brown lizard Podarcis liolepis, the common gecko Tarentola mauritanica, the painted frog Discoglossus pictus, and natural predators like the Montpellier snake Malpolon monspessulanus.

East Iberian sand racer, Psammodromus edwarsianus, photographed and identified by Marcel Nadal (CC-BY-NC). It is a highly threatened species with one of the most significant populations on the peninsula at Radio Liberty.
Iberian spadefoot toad, Pelobates cultripes. iNaturalist (CC-BY-NC). It is a species nearly extinct in the area, although there have been previous sightings.
Scarab beetle Scarites buparius, photographed and identified by Jacobo Krauel (CC-BY-NC). It is a carnivorous burrowing beetle that exclusively inhabits dune areas.

Regarding flora, it is unique and adapted to the dunes. The Spanish oyster thistle Scolymus hispanicus, a highly present edible plant, used in rural cuisine, considered a superfood for its high content of vitamins A, B, and C, and the shaggy sparrow-wort, Theymelaea hirsuta, which contains highly toxic substances that cause an inflammatory reaction upon contact with the skin, were both identified. Other recorded species include the sea daffodil Pancratium maritimum, a bulbous plant characteristic of Pals beach with white flowers and a bulb buried in the sand; Polygonum maritimum, a very dark plant with a thick stem and pinkish-white flowers; Crucianella maritima, with small yellow flowers typical of maritime sands in Pals; the sea bindweed Calystegia soldanella, with very fleshy leaves and large solitary flowers; the sage-leaved rockrose Cistus salviifolius, with white flowers; Senecio leucanthemifolius and Coronilla valentina glauca, currently flowering with yellow petals; the marram grass Ammophila arenaria, very characteristic of Pals beach, and Euphorbia peplis, a phanerogamic species that lives on coastal sand, from the same family as those found on the seabed dunes of Pals. Stachys maritima, an endangered species, was documented with only three sightings, some of which were outside the confines of the Natural Park, signalling a decline in population along Pals beach.

Regarding lichens, Ramalina pusilla, included in the red list of the endangered species of Catalonia; Xanthoria parietina, yellow in color; and Ramalina canariensis, a type of lichenized fungus, are noteworthy.

Shaggy sparrow-wort, Theymelaea hirsuta. Jacobo Krauel (CC-BY-NC).
Stachys maritima. Jordi Bassols (CC-BY-NC).
Ramalina pusilla. Jacobo Krauel (CC-BY-NC).

The recovery of the marshes in the area of Radio Liberty, drained during the American occupation, would bring back many migratory birds and amphibians with close to extinct populations in the area, such as the Iberian spadefoot toad “Pelobates cultripes”.

Location of the marshes in the Radio Liberty area, drained and identified as marshlands and wet depressions.


The lack of investment and surveillance by the Ministry of Ecological Transition and the Government of Catalonia, which has been responsible for management since 2007, has caused significant damage to the architectural, archaeological, and natural heritage in recent years. This has resulted in the decline of the Psammodromus edwarsianus lizard outside the enclosure. This lizard is a protected and threatened species due to various factors such as a lack of awareness and/or surveillance of the area. Visitors have been entering restricted areas. There is also a growing colony of cats that has reached the dunes. Furthermore, a failure to pick up dog excrement with antiparasitic treatments leads to a decrease in biodiversity due to direct toxic effects, especially on coprophagous invertebrates and subsequent transmission to the immediate food chain. It should be noted that many antiparasitic treatments have broad-spectrum compositions that threaten not only biodiversity but also humans. There are too many shaded areas caused by excessive pine growth on embryonic dunes, which led the Montgrí, les Illes Medes i el Baix Ter Natural Park to remove some shrubs that were starting to grow in this habitat last winter. In addition, the Psammodromus edwarsianus  lizard ephemeral longevity (few exceed 2 years) and the few eggs they lay (from two to six eggs compared to, for example, the eight to eleven eggs of the long-tailed lizard) make it particularly susceptible and vulnerable to population declines that could lead to local extinction if additional threats are also present.

Participants search for specimens during the bioblitz

Finally, it is worth mentioning the exotic invasive flora and fauna observed during the biomarathon, which poses a significant danger to biodiversity, such as the American river crab Procambarus clarkii or the ice plant Carpobrotus edulis. The latter was initially introduced as an ornamental garden plant but has become wild and has proliferated on the dunes, currently threatening native flora.

American river crab, Procambarus clarkii. (CC-BY-NC).
Ice plant, Carpobrotus edulis. (CC-BY-NC).

This year, the Natural Park, together with the Museum of the Mediterranean in Torroella de Montgrí, awarded the Joan Torró i Cabratosa Scholarship to herpetologist Félix Amat, an expert in lacertids and other herpetofauna, who will conduct a study of the ecology and a census using capture-recapture methodology. In this line, two years ago, a census was carried out using the Distance Method, a statistical visual census program promoted by the Natural Park that does not involve captures and counts the specimens observed within a predetermined strip during a census route. These censuses provide statistically robust information to understand the evolution of the Psammodromus edwarsianus  lizard population in the Natural Park. This is why the SOS Costa Brava federation, in addition to demanding the rehabilitation of the historical and archaeological heritage of Radio Liberty, wants to highlight the urgency of recovering the natural heritage and wetlands within the enclosure and the need for surveillance.

The Ministry of Ecological Transition and the Government of Catalonia need to restore Radio Liberty’s facilities and archaeological remains, as well as renaturalizing areas freeing from trampling, and putting them under surveillance, as it hosts very unique, vulnerable, or endangered species. The recovery of natural and historical heritage was one of the main demands of the protest event organized by SOS Costa Brava and other entities such as the Catalan History Circle, Gent del Ter, Amics de la UNESCO, the Dignity Commission, and Salvem la Platja de Pals, which on April 21st brought together over a hundred residents and activists at the Pals facilities to demand funding and urgent rehabilitation action, as well as to criticize the state of degradation and decay suffered by the complex since its closure in 2006.


Discover the extensive record of observations on the iNaturalist app


Data de creació de l’article: 14/4/2024.


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