S’Albufera de Mallorca was declared a Natural Park on 28 January 1988 (Decree 4/1988). It is also a Wetland Area of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, and is included in the EU Natura 2000 Network
both as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the Birds Directive and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the Habitats Directive.
S’Albufera is the largest and most important wetland area in the Balearic Islands. With a surface area of 1646,48 hectares, mainly of wet grassland and marsh, the Park lies within the municipalities of Muro and Sa Pobla. The origins of the wetland date back to ancient times, and its surface area and features have fluctuated with changing sea levels.
While part of the grassland area developed during the Tertiary Era, the current wetlands were formed less than 100,000 years ago. The coastal dunes are considerably more recent, forming over the last 10,000 years or so.
Water is the basis for S’Albufera’s ecological wealth. Water and the moisture of the soil enable the constant growth of vegetation, which varies depending on water depth, proximity to the sea and type of terrain. Much of the Park’s water is rainfed by way of seasonal streams and springs from subterranean aquifers. Though the amounts of seawater penetrating during the summer months are relatively small, this input has a definite impact on flora and fauna alike.
The Park vegetation is dominated by common reed (Phragmites australis), fen sedge (Cladium mariscus) and, to a lesser extent, reedmace (Typha spp.). Other plants, such as fennel pondweed (Potamogeton pectinatus) and rigid hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum), live submerged in the waters of the canals. The more brackish waters are home to rushes (Juncus spp.) and glassworts (Sarcocornia spp.). Foremost amongst the trees of the Park are the white poplar (Populus alba), the elm (Ulmus minor) and the tamarisk (Tamarix spp.). Dune plants, such as the sea daffodil (Pancratium maritimum), the local endemic Thymelaea (Thymelaea velutina) and the prickly juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus macrocarpa), are adapted to the harsh conditions of their sandy substrate.
Fungi are well represented. A good diversity currently numbers 205 species including one, Psathyrella halofila, which was new to science when discovered in S’Albufera in 1992.
As for the fauna, the most frequently encountered fish species are the eel (Anguilla anguilla) and the mullets (Chelon and Liza spp.). The Iberian marsh frog (Pelophylax perezi) is abundant, and the most frequently seen reptiles are the viperine snake (Natrix maura) and European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis). The 22 mammal species include mice, rats and a range of bats.
Among a huge abundance of invertebrates are numerous varieties of dragonflies, flies and beetles, while moth species exceed 450.
The bird list has reached 303 different species including 64, a mix of residents and summer visitors, which breed. Over 10,000 birds spend their winter months in S’Albufera. These comprise ducks, herons and others, as well as massive flocks of roosting starlings. The Park is also an important resting point for a host of migrants such as garganeys and swallows, which drop in for a few days before resuming their journey, and it also attracts occasional wanderers like the crane, which stop off unexpectedly.