The Santa Pola Salt Pans
With an area of 2,470 hectares and situated at the west/southwest of the town, he Salt Pans (Salinas) form part of a triangle known as the South Alicante ‘trowel’ together with the lakes of Hondo, Torrevieja and La Mata.
The current form is the result of the carrying-down of sediment by the Segura and Vinalopo rivers which, in conjunction with marine currents, produced an offshore bank, turning the area into a coastal lagoon. Nowadays, as well as the usage for salt extraction, there are fresh-water pools, a region of beaches and dunes and land used for agriculture. The installation at the end of the 19th century of plant to exploit the extraction of salt has permitted this wetland to continue to exist. Not only is it protected as a Natural Park but it is also included in the list of Wetland areas of Europe and North Africa as part of the “Sea International” project (1965) and ratified in the International Convention on Wetlands and Aquatic Birds known as RAMSAR (Iran 1971) for the protection of wetlands of international importance and especially as habitats for birds. Likewise it has been declared a “Region of Special Importance for Birds” as laid down in Directive 79/409 of the European Union. The diversity of fauna, especially bird-life, is what makes this small area so significant. A factor fundamental to the maintenance of the great variety of species to be found there is the permanent circulation of sea water. This carries in large quantities of organisms which proliferate in the lagoons of the Salt Pans and form the food for the fish and the aquatic birds which live on them.
Among the types of fish which are noteworthy are the Fartet (Aphinius Iberus or Spanish toothcarp) which is a native of the Iberian mediterranean and North African coasts; and, for their great numbers, various species of mullet.
As for the bird-life, the large numbers of broad-billed birds are noteworthy, this being one of the few sites on the Iberian peninsular where there is a permanent flock (up to 3,500) of flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber). It is also the only site in the region where the Stork (Himantopus himantopus) over-winters.
The duck-like birds which are most abundant are: the Coloured Duck (Netta rutina), the Shoveller Duck (Anas clypeata) and the Coot (Fulica atra). In lesser numbers are the Pintail (Anas platyrhynchos), Common Ring-necked Duck (Aytha ferina) and the Marbled Duck (Marmaronetta angustirostris). The most common raptors are the Lake Eaglet (Circus aeroginosus) and the Osprey or Fish Eagle (Pandion haliaetus).