General Description / Cultural Significance
Gibraltar is an overseas British territory whose landscape is dominated by the famous Rock of Gibraltar, a monolithic limestone structure home to a diverse collection of animal and plant life. Gibraltar’s economy is rooted in tourism, spurred by the beauty of the rock and its wildlife. The only wild primate species in Europe, hordes of migrating birds, and over 600 species of flowering plants are all protected by Gibraltar’s strict wildlife laws. Fragrant plant life is abundant. Among flowers like jasmine and jacaranda, the rare species Gibraltar Campion, or Silene tomentosa, is native to the country. This fragrant perennial flower blooms pale pink or purple petals. It is a wild Gibraltarian icon, a rare endangered plant that is a source of national pride. In an interview with an officer of the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens, she explained why the plant is so iconic and intertwined with the identity of Gibraltarians. People of this small island-nation tend to identify strongly with endemic species that grow there. In this way, biodiversity of endemic species is very important. She also insists that all species contribute to global biodiversity, and it is important to conserve the ones that exist only within a small territory.
Climate Change/Conservation Status
Because Gibraltar’s main source of drinkable water is desalination, people are somewhat protected from the potential climate change problem. However, flora of the island is being affected by increasing salinity, drying soil, and erosion from the wind.
The Government of Gibraltar’s climate change assessment states that the unpredictability of extreme weather is the primary threat to the island and will include increased temperatures and less rainfall. Flash floods are becoming more frequent, and biodiversity is already suffering as a result of all this change.
Though its habitat on cliffs and rocky slopes has been protected within the Gibraltar National Reserve, the Gibraltar Campion is a threatened species. It is unclear why exactly this is, but likely the reason for its status is related to climate change, according to a Gibraltar Botanic Gardens officer. It is possible that the Gibraltar Campion is no longer suited to growing in its endemic environment and that it ideally requires higher mountain conditions. Efforts are being made to conserve the Gibraltar Campion and other rare endangered species.