Map of Gibraltar

About the territory

Located at the entrance to the Mediterranean at latitude 36° 08’ North, longitude 05° 22’ West, Gibraltar is connected to Spain via a sandy isthmus. Gibraltar is around 5 km from north to south and is 1.2 km wide, covering a total area of around 6.5 km2. The Rock has a sheer cliff on the eastern side but is sloped more gently to the west; it rises to around 426m and is formed from Jurassic limestone. Average mean daily temperatures range from 13o C in January to 24o C in August. Annual precipitation is around 750-800 mm.

The City of Carteia was founded by the Phoenicians at the head of the Bay of Gibraltar in 940 BC. In about 190 BC the city was taken by the Romans. Subsequently, it was ruled at varying times by the Visigoths, Muslims, Berbers and Spanish. In 1501 Queen Isabella issued a decree which made Gibraltar Spanish Crown Property. In 1704 it was captured by an Anglo-Dutch force and was then ceded to Britain by Spain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht. At this time Gibraltar became an important British Royal Navy base. It was declared a Crown Colony in 1830. Currently, there is a democratically elected Parliament and a large degree of self-Government.

The population of Gibraltar was estimated to be around 29,430 in 2009. The economy in Gibraltar is mainly based on tourism, financial services and fishing.


According to the Kew database the flora of Gibraltar consists of approximately 600 species of plants, three of which are regarded as endemic to Gibraltar (Silene tomentosa, Cerastium gibraltaricum and Saxifrage globulifera var. Gibralterica) Two more, Iberis gibraltarica and Thymus wildenowii, are native to North Africa and Gibraltar is the only place in Europe where they are found. Limonium emarginatum is endemic to coastal waters on either sides of the Strait of Gibraltar, with extremely important populations on the Rock. There are a number of endemic land snails and sea slugs. Twenty two indigenous species of amphibians and reptiles have been recorded.

The Rock is an important site for migratory birds which account for most of the over 300 species that have been recorded there. It is also the only breeding site in Europe for the Barbary Partridge (Alectoris barbara).

The status and trends of the main EU-listed habitats in Gibraltar have been determined through two classification exercises carried out in 2007 and 2013 respectively. These were carried out in-line with the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive. In line with this Directive, there is continued habitat surveillance and data management. Specific assessments of marine biodiversity have been carried out in line with the requirements of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. There is also surveillance monitoring of the Marine Special Area of Conservation.

Dwarf fan palm Chamaerops humilis in the Gibraltar Nature Reserve; View north along the Rock towards Spain

L-R: Dwarf fan palm Chamaerops humilis in the Gibraltar Nature Reserve; View north along the Rock towards Spain.

Policy and legislation

Gibraltar has an Environment Charter signed jointly with the UK Government. Guiding Principle 7 is to safeguard and restore native species, habitats and landscape features, and control or eradicate invasive species. Under the associated commitment 2 the government of Gibraltar will ensure the protection and restoration of key habitats, species and landscape features through legislation and appropriate management structures and mechanisms, including a protected area policy, and attempt the control and eradication of invasive species. Implementation progress was reviewed in 2007, 2010 and 2016, read the 2016 review report (external link).

The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) has produced a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) for Gibraltar (Perez 2006) as well as a Management and Action Plan for the Upper Rock Nature Reserve (Perez & Bensusan 2005). These both have sections relating to the distribution and impact of non-native species and propose various action plans for dealing with them. The Gibraltar BAP and the Upper Rock Management Plan are implemented under the umbrella of the Gibraltar Nature Reserve Management Plan. In support of the GNR Management Plan and through consultation with the Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC), the Ministry of Defence implemented their Integrated Rural Management Plan during 2014, for MOD estates in Gibraltar. This plan also contains an Invasive Species Control Programme. The overall direction is managed by the DECC.

There is no specific invasive species legislation in Gibraltar. The Nature Protection Act 1991 and all the Regulations that come under the Act include sections dealing with the introduction of fauna and flora that are not indigenous to Gibraltar. The Nature Conservation Area (Upper Rock) Designation Order 1993 includes sections which deal with the introduction of fauna and flora that are not indigenous to the Upper Rock. Section 5.1(h) states that it is illegal to “introduce any animal or plant which is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident or is not a regular visitor to Gibraltar in a wild state or does not grow in the wild in Gibraltar, as the case may be”. The BAP and the relevant Regulations are implemented and enforced by the Environmental Protection and Research Unit of the DECC as well as the Gibraltar Nature Reserve Management team. Gibraltar is now covered by EU Regulation No 1143/204. However, there is limited capacity to enforce the regulation locally.

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