THE Department of Infrastructure, Planning and the Environment is carrying out the removal of a bright green algae known as Hydrocotyle Verticillata, a plant species native to tropical areas, which has now appeared in the river Algar in Altea.
The algae is “dangerous to the ecosystem” and is displacing indigenous species, so producing “significant loss of biodiversity” said an Altea Councillor.
Hydrocotyle also impairs water quality itself, as the plant grows on the surface, blocking out light penetration, and reducing oxygenation of the river waters beneath.
This is the first time this plant has been detected growing wild in Valencia, and a present, experts are puzzled as to how it has come to be in the area’s natural ecosystem, according Jorro Quico, Technical Municipal Environment for Altea.
The plant is used in gardens, and one possibility is that discarded cuttings or parts of the plant have found their way into the area’s natural environment. Another is that seeds trapped on birds have then been deposited in the waters of the Algar. Whatever the cause, the result is a thick green covering of alien species algae, which is taking over and destroying the native plants, and so must be eradicated. The algae can been seen from the bridge that carries the N332 over the Algar river on the north side of Altea.
The presence of the plant in the river was first detected only two months ago, but due to its rapid rate of growth, it has within this short space of time, expanded to dominate the entire lower river ecosystem.
Experts say there is no record of the survival capacity of the plant or the time it takes to eliminate biodiversity. Not being able to use a fast and effective as the use of herbicide hinders eradication, as use of such would damage the fragile surrounding ecosystem as well. Therefore since the outbreak manual extraction of the algae has taken place.
The species is native to tropical areas, being more common in countries like America or Australia, and has set off alarms in Altea Town Council, who advise that those who cultivate such foreign species should take care in their disposal, to avoid them entering the local bio-systems and threatening the same.
By Paul Deed