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Fotografías e identificación hechas por la Asociación ProDunas.

Is there an insect infestation in the Stone Pines in the “Dunas de Artola” Natural Monument?

What do we know about the pine borer (Tomicus piniperda)?

In healthy, naturally grown, species-rich forests, bark beetles are an important part of the natural cycle within the forest ecosystem. In such forests, the beetle can only attack old, sick or poorly adapted trees and thus returns the nutrients from these trees to the cycle of matter. In addition to providing nutrients, the beetle creates space for younger, better-adapted trees. Mass reproductions are almost impossible in such forests.

Northern European countries are currently struggling with a bark beetle plague, which within a very short time leads to very large damage, especially to spruce trees (Picea abies (L. H.KA R S T.)), but also to other coniferous or deciduous trees. For example, in the Harz National Park in Germany, over 70 km2 of spruce forest are destroyed every year. In some regions 90% of the spruce population has already died (photo 1). In the forest areas of Germany, the damage is estimated at over two billion euros, 6 million cubic meters of wood are lost every year. The cause of the bark beetle infestation is seen in the historically determined monocultures of the trees in connection with climate change, which weakens the trees through periods of drought, harsh winters, storms etc. and thus destroys the natural defense mechanisms of the trees against pest infestation.

In spring, bark beetles, which are only 1-6 mm tall, depending on the species, swarm out from a temperature of 16 °C and dry weather to infect diseased spruce trees in the tens of thousands. The males penetrate the tree through the bark within about 24 hours and build a wedding chamber. The females are then attracted by pheromones from the male and move into the wedding chamber. After mating, the beetles begin to create tunnels at the edges of which eggs are laid (photo 2). The larvae that hatch from it widen these passages as they grow and thus sever the nutrient pathways of the trees just below the bark, which further weakens the tree’s defenses. If a tree is colonized by many families of beetles, such an infestation can, despite the small amount of damage compared to the size of the tree, assume an extent that the tree “starves”.

The attractants and thus the language of insects are divided into short-range components with a high information content and a range of up to 100 m and long-range components with less information content and a range of several kilometers.

The long-range ones serve to find areas that are already weakened and can easily be colonized by the beetles, while the short-range ones control the colonization of the individual trees. In this way, a bark beetle can get support from other conspecifics in order to overcome the defenses of the trees or inform other beetles that the tree is already fully populated and thus divert the approaching beetles to neighboring trees. The drilling dust ensures an additional spread of the pheromones, especially in warm temperatures. These mechanisms can make a beetle population so large that healthy trees, whose defenses are normally sufficient to ward off an infestation, can be colonized and killed by beetles.

The forest managers and regional governments react by cutting down large areas of trees, setting up pheromone traps or piles of logs and reforestation with trees that are more resistant to climate change. In the meantime, the bark beetle is spreading further and has reached France and other European countries since around 2017 with particularly hot and dry summers.

For a better understanding of beetle migration and the protection of forests, modern computer-controlled, autonomous beetle traps are being developed, which can be used to monitor the migration of the beetles.

In the Artola Natural Monument, dying trees have now been found that clearly show insect holes (photo 3). The Association ProDunas Marbella is seeking an immediate investigation by the city authorities, forestry professionals and the Andalusian government in order to identify the insects and determine whether this is a natural phenomenon in Artola or whether immediate action should be taken.

Author: Daniel
Clausthal University of Technology
Institute of Organic Chemistry

Photo 1 – Spruce forest dead by bark beetles in the Harz Mountains (Germany)

Photo 2 – Spruce wood damaged by bark beetles (Harz, Germany)

Photo 3 – Stone Pine in the Natural Monument Artola, Cabopino

March 2021


We want to bring to your attention something really interesting we learned in the El Barronal de la Morena dune in Playas Andaluzas, El Rosario, when we were manually grubbing out regrowth of the false Mimosa (Acacia).

We know that these snippets of information about unusual names and processes are fascinating to the “man in the street”. They enrich our knowledge of the complexity of the components that go to make up and guarantee the creation and survival of nature.

Words to remember:

Brief explanation:
An example of mutualism occurs between nitrogen-fixing bacteria of the genus Rhizobium and the roots of leguminous plants. Bacteriorcins are formed by this symbiosis. In this association, the bacteria fix the nitrogen found in the air and which the plant needs for its proper development, while the plant provides shelter for the bacteria.

All legumes have small bubbles on the roots. Inside these are nitrifying bacteria that combine the biological oxidation of ammonium with oxygen to produce nitrite. Then follows the oxidation of these nitrites to nitrates (of the Rhizobium genus). This is known as symbiosis (Bacteriorrizas). This is  where both organisms gain from the process. The bacteria are nitrogen fixers, the nitrogen feeds the plant and the plant in its turn shelters the bacterium. These nitrifying microorganisms use carbon dioxide as their carbon source to grow. For this reason, in overexploited soils it would be a very good idea to plant any one of the appropriate legume family to enrich the soil.

All legumes have small bubbles on the roots. Inside these are nitrifying bacteria that combine the biological oxidation of ammonium with oxygen to produce nitrite. Then follows the oxidation of these nitrites to nitrates (of the Rhizobium genus). This is known as symbiosis (Bacteriorrizas). This is  where both organisms gain from the process. The bacteria are nitrogen fixers, the nitrogen feeds the plant and the plant in its turn shelters the bacterium. These nitrifying microorganisms use carbon dioxide as their carbon source to grow. For this reason, in overexploited soils it would be a very good idea to plant any one of the appropriate legume family to enrich the soil.

August 2020

BROOMRAPES (Orobanche rapum-genistae)

Today we are going to talk about the Wolf Asparagus, one of the Broomrape family. It is a very odd looking plant and has an odd way of life, as it is parasitic. This means that it gets all its nutrients from another organism (host), without providing any benefit in return. In the case of this species, the hosts are the members of the legume (bean)

It is probably a perennial species, with straight stems that can reach up to 70 cm, with brown or yellowish flowers that grow in dense multi-flower bunches. The species of the Broomrape genus are difficult to organize taxonomically and as they are parasitic, this work is complicated by their lack of distinguishable characters. In the different dune ecosystems the Ramosa Broomrape can also be found, sometimes smaller and with blue flowers, and can parasitize a wide spectrum of plant species.

Flowering usually occurs between April and July, but it seems that this year, because people haven’t been out in the dunes, with therefore less anthropological pressure on nature, the plants have run riot and overflowing has got under way.

May 2020

Do you know the CENTAUREA SPHAEROCEPHALA, (Common knapweed) which has introduced itself in several dune areas of the Ecological Reserve?

It is a very unique dune plant!
It is easily confused by schoolchildren with the African daisy (Arctotheca calendula) schoolchildren, although the differences between the two plants can be easily shown to them. The undersides of their leaves are very different. Both the upper and lower sides of the Centaurea sphaerocephala are of a vivid green, while the invasive African daisy has a silver underside, a colour produced by the multitude of whitish hairs that cover it.

In recent years, Centaurea sphaerocephala has begun to settle in different dune ecosystems. It is a perennial plant. It is somewhat prickly due to the presence of sharp hairs on its leaves and stem. This characteristic allows it to defend itself very well against predators, allowing it to attain a good size.

With its presence it contributes to an increasing floral diversity in the dunes. We are delighted with it.

April 2020

Foreign invasive species are those species not native to an area and which have been artificially – accidentally or intentionally – introduced into an ecosystem other than their own. These species can adapt to the environment to which they are introduced and colonise it. Their invasive behaviour endangers indigenous biological diversity since indigenous species may not possess the necessary mechanisms to compete with them and because of this suffer displacement or even extinction.

Invasive species, having no competitors, can develop numerous reproductive individuals that bear seed with great success, which contributes to their expansion. In addition, many of the invasive species have vegetative forms of reproduction such as rhizomes or stolons that increase their colonisation capacity.

The following are some of the foreign invasive species that can be found in the Marbella dunes: Pampas Grass (Cortaderia sealana), Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum), Century Plant (Agave americana), False Mimosa (Acacia saligna / Acacia salicina), Giant Reed (Arundo donax) and Yuca (Yucca aloifolia) and of course Highway Ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis) and the Cape dandelion (Arctotheca calendula). These are listed in the Spanish Foreign Invasive Species Catalogue, published on 2nd August 2013 by Royal Decree n° 630/2013.

The coastal habitats with dunes are the ones that present the greatest number of invasive naturalised species (those that have managed to adapt to the environment they colonise) of tropical or subtropical origin. The strong human pressure because of the urban development over the last 30-40 years has contributed to the introduction, in many cases from gardens, of foreign invasive species, thus helping to cause the unfortunate degradation of the dune vegetation.

MARCH 2020

Is it the Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Lotus creticus) or the Sea Medick (Medicago marina)?

Both species are very similar, not surprisingly as they belong to the same family of plants: legumes (leguminosae). This family is distinguished especially by having:

  • Legume type berries
    • Compound and stipulated leaves
    • Butterfly-like flowers (from French word for butterfly (papillon)

Right here the main differences between them can be found.

The Bird’s-foot Trefoil (Lotus creticus L.) can grow flat along the ground or upright since it has a strong woody base. Its stems are branched. The leaves are in parts, with 5 leaflets that have a whitish tomentum (hairs on the surface). The upright parts of the flowers are almost twice as big as the base. The flowers are yellow, with slightly darker veins and a purple part at the tip of the base. Its berries are long (between 20 and 50 mm) and straight.

The Sea Medick (Medicago marina L.) is generally decumbent (that is, lying flat on the ground). The stems are simple, not branched. The leaves still come in parts, with between 4 and 9 leaflets, but the hairs are bigger and can be found on both sides of the leaf. The flowers are smooth and yellow with an upright part noticeably larger than the base and wings. Its berries, despite being legumes, are curled into small spirals with conical spines, leaving a central opening.

Lotus creticus (Bird’s-foot Trefoil) is much more common in the dunes of Marbella. Finding a Medicago marina (Sea Medick) is very difficult. It is normally found in grasslands and in thickets on the dunes and in coastal sand. They are important plants in embryonic (mobile) dunes because they help hold on to the sand and thus let the dune develop. They are very well adapted to the environmental conditions of the dune ecosystems, thanks to structures such as the whitish tomentum (hairs) that defend the plant by reflecting part of the solar radiation.


has got into the beautiful La Adelfa dune area in Bahia de Marbella, attacking the 52 pines we planted there 14 years ago.

ProDunas cut out all the branches where the caterpillars had spun their nests and Marbella Town Hall staff thoroughly fumigated all the affected areas.

Our most SINCERE THANKS to the team for the speed with which they fumigated. If we work together like this, we can take care of the health of the pines in this dune area.


AUGUST 2018 – THE SEA DAFFODIL (Pancratium maritimum)

The summer smile of this beautiful flower accompanies us during the 3 summer months, from July to September.

It’s fresh beauty is an inspiration to us all but all it wants is to be left where we find it, in its habitat. It wilts quickly if you pick it and put in a flower vase, even with water.

It develops very slowly from seed. It can take up to 3 years to flower, but when the petals open it is like an explosion of white all over the dunes.

All you can think of is peace and happiness when you come across it . . .

MAY 2018

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The GREAT or COMMON MULLEIN (Verbascum thapsus)

This plant has established itself in the dunes even though it comes from Europe. It likes both the sandy soil and the Costa del Sol climate, and there are more and more plants every year. In these spring-and early summer months it is eye-catching because it is so beautiful and stands so tall – up to 2 mt. Its leaves are delicately furry to the touch and its fresh yellow flowers are grouped stem-up.

Interestingly, very few people know of its therapeutic properties – although in the countries farther to the north of Spain the plant and especially its petals are used for medicinal purposes. The dried flowers are used to make infusions that in cold weather are said to protect against colds, flu and chesty coughs.

The medicinal virtues of this plant were known in the ancient world. It is an interesting plant for botanists.

JUNE 2016

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SEA ORLAYA or DUNE CARROT (Pseudorlaya pumila)

This small umbelliferous or apiaceous plant (it carries its flowers in an umbrella-shaped cluster) is being closely studied by 2 eminent botanists of the Universities of Alicante (Spain) and Michigan (USA) along our Dunes ecosystems (13km), from the Natural Monument “Dunes of Artola” to the Marbella Dunes Ecological Reserve.

It can be found in sand soils and dune areas.

The whole plant is covered with stiff little hairs. The flowers can be either red or white and the seeds are covered with prickles. It blooms in spring and early summer.

This interesting plant belongs to the apiaceous/umbelliferous family and is a member of carrot sub-group.

APRIL 2016

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The construction of the pedestrian boardwalks in this dune area has resulted in damage to the sandy soil and has favoured the explosive propagation of the plant listed by the Ministry of Environment as invasive. There is a risk of altering this until now intact area.

In principle the plants are spread by seeds, which can cause a large quantity of regrowth from rhizomes or tubers. Dispersion is mainly anemochorous (by the wind) and also zoochorus (by animals). The seeds have a latency period so they can germinate with autumn rains. As the African Daisy is aggressive and can crowd out the native species such as:
Sea Daffodil (Pancratium maritimum), Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum), Birds’ Foot Trefoil (Lotus creticus), Maritime Stock (Malcolmia littorea) etc. Prompt action is advisable to prevent its uncontroled development.

The Ministry for the Environment has entrusted Pro Dunas to organise Eradication Days to contain its possible spread throughout the entire Natural Monument area.

Pro Dunes calls for Citizen participation, so that working together we can eliminate this harmful species. To set Eradication Days that suit you, please call us on: 609 600 706 or contact us by email:

MARCH 2015

Haz click en la imagen para agrandar


The Ministry of the Environment is counting on our urgent help to maintain strict control over the mistaken introduction of thisinvasive perennial plant to the environment. It is very harmful because of its rapid proliferation.

For many years our Association has been controlling the spread of this species in thedune areas in the Municipality of Marbella. We can certify that it grows in only onearea as a result of private introduction into the “La Adelfa” dune in Bahia de Marbella.

Pennisetum setaceum is an ornamentalplant and because of its beauty is often planted in private gardens. Unfortunately itis easily spread by the wind. It is all over the roadside of the N-340 motorway andthere is a lot of it in Marbella’s public parks.


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 MASTIC SHRUB (Pistacia lentiscus)

2006: Reforestation of several Mastic plants in the dunes area of “La Adelfa” in Bahía de Marbella.

2012-Autumn: For the first time, young shrubs are bearing their fruits, with a bright red glow.


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SEA DAFFODIL (Pancratium maritimum)

It can be found in all the sand dune areas of the municipality of Marbella. Flowering is from August to October. The leaves are green before flowering, and wither with the flower. The sea daffodil dies when cut off, so it does not survive in a vase.

The seed is abundant. Its colour is black, and it is very much like charcoal, both to the touch as in appearance. Propagation by seeds is easy in windy weather, which favours its development in coastal sands.

JUNE 2011

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MIRTO (Myrtus communis)

Young plants were introduced into the sand dunes “La Adelfa” Bahía de Marbella, Marbella in the year 2005 and flourished for the first time in June of 2011. They thrive in sand dunes and the undergrowth of pine and oak woods.

It is considered a “Symbol of Love and Beauty”, and its leaves, flowers and fruit are used in perfumery for their wonderful fragrance.

MAY 2010

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Actions for the conservation of the dunes area “La Adelfa” – Bahía de Marbella

Due to unauthorized prune by third persons, technicians of the Provincial Department for the Environment have carried out conservations actions and  cleaning work in this beautiful specimen of Wild Olive tree. This olive shrub represents a high value for the natural heritage of the residents and Marbella


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RIDAL VEIL BROOM – (White Retama monosperma)

This shrub blossoms for the first time!

Since it was planted in the dunes of Bahia de Marbella in the year 2006.

Its white butterfly shaped flowers give off a delicate fragrance and represent a delicious lure for the small wild birds

MAY 2009

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This plant is indigenous of the andalusian coast and should be protected and preserved by everyone.

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Asociación ProDunas Marbella

The Association works tirelessly for the defence and preservation of the unique ecosystems that survive in the natural sand dune environments in the Province of Málaga; promotes the protection of native flora and small wildlife; promotes recovery, rehabilitation and conservation of interesting biodiversity of sand dunes areas in the municipality of Marbella.