Reserva Biosfera La Palma
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Nature

La Palma Island is characterized by great landscape contrasts on a relatively small surface. The circulation of trade winds, the Azores’ anticyclone influence, together with an uneven topography, are considered the great molds of the La Palma weather, giving place to a mixture of environments; some of them more humid, where tree heath and laurel forests prevail and some of them drier, where pines stand out.

There is an unusual contrast of natural landscapes, where thick laurel forests share their main role with incredible lava landscapes, within the most remarkable ecosystems. La Palma counts with an important biodiversity, reflected in the existence of great endemisms, complex and symmetrical agricultural and natural landscapes, singular vegetable formations and a very rich marine environment.

One of the most important characteristics of La Palma is the clarity of its skies, due to its geographic situation, very proximate to the Equator and far away from tropical storms. This feature makes of the sky of La Palma the perfect place for astronomic observation, and a proof of this is the existence of the Astrophysics Observatory of Roque de los Muchachos, one of the most important ones worldwide.  

Geology.

Vegetation.

Fauna.

 

• Geology

La Palma Island is one of the youngest islands of the Canary Archipelago. The time evolution of the volcanic activity has conditioned a space organization which divides the Island into two very well differentiated areas: the Northern Area called “Old Island or Paleopalma" and the Southern Area "New Island or Neopalma".

In the Northern Area, water erosion on primitive volcanic areas has given place to a series of abrupt landscapes, of deep cliffs and high mountains, La Caldera de Taburiente being the most impressive and remarkable one, as a great depression of vertical walls with a slope of up to 1,500 meters and a diameter of 10 kilometers.    

The Southern area, the newest on the Island, is mainly made up by an axis of volcanic cones called “Cumbre Vieja”, where a desert landscape prevails, made of lava. This is the area where the last eruption of the Teneguía volcano took place in 1971. 

• Vegetation

La Palma is commonly known as “Pretty Island” or “Green Island” due to its extraordinary ecologic diversity and its thick and varied vegetation.

The Island flora is of special interest due to geographic isolation and its complex topography. Only La Palma counts with a total of 904 wild species, out of which more than 20% correspond to exclusive species in the Canaries. The endemisms are presently composed by 43 taxa, including 9 subspecies, as well as 6 varieties and 12 hybrids (Santos, 1983).

In this sense, different environments are found related to altitude, soil and available water amount.

In the mountains, as from an altitude of 2,000 meters, summit bushes predominate, where shrubs like the Adenocarpus viscosus spartioides prevail. Some other endemic species may also be found, for example the La Palma violet (Viola palmensis).

Under the summit bush, pine woods may be found as a very representative feature in La Palma. The pine wood counts with a very rich forest formation, dominated by canary pine (Pinus canariensis) and brushwood plants such as rockrose (Cistus sp), tree Lucerne (Chamaecytisus proliferus) or bird´s foot trefoils (Lotus hillebrandii).

In the most humid areas of the Island (windward areas), under the influence of the sea of clouds caused by trade winds, the necessary conditions are met for the development of green hills made up of laurel forests and the so called fayal-brezal, areas covered with Myrica species (Myrica faya) and tree heaths. Laurel forest is La Palma’s richest vegetal community, dominated by plants such as laurel (Laurus novacanariensis), holly (Ilex canariensis), Persea indica, among others. On the other hand, the fayal-brezal forests are found as a substitute formation of laurel forest or they appear in the steepest and more wind exposed areas of the Island, they are low forests, not exceeding the height of 5-10 meters, dominated by Myrica faya and tree heaths (Erica arborea). Specially relevant are the ferns, mosses and lichens which may be found in several environments, but specially in laurel forests.

Lastly, in the lower areas of the Island, there appears the coastal bush mainly composed by Euphorbiaceae species (Euphorbia balsamífera and Euphorbia lamarckii) and the Canary Island Spurge (Euphorbia canariensis), even though you may also find a good representation of the white broom (Retama rhodorhizoides) or the Echium brevirame, among others.

It should be added that the ecosystems of La Palma are very vulnerable and fragile, and there are a lot of threatened and protected species, such as fire beak (Lotus pyranthus) and the bird´s foot trefoils (Lotus eremiticus), both species considered in danger of extinction.    

 • Fauna

Due to the great variety of existing environments and to the isolation La Palma has been submitted to, this island is characterized by the existence of a great number of animal species, many of them exclusive, especially remarkable being the number of invertebrates: species such as scarabs, slugs, snails or spiders, among others, occupy a great part of the territory, from the coast up to the summit.

Among vertebrate creatures, birds stand out, with endemic pigeons, the Bolle`s Pigeon (Columba bollii) and the white-tailed laurel pigeon (Columba junoniae), the wild canary (Serinus canarius) and the red-billed chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax); this last one is the animal symbol of the Island, mainly found in rock walls. Mammals are represented by twelve species, among which the singular canary big-eared bat is the most noteworthy (Plecotus teneriffae); however, from the evolutionary point of view, reptiles stand out, such as the La Palma lizard (Gallotia galloti palmae) and the gecko (Tarentola delalandii).

La Palmamarine biodiversity is very varied and rich due to the diverse morphology, giving rise to very different environments.In addition, its good bio-geographic position allows the presence of species, both of temperate and tropical environments, fostering a wide variety development of permanent marine communities.It's worthwhile pointing out that Canaries take part of one of the main migration routes, thus permitting the presence of tunidae, cetaceans and turtles

 

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