Birdwatch News Archive
Smoke drifts through the trees of the La Gomeran laurel forests during the recent wild fires. Photo: Yeray-muad'dib (BirdLife International).
Canary Islands wildlife ravaged by wild fires
Posted on: 26 Aug 2012
Wild fires on the Canary Islands have ravaged the islands' natural habitats, and have threatened rare endemic species.
The large number of recent wild fires on both the Canary Islands and mainland Spain pose a serious hazard to people, their property and livelihoods and affect key sectors including agriculture, livestock and tourism. The forest of the island of La Gomera in particular is an important pillar in the local economy due to tourism, and ecotourism in particular, but has been seriously damaged by wild fires which burnt for at least 12 days, encouraged by drought conditions.
Birdlife in Spain is gravely concerned about the serious environmental damage caused by the fires in Garajonay NP, one of Europe’s most important biodiversity hot-spots. The wild fires destroyed more than 700 ha of the park, endangering populations of species that are unique to the island. The park has the largest continuous expanse of laurel forest on the islands, and are located in the central area of La Gomera. Other key habitats include heath, scrub and exotic coniferous woodland.
In the Teno Rural Park, located in the north-west of Tenerife, the fires have been intensive but now seem to be under control. The habitat in this protected area is one of the best preserved laurel forests in the archipelago.
The National Parks are strongholds for typical laurel forest bird species, such as the Bolle's and White-tailed Pigeons, both endemic to the Canary Islands. Smaller Atlantic island endemics like Island Canary and, on Tenerife, Blue Chaffinch may also be affected.
The bird species richness and uniqueness means these areas have been declared Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAs) by the Spanish government and the European Union and are inventoried as Important Bird Areas (IBAs) by BirdLife.
SEO/BirdLife has expressed sympathy to the victims and gratitude to all the people and institutions who have worked to extinguish the fires on the Canary Islands. The true extent of the damage is still being assessed.
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