LAUREL FOREST : Its importance and what are its issues?
The conservation of endemic Laurel forests in Gran Canaria is essential as they provide valuable ecological services:
- Carbon sequestration
- Water regulation
- Soil protection
- Biodiversity conservation
The endemic forests of Gran Canaria are unique due to their volcanic origin, which has never been connected to a continent (from a hot spot).
These macaronasian archipelagos (Azores, Canary, Madeira, Cape Verde) harbour exceptional biodiversity, with over 5,600 endemic species out of the 23,000 marine and terrestrial species present.
Endemic Laurel forests play a crucial role in water resources. For instance, a study conducted in Garajonay National Park in La Gomera island showed that approximately 20 to 45% of precipitation comes from fog water trapped by vegetation.
Forests help regulate water resources by promoting infiltration and soil conservation, which is particularly important during the dry summer season.
Loss of hábitat
At the beginning of the century, less than 18% of the Laurel Forest was preserved in the Canary Islands, representing 16.419 hectares out ouf the 92.590 hectares cover potential.
In Gran Canaria, prior to ongoing reforestation projects, the laurel forest covered only 103 hectares, less than 1% of its potential.
Cause of loss
Historical loss of these forests was mainly due to tree felling for agriculture (potatoes, cereals, and fruits).
However, the transformation of the agrarian economy into a tourism-based economy over the past 50 years has led to the abandonment of approximately 50,000 hectares of agricultural land, where secondary succession towards Macaronesian heaths has occurred.
Today, due to changing temperatures and precipitation resulting from climate change, laurel forests are the most vulnerable habitats in the Canary Islands. This forest already has a very low resilience due to their high fragmentation and slow growth rates.
Life Nieblas actions
Fortunately, numerous reforestation projects are underway to recover endemic forests, which are more resilient to climate variability, pests, and wildfires once they reach maturity.
Life Nieblas aims to reintroduce endemic forests increasing vegetation cover, improving water infiltration, reducing soil erosion, and enhancing carbon sequestration capacity.