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Conservation Because of the isolated volcanic environment, the number of species unique to the islands is very high, and they therefore have a very high conservation value. This is particularly true of the plants: some 10% of the 1,140 vascular plants on Madeira and 32% of the 2,176 vascular plants on the Canaries occur nowhere else on earth. Levels of endemism are also high among some of the invertebrate groups. For example, Madeira alone is home to over 160 species of spiders, of which around 25% are endemic, including one-third of those found in the laurel forest. The Canaries support a wide range of endemic reptiles, and both sets of islands support a small but fascinating array of endemic bird species and subspecies. Recent genetic work has shown that some forms previously treated as subspecies, such as the various island grayling butterflies, the two blue chaffinches and the Canary Islands Chiffchaff, are in fact endemic species. The changes have raised their conservation status further, and it is likely that other species may follow suit. The need for conservation is particularly pressing, considering that the endemic form of the Canary Islands Chiffchaff that formerly inhabited the Haria Valley area of Lanzarote quietly went extinct as recently as the 1980s, and a similar fate befell the La Graciosa form of the Canary Islands Stonechat in the early 20th century and indeed the Canary Black Oystercatcher of the Eastern Canaries around 1940. Analysis of bones discovered in caves on the islands has revealed the former presence of additional endemic species that were probably lost with the arrival of humans and their attendant dogs, cats, and rats, ca. 1,000–2,500 bc. These include the Long-legged Bunting and Slender-billed Greenfinch of Tenerife, both of which were essentially flightless and therefore easy prey for introduced predators. La Palma had its own endemic species of greenfinch, the Trias Greenfinch, which also had short wings but a much larger head and bill than the European Greenfinch, and presumably also succumbed with the arrival of humans on its island. Other long-lost extinct species include the Canary Islands Quail, remains of which have been found on El Hierro, La Palma, Tenerife and Fuerteventura; Hole’s or Dune Shearwater from Fuerteventura; Olson’s or Lava Shearwater from Fuerteventura and Lanzarote; and Madeiran Scops Owl from Madeira and Porto Santo. In order to prevent further extinctions of this nature, it is critical that the excellent conservation efforts currently being employed on the islands continue. Fortunately, conservation has become a high priority on all the islands in recent years, and large areas of the islands receive various forms of protection. On Madeira, nearly all of the remaining laurel forest now lies within the Parque Natural da Madeira (56,700 ha, or 65% of the main island), which was established in 1982 and listed as a World Heritage Site in 1999. The park contains nature reserves, protected landscapes and leisure zones, which together restrict exploitation, including damaging agricultural practices. The protected areas also include natural reserves covering 2,322 ha in the Desertas and Selvagens Islands, partially protected nature reserves covering another 6,400 ha, and marine nature reserves at Garajau and Rocha do Navio. The Canary Islands have four national parks: Parque Nacional del Teide on Tenerife, Parque Nacional de Garajonay on La Gomera, Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente on La Conservation area, Fuerteventura. 18 Palma and Parque Nacional de Timanfaya on Lanzarote. A recent addition is a network of 145 protected areas that cover some 40% of the total surface. The islands also host one World Heritage Site, La Gomera’s Garajonay National Park, which was listed in 1980, and six Biosphere Reserves, one on each of the six main islands. The whole of El Hierro was designated a Biosphere Reserve in 2000, with the aim of pursuing only sustainable development on the island and achieving self-sufficiency in renewable energy. All of Fuerteventura was designated in 2009, with core conservation zones, buffer areas around existing developments and extensions to three miles out to sea on the east coast and five miles on the west. On Gran Canaria, 43% of the less-developed central and south-western uplands together with an extensive marine area off the south-west coast were designated a Biosphere Reserve in 2005. On Tenerife the biodiversity hotspot of the Anaga Mountains was designated in 2015. The Lanzarote Biosphere Reserve covers 42% of the island (including Parque Nacional de...


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