Canary Islands: New legislation threatens already endangered plants


A new legal framework proposed by Coalición Canaria threatens many of the already endangered species endemic to the Canary Islands. However, in a coordinated effort academics, political groups, and NGOs are campaigning against the new laws according to Ben Magec-Ecologistas en Acción.

spiky draco tree against blue skyThe Catalogue of Protected Species, it's claimed, will remove much of the current protection afforded to the wildlife of the Canary Islands. The islands, a Spanish autonomous community, lie about 100km off the coast of North Africa and are famous for their dramatic landscapes and wildlife. Approximately 4,000 species are endemic to the islands and of these a few hundred are already classed as endangered.

Rubén Barone Tosco told Plant Talk the First Catalogue of Protected Species dates back to 2001, but the planned changes introduce categories, that seem to severely undermine it particularly "DE INTERÉS PARA LOS ECOSISTEMAS CANARIOS", which only protects species in the Canarian network of protected areas and the Natura 2000 network. "This is a big problem as many endangered species inhabit non-protected areas," said Tosco.

One of the major concerns where these, seemingly small changes, will be felt is in the easing of major construction projects such as the Port of Granadilla on the largest island Tenerife. This will severely impact seagrass beds (Cymodocea nodosa) and Tosco continues: "This reduction in protection will be an open door for some projects including the port, big roads, golf courses etc, which will all have high environmental impacts."

Another important category from the earlier legislation - SENSIBLE A LA ALTERACIÓN DEL HÁBITAT - has been deleted altogether. And although some of the species initially protected in this category have passed to 'vulnerable' in general the balance of this action "is negative". There are, apparently, only very few species that are improved in their degree of protection.

The list or organisations and people opposed to the changes is long and illustrious. Starting with IUCN, who sent a letter on 22 September 2009 stressing that, "this bill of law will make the Canary Islands even more vulnerable as it degrades its Natural Heritage and Biodiversity", many others have followed suit including, Centro Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (Centre for Superior Scientific Research), The Canarian Association of Biologists, the National Association of Geographers (Delegation of The Canary Islands), The Official Association of Veterinarians of Las Palmas and The Botanical Garden Viera y Clavijo.

Ben Magec-Ecologistas en Acción "encourages more groups and institutions to join this rejection, which gives evidence of the total absence of legitimacy with which the Parliament of The Canary Islands will put through the immoral scheme of the New Catalogue of Protected Species of the Canary Islands."

Some of the plants affected by the legislation

sea grass growing on the sea floor in the canary islands

Cymodocea nodosa a seagrass, found in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

Endangered mainly by industrial ports and marine pollution seagrasses form important habitats.


Small fern growing out of a dry soil

Ophioglossum ployphyllum, a rare fern of the Canary Islands.

Not endemic but highly interesting and localized in the Western Palearctic.


Related links:

Information about the threat of the legislation

Spain: Polygala balansae - only known European population under threat


polygala thumbnailResearchers at the University of Granada (UGR) have studied the natural history and conservation status in Spain of the only known population of Polygala balansae in Europe, a thorny bush that can grow up to 1.5 metres high, and previously thought to be exclusive to Morocco.

Saving the flora of Mediterranean islands


picture of rare pine and deep blue sky Visitors to a Greek island in August, strolling to the beach through a parched olive grove, with only golden grasses and desiccated seed heads around their feet would find it hard to believe that only a few months earlier the ground had been covered in a carpet of wild flowers and herbs, stirred into life by the first winter rains. The countries of the Mediterranean basin share 25,000 different species of flowering plants and ferns and 60 per cent of these are found nowhere else on earth, making it one of the world’s biodiversity ‘hotspots’.