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      Biosphere Reserve Information



  General Description   The island of Gran Canaria is part of the Canary Archipelago, situated between the Fuerteventura and Tenerife Islands. It is of volcanic origin and reaches a maximum altitude of 1,949 metres at the Pico de las Nieves, at the centre of the island. Gran Canaria Biosphere Reserve covers approximately a third of the island on the the south-western side, including the municipalities of Aldea de San Nicolás, Artenara and Tejeda, all of the territory situated at an altitude above 300 metres in the municipalites of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Agaete and Mogán, and a small part of the sector of Vega de San Mateo that is included in the Parque Rural de El Nublo. It includes entire water catchment basins from the top of the island’s mountains through valleys used for agriculture, to beaches and marine areas. Three zones with different vegetation types can be distinguished: arid and semi-arid environments in the southern and western parts of the island, sub-humid environments with humid summits to the west, and humid transition environments that extend to the northern border. The ridges and and southern slopes are covered by Canary pine, while the northern slopes host relicts of laurisilva and fayal-brezal vegagtion types.

In spite of its small surface, Gran Canaria presents a great biodiversity. Its insular condition, geographic isolation, and the variety of ecological niches available for the vegetation have favoured the presence of a high number of endemic species. Of the 600 taxa of terrestrial vascular flora identified in the Gran Canaria Biosphere Reserve, 95 are endemic to Gran Canaria, 101 are endemic to the Canary Archipelago and 32 are endemic to Macaronesia. This high rate of enedmism makes the area of vital importance for the conservation of biodiversity.

The main human populations live in the transition area of the Biosphere Reserve, while minor settlements also exist in the buffer zone, adding up to 18,322 inhabitants. The main economic activities are based on tourism. The local populations are conscious of the important natural values of the island and use the resources in a sustainable way. For example, farmers water only with systems that optimize water consumption, the tourist sector moves gradually towards more sustainable models (rural tourism), and the homes consume less water than any citizen of the European Union. There is also an advanced legislation for the management of the territory and the protection of natural areas.
For geographical and operational reasons, the competence in natural protected areas has progressively been transferred from the Government of the Canary Archipelago to the insular administrations (Cabildos) that are now the main actors for the conservation and protection of the rural and natural environment. The responsible administrative authorities for the Biosphere Reserve are thus the Cabildo de Gran Canaria and the Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Aguas.
  Major ecosystem type   Island; Coastal marine systems
  Major habitats & land cover types   Island: cardonal-tabaibal communities characterized by Euphorbia balsamifera and E. canariensis; Pine forests with Pinus canariensis, Cistus symphytifolius, Chamaecytisus proliferus ssp.
meridionalis, and Erica arborea; Thermophile communities with Olea cerasiformis, Pistacia atlantica, and Juniperus turbinata ssp. canariensis; Coastal halophile systems with Euphorbia aphylla; Meadow communities with numerous endemic species such as Aeonium percarneum, A. virgineum, A. simsii, A. undulatum and A. manriqueorum, Aichryson laxum and Greenovia aurea; Marine system with algal communities including Padina pavonica, Fucus spiralis and other species.
  Location   27º46’23" to 28º06’17"N; 15º28’36" to 15º50’42"W
27º56’17"N; 15º40’10"W (Central point)
  Area (hectares)    
  Total   100,459
  Core area(s)   6,841.20
  Buffer zone(s)   33,284.90 (of which marine: 250)
  Transition area(s) when given   60,332.48 (of which marine: 34,613.80)
  Altitude (metres above sea level)   -145 to +1,949
  Year designated   2005
  Administrative authorities   Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Agua
  Brief description   The Biosphere Reserve zonation is based on the criteria of the Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, and with the aim to respond to the aims and objectives of the Seville Strategy. The aim is to extend the Biosphere Reserve in the future to incorporate the whole island or to enlarge it compared to the present zonation. The Biosphere Reserve covers approximately a third of the island and includes several natural protected areas and monuments. The area includes totally or partially several municipalities as well as a marine zone. The Biosphere Reserve is established around the Natural Reserve of Inagua, which is designated as a core area together with the Reserva Natural Especial de Güigüí. These areas have the necessary dimensions and ecological characters to accomplish the functions of a core area. The core areas are surrounded by a common buffer zone (Parque Rural de El Nublo) and transition areas. The Natural Parks of Tamadaba and Pilancones, as well as other natural monuments and landscapes, are included in the transition areas and provide geographical continuity. A transition area is also established at the contact point between the core area, the buffer zones, and the sea. The marine area has been designated on the one hand as a large transition area to promote activities compatible with the conservation of the territory such as artisanal fishery. On the other hand, the area has been established to surround the terrestrial core area of the Reserva Natural Especial del Güigüí and thus to protect the coastal cliffs that possess a large number of protected and endemic species of flora and fauna, both Macaronesian species and species exclusive of the Canary Islands.
In recent years, different specific programmes have been developed and co-financed with the European Commission through the LIFE project (Conservation of blue chaffinch (Fringilla teydea), loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) and bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), endangered flora, invasive vertebrate species, evaluation of the ecological impact of whale-watching). There are also permanent forests monitoring plots for the analysis of the state of the forests.
  Specific variables...    
  Abiotic   Drought, erosion, geology, geomorphology, groundwater, habitat, hydrology, modelling, physical oceanography/oceans, soil, topography.
  Biodiversity   Afforestation/Reforestation, algae, amphibians, arid/semi-arid, autoecology/synecology, biodiversity, biogeography, biology, biotechnology, birds, coastal/marine, conservation, desertification, endemic species, ethology, evapotranspiration, evolutionary studies/palaeoecology/evolution, fauna, fires/fire ecology, fishes, flora, forest systems, invertebrates/insects/spiders, island systems/islands, mediterranean type/scherophyll, mountain and highland systems, phytosociology/succession, plankton, plants, pollination, rare/endangered/threatened species, species inventorying/inventory, taxonomy, vegetation studies/plant cover, volcanic/geothermal systems/volcano, wildlife.
  Socio-economic   Agriculture/Production systems, agroforestry, anthropological studies/anthropology, archaeology/paleontology, cultural aspects, demography, firewood cutting/harvesting, fishery/fisheries, forestry, indicators of sustainability, livestock and related impacts/overgrazing, local participation, pastoralism/pastoralists/grazing, people-nature relations/man/nature, quality economies, recreation, small business initiatives, social/socio-economic aspects, tourism, traditional practices/ethnology/traditional knowledge.
  Integrated monitoring   Carrying capacity/Sustainability, education and public awareness, geographic information system/gis, impact and risk studies/environmental impact, integrated studies/interdisciplinaty, interdisciplinary studies, management issues, mapping, modelling, monitoring/methodologies, planning and zoning measures/zonation, rural systems, sustainable development/sustainable use.
  Contact address   Victor Montelongo
Jefe de Servicio de Medio Ambiente
C/ Profesor Agustín Millares Carló s/n - 1ª, planta (Edificio Insular I)
35003 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
  Telephone   (34.928) 21 92 02
  Fax   (34.928) 21 92 27

Last updated: 27/02/2007

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