La Gomera is one of the steepest islands in the Canary Archipelago and probably in the world. This unusual orography, along with the island’s climate, has led to the development to a great variety of natural ecosystems.
Garajonay National Park
The national park, which belongs to the Spanish National Park Network, is located on the central summits of the island. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986 for its distinctiveness and biological diversity, but most of all for the importance of its laurisilva (evergreen laurel) forest.
This forest is a relic from earlier geological time periods, one of the last vestiges of the sub-tropical jungles that have almost entirely disappeared from the planet due to glaciations. Its strategic location gives it an important role in recharging the island’sgroundwater and protecting soil.
The forest receives additional protection because its high biodiversity includes endangered species that are endemic to the island and sometimes found exclusively in the protected territory. Garajonay holds the largest populations on the island, and in some cases in the entire archipelago, of certain species, such as laurisilva pigeons (Columba bolliiandColumba junoniae), the Eurasian woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) and the sauco (Sambucus palmensis), among many others. Finally, the park is also renowned for its unique natural landscapes and geomorphological formations.
The mountains of Valle Gran Rey are part of the composition of this space. The Myrica-erica shrub formations of the Arure and Las Hayas mountains are among the best examples of what Garajonay National Park offers.
Valle Gran Rey Rural Park
A rural park is a natural area in which agriculture and fishing or livestock activities coexist with natural environmental pursuits, creating an interesting eco-cultural landscape that should be conserved. Valle Gran Rey Rural Park covers an area of 1,992.8 hectares, stretching from sea level to an altitude of 1,020 metres. It is located on two of the main mountains surrounding the valley, La Mérica and Teguerguenche, but also includes part of the ravine that extends from Casa de la Seda to Risco de Guadá and toward the Arure ravine.
Regardingits flora, the park is the last refuge of one of the most endangered vertebrates on the planet: the La Gomera giant lizard. It was rediscovered in 1999 in Quiebracanillas, at the base of the cliffs of La Mérica, where today a recovery centre for the lizard is located, which is directing an ambitious and highly successful plan to prevent its extinction.
The park contains a harmonious rural landscape of great beauty, where erosion has shaped a peculiar contrasted orography, with steep slopes and fertile valleys. It is a living example of man coexisting with nature in an extremely terraced territory of great cultural and historical value that maintains a balance between palm trees and traditional architecture. The least accessible cliffs have a rich concentration of endemic biodiversity, with an abundance of rare and endangered plants. The same occurs with the bird population, which is mostly concentrated on the cliffs of Argaga and in El Charco de Cieno, with protected species of great scientific interest. The mountain ranges of La Mérica and the cliffs surrounding Valle Gran Rey are singular and representative geomorphological elements. In addition, the area also includes important archaeological sites, especially near the Montaña del Adivino.
Lomo del Carretón Natural Monument
El Lomo del Carretón is a cliff located between 450 and 850 metres above the Taguluche and Alojera valleys that is of great geological and geomorphological interest. It also contains a considerable number of endemic and endangered species, such as the tree euphorbia (Euphorbia lambii) or the cardoncillo (Ceropegia ceratophora). Its rich flora and the fact that it is an excellent example of a rupicola habitat give it added scientific value.
The most abundant vegetation around springs and in some craggy areas where water seeps are larger species such as the black barbusano (Apollonias barbujana ceballosi), the marmulano (Sideroxylon marmulano) and the sao (Salix canariensis), along with small forests of Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) andradiata pine (Pinus radiata), which come from old repopulations. Notable fauna include the laurel pigeon (Columba junoniae) and a wide variety of invertebrates.
Charco del Conde
SITE OF SCIENTIFIC INTEREST
This space has an area of 10.7 hectares, spanning from sea level up to an altitude of 18 metres on the coast of Valle Gran Rey, at La Puntilla. Its objective is to protect the tarajal copses (Tamarix canariensis) found within the site, a formation that is increasingly rare in the Canaries.
Charco del Cieno
SITE OF SCIENTIFIC INTEREST
This is a coastal ecosystem located on the coast of Valle Gran Rey and characterized by its halophytic flora (Tamarix canariensis, Traganum moquinii, Salsola opositifolia) and the presence of a small formation of dunes. The charco (pool)from which it derives its name is a shallow, swampy pool whose proximity to the coast causes it to be infiltrated by sea water with the ebb and flow of the tides; the pool is also a refuge for a species of aquatic spermatophyte (Ruppia maritima). Its objective is to protect one of the best wetlands on La Gomera, despite its small dimensions, and also one of the last natural salt marshes in the Canaries. It is also notable for being an important transit point for migratory birds and for sheltering an interesting selection of wading birds.
Franja Marina Santiago-Valle Gran Rey
SPECIAL AREA OF CONSERVATION
A large part of the coast of the municipality of Valle Gran Rey is included in the Santiago-Valle Gran Reycoastal strip Special Area of Conservation. This 13,139.09 hectare space was declared a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in September 2011, a designation within the Natura 2000 network whose goal is to ensure the long-term survival of the most threatened species and natural habitats in Europe and detaining the loss of biodiversity caused by the adverse impact of human activity.
This enclave is considered to have the greatest diversity of cetaceans for its size in the European Union, with over 22 of the 28 species of cetaceans found near the Canary Archipelago. Among these species are the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), the Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis), the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus), the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) and the orca (Orcinus orca).
The area possesses a great variety of sea floors, including sandy areas with no vegetation, prairies of marine spermatophytes known as ‘seagrass meadows’, sandy bottoms populated by shoals of brown garden eels(Heteroconger longissimus), seagrass-caulerpal systems, chalk pits, underwater caves and reef systems.
This variety, along with its highly variable bathymetry and the upwelling of deep waters, which increases the production of zooplankton, provides this area with a notable environmental diversity, reflected in its very rich benthic and pelagic biocoenosis. The area contains numerous catalogued species, such as thebrain sponge (Corallistes nolitangere), the Canarian star (Narcissia canariensis), el coralito (Dendrophyllia laboreli), the Canarian slipper lobster (Scyllarides latus), the spotted burrfish (Chilomycterus atringa), the seahorse (Hippocampus hippocampus) or the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta).
SPECIAL AREA OF CONSERVATION
This area, spanning 139.5 hectares, is a basin located north of the municipality thatencloses or includes most of the Taguluche hamlet, surrounded by imposing cliffs and with notable formations of endemic rupicola plant species, such as Pimpinella junoniae orSideritis nutans, and threatened and protected species such as tree euphorbia (Euphorbia lambii) or cardoncillo (Ceropegia ceratophora).
The Tagaluche hamlet is found within the SAC. Trails and stone paths can be used to enjoy the unique and peculiar landscape that was transformed by terraced agriculture that takes advantage of the water emerging spontaneously from natural springs located at altitudes between 600 and 750 metres in the neighbouring Lomo del Carretón Natural Monument. In addition everything else, perhaps the most notable aspect of the SAC is the palm grove found in the Taguluche valley, in which the agricultural and geological scenery combined with Canarian palm trees (Phoenix canariensis) present one of the most authentic Gomeran landscapes.
Acantilados de Alajeró, La Dama y Valle Gran Rey
SPECIAL PROTECTION AREA FOR BIRDS
he cliffs surrounding the lower part of Valle Gran Rey are included in this Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds, which extends along the entire southwestern coast of La Gomera, from Playa Santiago to Playa de Heredia.
Areas affected by the ocean contain halophile and halotolerant plants, with the notable presence of a salt marsh and some tarajal formations. The area also includes some xerophytic plant communities typical of lowlands (euphorbias). The main plant species found here are tree euphorbia(Euphorbia berthelotii), balo (Plocama pendula) and occasionally someCanary Island spurge (Euphorbia canariensis).
Regarding fauna, this is one of the most important areas in La Gomera for seabird breeding. In addition, waders, herons and gulls can be observed passing through or wintering in the intertidal zones. In relation to the Birds Directive the presence of certain species has been observed frequently, such as Bulwer’s petrel (Bulweria bulwerii), Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea borealis), Barolo shearwater (Puffinus assimilis baroli), European storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus), common tern (Sterna hirundo), osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Barbary falcon (Falco peregrinus pelegrinoides) and trumpeter finch (Rhodopechys githaginea amantum). As for reptiles, the area contains two lacertids (the Western Canaries lizard, Gallotia galloti gomerae, andLa Gomera giant lizard, Gallotia bravoana, at its westernmost point), a skink (West Canary skink, Chalcides viridanus) and a gecko (Gomero wall gecko, Tarentola gomerensis).