canary islands

Biodiversity paradise of the Canary Islands faces need of protection

Biodiversity in general, including that of the Canary Islands, is fragile and vulnerable to disturbances generated by human activities and climate change.

The Canary Islands represent one of the richest geographical areas in terms of biodiversity in the European Union and one of the most impressive in the world. More than 17,000 wild terrestrial species and some 9,000 marine species are distributed in the Canary Islands. The geographical uniqueness and isolation from the mainland have led to the emergence of more than 4,200 endemic species, some of which are still to be discovered. In 2021 alone, 90 new species were identified for the first time (71 terrestrial and 19 marine). The Canary Islands are home to more than half of Spain’s endemic plant species, four of the 15 national parks and 20% of the natural habitats of the European Natura 2000 Network.

The ecosystems of the Canary Islands are uniquely fragile and particularly vulnerable to disturbances generated by human activities and climate change. Population growth has soared to over 2.2 million residents and more than 15 million visitors, which has led to economic well-being, but is also mainly responsible for land occupation due to infrastructure construction and urban development, associated with the demand for natural resources.

All this has resulted in the accelerated and systematic loss of biodiversity, the disappearance of flora, fauna and natural habitats, the proliferation of invasive exotic species, the alteration of protected natural areas, the reduction of natural resources, the loss of soil quality, the increase in pollution, the generation of waste beyond its capacity, the dumping of waste water into the sea without treatment or without adequate treatment.

The Canary Islands catalogue indicates that there are 993 protected species (901 terrestrial and 92 marine), of which 129 are in danger of extinction, 91 are in need of special protection, 88 are vulnerable and 136 are of interest to Canarian ecosystems.

Public concern has increased about problems related to the conservation of natural heritage and biodiversity, land degradation and pollution. Meanwhile, the administrations responsible for nature conservation lack sufficient personnel and material resources, as well as adequate organisation to deal with them.

The Law on Biodiversity and Natural Resources of the Canary Islands has yet to be approved. This law will provide a framework for the protection and conservation of natural resources with the challenge of preserving, recovering and promoting biodiversity, and attempting to achieve a balance between economic development and conservation.

It will regulate the dissemination of information to achieve adequate conservation, protection and management of the natural environment, the prevention and tackling of the different factors and impacts that cause its loss or deterioration and the use of natural resources, biological diversity, natural spaces, the care of wild flora and fauna; the fight against invasive species; the protection of the soil; and the interaction of uses and activities.

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