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The Fanal Forest

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The beautiful Fanal forest is perhaps the most well known of the remaining laurisilva forests that once covered 90% of Southern Europe and NW Africa several million years ago.

The Fanal forest is found on the island of Madeira and these pockets of ancient laurisilva forests are now only found within Madeira, the Azores and the Canary islands where just 10% remain.

Photography by Albert Dros

These remaining pockets are still 90% primary forest and are highly precious ecosystems offering a wealth of ecological niches, intact ecosystem processes, endemic species, complex food webs and balanced co-evolution of species.

The forests comprise a range of unique climax vegetation predominantly endemic and from the evergreen laurel family that create important local hydrological balance, replenishing local water catchments and recharging aquifers. It’s said the forests still provide 22.5% of local water via horizontal precipitation.

Photography by Albert Dros

Around two million years ago the majority of these laurel forests were destroyed by glaciers moving south. The remaining deforestation then caused by human intervention, in particular from the 15c onwards as vast areas were destroyed for agricultural land and trees felled for ship building plus exotic invasive species introduced. Exploitation was in a similar manner to the pillage of the amazon rainforests today.

Photography by Albert Dros

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see how our Southern European climate could well be different and more balanced if more of these humid rain making evergreen forests had survived...

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