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About Madeira : Geography Last Updated: Jun 28, 2008 - 12:29:23 AM

The "Laurissilva" - A Unesco world heritage site!
By Jorge Barbosa
Jun 6, 2008 - 7:29:56 PM

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A levada running through parts of the Laurissilva
The size of and extent of the Laurissilva.

The Laurissilva lies between 300m and 1300 metres of altitude on the island of Madeira. The forest extends across 22,100 hectares of land. Roughly 16% of the island's surface, making the Madeira Laurissilva one of the largest forests of its kind in the world. On the Canary Islands, for example, the Laurissilva forests occupy only about 6,000 hectares, which is still much more than the leftover Laurissilva forest found on the Azores islands of São Miguel and Terceira - where the precious land has fallen prey to overgrazing and over-farming.

A valuable resource

The most important feature of the Madeira Laurissilva, according to the Nature Reserve Director, Henriques Costa Neves, is not only the extensive wealth of biodiversity of the forest, but also its exceptionally high level of endemic species preservation from its distant past. For example, the remarkable and high quality hard wood trees available, some of them achieving heights of 40 metres abound, including the valuable Til, Vinhático, Barbosano, Aderno, Pau Branco and Folhado trees. Some of these trees can also be found on the Canary Islands, but another 66 known species of plants are entirely endemic to Madeira, including the Uveira da Serra and Urze species (brush plants).
The " Godiera da Madeira", or in Latin the " Goodyera Macrophylla" - an orchid, is an example of one of the rare and endemic flowers species found almost exclusively in the Laurissilva.

Rare fauna

More than 500 endemic fauna invertebrate species also form part of the Laurissilva, including many molluscs, insects and spiders. Some of the more well known endemic vertebrates include the Long Toed Wood Pigeon, or "Pombo Trocaz", two rare species of bats and some other less so endemic vertebrates that share habitats with both Madeira and/or the Canary Islands.


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