Location and Values: The Laurisilva of Madeira is located on the Portuguese island of Madeira, in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, about 1,000 km from the European coast and 400km north of the Canary Islands. The area designated as world heritage represents about 20% of the island’s total land area, and serves to protect one of the largest surviving tracts of laurel forest. This vegetation type covered much of southern Europe 15-40 million years ago but is now confined to the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands (where it is also protected within Garajoney National Park, another world heritage site). The Laurisilva is important for biodiversity conservation with at least 76 plant species endemic to Madeira, including four dominant trees from the Lauraceae family (commonly known as the Barbusano, Laurel, Til and Vinhatico). More than 500 species of invertebrate animals (insects, spiders and mollusks) are also known to be endemic to the Laurisilva, together with a limited number of vertebrate species (notably two birds – the Madeira Laurel Pigeon and Madeiran Firecrest, and the Madeiran Pipistrelle bat)
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of the Laurisilva of Madeira is of ‘significant concern’. The IUCN report notes a number of threats to the integrity of the site, including the spread of invasive alien species; the impacts of climate change; an increase in the incidence of wild fires; pressures from tourism and inadequate resources for effective management. Nevertheless, despite these concerns, the report notes that the site’s World Heritage values have so far been mostly preserved and remain stable.
UNESCO Official Website
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description