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Our Mission
SPEA is an Environmental not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support research and conservation of wild birds and their habitats, by promoting sustainable development for the benefit of future generations.
Home  > The project > The Laurel Forest
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The Laurel Forest
The distribution of the Macaronesian Sparrowhawk occurs primarily in the Laurel forest. This hyper-humid rainforest originates from the Tertiary period (about 20 million years ago), during which time it occupied vast stretches of southern Europe and the Mediterranean basin. This habitat is now only found in the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores, Madeira and the Canaries.
The island of Madeira has the largest and best preserved Laurissilva of the world, occupying about 20% of the island and lying mainly on the north coast, at altitudes between 300 and 1300 meters. In 1999 it was classified as a World Natural Heritage by UNESCO.
This forest is an ecosystem of high scientific value which houses many endemic species of plants, mosses, invertebrates and birds. It plays an important role in the hydrological balance of the island and is primarily responsible for the collection, retention and infiltration of water from precipitation and fog, as well as being important in the retention of the soil, ensuring its stability and avoiding erosion.

Vegetative species
This habitat provides an extremely rich flora, harboring 82 endemic species.
Trees: laurel Laurus novocanariensis, barbusano Apollonias barbujana spp. barbujana, til Ocotea foetens Madeira mahogany Persea indica, lily-of-the-valley tree Clethra arborea, picconia Picconia excelsa, Madeira mock orange Pittosporum coriaceum
Shrubs: pride of Madeira Echium candicans, honey spurge Euphorbia mellifera, Isoplexis sceptrum, Musschia wollastonii
Herbaceous: cranesbill Geranium palmatum, leafy orchid Dactylorhiza foliosa, giant buttercup Ranunculus cortusifolius




Threats
Despite its protection, the Laurel forest is exposed to various threats due to the impact of human actions. Fire and invasive plant introductions hinder the growth and evolution of indigenous species.
Some of the major invasive species are: common broom Cytisus scoparius, crofton weed Ageratina adenophora, common gorse Ulex europaeus, hardy fuchsia Fuchsia magellanica, sweet pittosporum Pittosporum undulatum, banana passion fruit Passiflora mollissima, tree-of-heaven Ailanthus altissima, giant reed Arundo donax and kahili ginger Hedychium gardnerianum. Many of these plants were introduced as ornamental plants on the island, due to their attractive flowers and pleasant odor.



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