One of the greatest tourist attractions of the Island of Madeira lies in its spectacular landscape. Its luxurious vegetation continues to fascinate all those closely drawn to nature.
This archipelago, included in the bio-geographic region of Macaronesia, retains a natural heritage of great scientific value, distinguished by UNESCO as World Natural Heritage.
Madeira’s indigenous Laurissilva forest, occupying an area of 15 thousand hectares, forms part of this vast layer of vegetation that covers the island. This ancient forest dates back to the Tertiary Era and includes very large trees amongst which is the Til, (Ocotea foetens), the Laurel-Tree, (Laurus novo canariensis) and the Brazilian Mahogany, (Persea indica). Surrounding the trees are mosses and many other bushes, including heather and ferns.
Amongst the bird life there are rare species such as the Long-toed pigeon, (Columba trocaz) and Zino’s petrel or the Madeira Freira petrel, (Pterodroma madeira).
Considered a living relic, almost all of it has been classified as part of the Madeira Nature Reserve, and is deemed a Total Preservation Area.
MADEIRA NATURE RESERVE
The Madeira Nature Reserve was created in 1982 in order to preserve a huge natural heritage, which is part of the world’s heritage and includes some species in danger of extinction, as well as some high quality human habitats. It has been classified as Bioenergetic Reserve and it contains flora and fauna unique in the whole world.The Reserve covers a large proportion of Madeira Island (about two thirds of its territory), including areas of total and partial natural preservation, protected landscapes and leisure zones.
It includes the eastern mountainous mass, in which Pico Ruivo is most prominent and the western mountainous mass, with its extensive Paúl da Serra plateau.
It’s between 1300 to 700 metres in altitude on the south of the Island and to 200 metres in the north, where the largest area of Laurissilva Forest in Macaronesia is concentrated.
This Forest, which has been determined Natural Heritage for Humanity, occurs mainly within the area of Parque Natural da Madeira.
At the lower limit of the Laurissilva or the exotic are generally located the farming lands, with their characteristic terraces which are irrigated with water flowing from the levadas.
To the eastern extremity of the Island of Madeira arises the Promontory of São Lourenço, a peninsula of approximately 328 hectares and an average altitude of 100 metres. Here the landscape is very distinct, more flat and arid, practically deprived of trees, but presenting several endemic plants.On the Western part of this Natural Park, the territory includes agricultural activities and traditional livestock farming which impart special value to the landscape, making it very rural.
WORLD BIOSPHERE RESERVE – SANTANA
Santana municipality, located on the north of the Island, was honoured on June 2011 by the UNESCO with the award of “Biosphere Reserve”, recognizing the richness of an ecosystem, which strives to connect the importance of the sustainable use of biodiversity preservation.
This reserve combines both land and maritime areas which integrated in this municipality, displaying a large diversity of natural, human, landscape, cultural and environment values of local, regional, national and international interest
The rich natural ecosystem incorporates a high degree of endemic species that represents most of the significant ecological units of the island, in terms of marine and coastal varieties, and also some high altitude vegetation species, amongst which Laurissilva Forest, World Natural Heritage by UNESCO.