Infobox World Heritage Site
Name = Laurisilva
infoboxwidth = 270px
State_Party = POR
Type = Natural
Criteria = ix, x
ID = 934
Region = Europe and North America
Year = 1999
"Laurisilva" or laurissilva ("laurel forest") is an endemic type of
humid subtropical laurel forestfound on several of the Macaronesian islands of the North Atlantic, namely Madeira Islands, the Azoresand the Canary Islands, a precious relic of the Pliocene subtropical forests.
The forests are made up of laurel-leaved
evergreen hardwood trees, reaching up to 40 meters in height. Many of the speciesare endemic to the islands, and harbor a rich biotaof understoryplants, invertebrates, and birds and bats, including a number of endemic species.
"Laurisilva" formerly covered much of the Azores and Madeira and parts of the western Canary Islands, but the forests have been much reduced in extent by
logging, clearance for agricultureand grazing, and the invasion of exotic species. The most extensive "laurisilva" forests remain on Madeira, where they are found between 300 and 1400 meters altitude in the northern slope, and 700-1600 meters altitude in southern slope, and cover 149,5 km². In the Canary Islands, roughly 60 km² of "laurisilva" remain on Tenerife, smallest areas on La Palma, over 20 km² in Garajonay National Parkon La Gomera, and relic areas in Gran Canaria. In the Azores, small patches of "laurisilva" forest remain on the islands of Pico, Terceira, and São Miguel.
The Madeira "laurisilva" forests were declared a
UNESCO World Heritage Sitein 1999. Predominant lauraceous trees include Til "( Ocotea foetens)", Loureiro "( Laurusnovocanariensis)", Vinhático "( Persea indica)", a valuable hardwood, and Barbosano "( Apolloniasbarbujana)"; other important trees include Aderno "( Heberdenia excelsa)", Pau Branco "( Picconia excelsa)", the Mocanos "( Visnea mocanera" and " Pittosporum coriaceum)", and Sanguinho "( Rhamnus glandulosa)", and the small trees or large shrubs Folhado "( Clethraarborea)" and Perado "( Ilexperado)". The forests support a diverse understory of ferns and herbaceous plants, including the Leitugas "( Sonchusspp.)", geraniums "( Geranium maderense, G. palmatum and G. rubescens)", the Estreleiras "( Argyranthemumspp.)" and the endemic orchid" Goodyeramacrophylla".
The "laurisilva" forests of Macaronesia are
relicts of a vegetationtype which originally covered much of the Mediterranean Basinwhen the climateof the region was more humid. With the drying of the Mediterranean Basin during the Pliocene, the laurel forests gradually retreated, replaced by more drought-tolerant sclerophyllplant communities. Most of the last remaining "laurisilva" forests around the Mediterranean are believed to have disappeared approximately 10,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene, when the Mediterranean basin became warmer and drier, although some remnants of the laurel forest flora still persist in the mountains of southern Spain, north-center of Portugaland northern Morocco, and two constituent species ("Laurus nobilis" and "Ilex aquifolium") remain widespread. The location of the Macaronesian Islands in the North Atlantic Ocean moderated these climatic fluctuations, and maintained the relatively humid and mild climate which has allowed these forests to persist to the present day.
* [http://www.madeira-island.com/features/1999/laurissilva/ Madeira: The laurissilva forest of Madeira] UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1999.
* [http://www.madeirabirds.com/madeira_laurel_forest Madeira Laurel Forest] , Madeira Wind Birds 2005
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.