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Famara - Restoration of the islets and the cliffs of Famara (Lanzarote Island)

LIFE99 NAT/E/006392

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Luis PASCUAL GONZÁLEZ
Tel: +34928805310
Fax: +34928805795

Project description:


North-eastern Lanzarote consists of sparsely populated high cliffs and volcanic islets. Their isolation and geographical location make them natural sites of great interest. They contain unique plant communities, 14 of which are endemic to Lanzarote and 38 to the Canary Islands, including, in particular, 4 priority plant species under the Habitats Directive. They also provide a unique haven in the Canary Islands archipelago for abundant and diverse birdlife, notably 3 species considered as priority for funding by LIFE-Nature.

Some of this natural wealth is under attack from exotic species of fauna -rabbits, rats, and cats, and flora -false tobacco(Nicotiana glauca), which are highly adapted to that environment and widespread, at the expense of indigenous species and habitats. The scarcity of fresh water in this area is another major problem for the wildlife, and specially for resident and migratory birds.

The presence of humans, despite in low densities, causes a series of disturbances that can challenge the good conservation of habitats extremely fragile and singular. A traffic not always sufficiently regulated within the islets, sea and inland debris, and uncontrolled tourism generate impacts that destroy the landscape, the vegetation and disturb the birdlife protected by the European legislation.


This project addressed the main problems of the target site, with the objective of securing the conservation of the habitats and species of Community interest that caused its inclusion in the Natura 2000 network.

Control of exotic fauna and flora both in Lanzarote and in the neighbouring islets using methods compatible with the natural environment was one of the main measures to implement. The project also planned the rehabilitation of the habitats typical of Famara by restoring the sensitive areas of the cliffs and islets (quarries, traffic regulation) and cleaning up the coastline. To boost the bird populations, some of the existing water storage facilities were to be restored and some new infrastructure would be built as well.

An appropriate monitoring and early-warning system would keep human activities, particularly tourism, under control.

To implement these measures, appropriate scientific advice would be sought and a management plan for this protected site was to be drawn up. The future management of the site would be eased through restoring and equipping some human constructions as a biological station, and preparing some dissemination materials to raise the awareness of both locals and visitors.


The main objective of the project, improving the status of the native habitats and species present in the two target SCIs/SPAs, was achieved. The set of measures implemented significantly improved the nesting and feeding habitats for several resident bird species of the Annex I of the Birds Directive and improved the condition of the site as a stepping-stone in the migratory route of many birds. They also improved notably the conservation status of the dunes, cliffs and shrubs that were target habitats.

The most ambitious aim regarded controlling the presence of invasive alien species in two non-populated islets. The eradication of exotic rabbits in Montaña Clara Islet (1 km2) and their control in Alegranza Islet (12 km2) using solely “clean” methods were fully successful. The eradication meant a pioneer work worldwide for islands of comparable length, and the conclusion of the control done was that, despite initially considered impossible, tackling such problem in medium-sized islets is also feasible. To be highlighted is the demonstrative value of this work in a framework of increasing concern of exotic pests’ fight in islands. Results will be published in high impact conservation journals.

Further control measures were also carried out, i.e. the eradication of the remnant cats and rats, and of the exotic plant Nicotiana glauca from Montaña Clara. A prototype mechanism designed to avoid the invasion of rats from boats was also being tested when the project finished. The overall result of these controls will be a manifest improvement of several Annex II species (subject to predation or direct competence) and Annex I habitats (degradation by herbivores) within the target SCIs.

As regards the human inhabited islands, habitat management works were carried out that will contribute to the future conservation of several habitats. The network of gravel roads of La Graciosa was reformed to oblige the vehicles to use it and avoid cross-country circulation; the topographic profile and soils were partially restored in an old quarry to favour landscape and habitat regeneration; and a coastline cleaning campaign did also take place. For a complete success, these actions should be periodically subject to maintenance works in the future.

The building of five troughs and the restoration of one cistern as water sources for the birdlife was a very important action in this extremely dry area. Also, a comprehensive inventory work on the species was completed, with a level of detail never used before in the Canaries. The result was a key set of information to design suitable management measures.

Some standing problems had to be tackled with a view on addressing the periodic and long term management of the Natura 2000 sites: traditional fishing and an increasing tourism use. They will be dealt with through a permanent surveillance team (5 people) that was constituted thanks to the project and became permanent after its implementation. Also, the site’s management plan was conducted to its final stage before adoption, after a long negotiation with all the relevant stakeholders, which eased finding a general consensus. The plan of this marine-terrestrial area could become a good exemplary pilot experience for the management of this kind of Natura 2000 sites. Additionally, some buildings/ infrastructures present in the islets were restored to aid the management of the two SCIs and one SPA targeted.

The project had a significant incentive effect over the Cabildo, which increased the allocation of financial resources to nature conservation in the project’s area. The permanent hiring of wardens and an update of the contracts to monitor and complete the activities implemented are good examples of it. A more proactive participation of other corps, such as the Civil Guard or the Civil Protection service, in the control of illegal activities in the project area should be highlighted too.

The blocking of some initially agreed actions by the landlords of one islet (Alegranza) caused some of the unsuccessful stories of this project (e.g. some habitat management was not completed). After the project, the Cabildo started to seek funds to purchase it and ensure the conservation of this unspoiled corner of Europe. Unluckily, the awareness raising section was not fully satisfactory, despite the inhabitants of “La Graciosa” and the fishermen should be the subject of specific campaigns to better integrate their activity with nature conservation.


Environmental issues addressed:


Biodiversity issues - Invasive species


island‚  nature conservation‚  environmental impact of transport‚  management plan‚  endangered species‚  endemic species‚  environmental impact of tourism‚  pest control‚  protected area

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • COM(98)42 -"Communication on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy" (05.02.1998)

Target species

 Bulweria bulwerii   Calonectris diomedea   Falco eleonorae   Falco peregrinus   Hydrobates pelagicus   Neophron percnopterus   Oceanodroma castro   Pandion haliaetus   Pelagodroma marina   Puffinus assimilis     

Target Habitat types

  • 1420 - Mediterranean and thermo-Atlantic halophilous scrubs (Sarcocornetea fruticosi)
  • 2110 - Embryonic shifting dunes
  • 2130 - Fixed coastal dunes with herbaceous vegetation ("grey dunes")
  • 5330 - Thermo-Mediterranean and pre-desert scrub

Natura 2000 sites

SPA ES0000040 Islotes del norte de Lanzarote y Famara
SCI ES7010044 Los Islotes
SCI ES7010045 Archipiélago Chinijo



Coordinator Cabildo Insular de Lanzarote
Type of organisation Local authority
Description Cabildos are public administrations of the Canary Islands at the island-level. These island governments have received in recent years the competencies regarding the management of protected natural areas and species. The Cabildo has an "Environment Office", which designed and executed the project.
Partners None


Project reference LIFE99 NAT/E/006392
Duration 01-JUN-1999 to 31-JAN -2002
Total budget 629,306.00 €
EU contribution 314,653.00 €
Project location Canarias(España)


Read more:

CD-ROM Title: Informe final de los trabajos realizados por el Departamento de Biología Animal de la Universidad de La Laguna


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version