Espécies/habitats/Madeira - Recovery of Madeira's priority habitats and species

LIFE98 NAT/P/005236

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Henrique COSTA NEVES
Tel: 351 291 22266
Fax: 351 291 222589
Email: pnm@mail.telepac.pt

Project description:


The Madeira Archipelago is particularly important for nature conservation due to the wide coverage and high quality of its native laurel forest, and because of its terrestrial and marine fauna. The laurel forest is a priority habitat as stipulated in the Habitats Directive. The native fauna includes several classified as priority under the Habitats Directive and also endemic species. In recent decades, the area of laurel forest has been progressively reduced. The main reasons for this are conversion of the land for agricultural use, woodcutting and grazing by domestic cattle. At present, the laurel forest area is confined to the North coast of Madeira, in areas where there are steep slopes and access is difficult. The project set out to build on and improve some of the actions carried out under another LIFE project: “Urgent Measures for the Conservation and Restoration of Species and Habitats of Community Interest on the Madeiran Archipelago” (LIFE94 NAT/P/001052).


The aim of this project was to develop tangible on-site conservation actions targeting one priority habitat (the laurel forest), and three priority species (the Monk seal, Monachus monachus; the Madeira Laurel Pigeon, Columba trocaz; and Fea’s Petrel, Pterodroma feae). Actions to be taken regarding the laurel forest were the purchase of 325 hectares of land with good quality forest, the management of herding and tourism, and the establishment of a surveillance centre in a strategic site. For the Madeira Laurel Pigeons a census was to be taken the damage caused to crops by the species was to be monitored and evaluated. For the Monk Seal, actions were planned that would permit better tracking of the colony, inluding aquisition of new equipment. The actions relating to Fea’s Petrel followed the recommendations of the species action plan (Council of Europe/BirdLife International, 1996). The project also included actions to raise the awareness level of the local population relative to the natural heritage of the archipelago.


Although there were some setbacks, the project achieved its objectives overall. The conservation and restoration of the laurel forest and the Columba trocaz were mostly achieved. Nevertheless, the project experienced some difficulties and conflicts. It worked to protect agriculture against damage caused by the Laurel Pigeon, but did not receive full co-operation from farmers as expected, meaning that follow-up activities were needed for some measures. The continuity of the surveillance and damage prevention work was considered the best way to slowly achieve acceptance by a larger number of farmers, through practical demonstration of the reduced damage to crops. Although the pigeon population has recovered in the last few decades, monitoring shows it has recently declined. The population was fewer than 2700 individuals in 1986, rising to 10400 in 1995, and then falling to 8365 in 2001. This decrease is probably due to natural causes, but the beneficiary proposed to maintain close monitoring of the population to follow the ongoing trend. On the other hand, the protection and conservation of the Monk Seal and its habitat was clearly achieved: the population increased from 6-8 animals in 1988 to 23 in 2000. All planned measures were implemented successfully, except for the most innovative: the close monitoring of the seals' caves via remote image transmission, which was not achieved during the project’s lifetime. The integral reserve status of the southwest area of Deserta Grande – confirmed during the project's lifetime as an important breeding and resting ground – proved adequate. Monk Seal individuals were observed with increasing frequency in diverse spots around Madeira Island, including the south coast, near the highly used beaches around Funchal, the island capital. Although caution must be applied (as few observations were made during the project’s lifetime), this was interpreted as a sign of population recovery and the improving conditions of the area as a monk seal habitat. Regarding Fea's Petrel, the planned actions were finally financed using other funds and LIFE supported only the installation on Bugio islet of a surveillance lodge that would also be used for monitoring the Monk Seal. Through the purchase of two areas of good quality laurel forest and its effective management, the project guaranteed the real and durable conservation of a large core area of the Site of Community Interest (SCI) “Laurel Forest of Madeira”. The project also created the necessary logistical conditions for working with priority species in remote areas. During the project a large number of jobs were also funded, one of which (a warden) was ultimately absorbed into the Natural Park’s staff. The project further achieved the involvement of the local electricity company, through an agreement that allowed the use of a house as a surveillance post near the laurel forest areas that were acquired. In the future it will be important to follow-up on the implementation of the management guidelines for the new laurel forest areas that were drawn up as part of the project.


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Forests


environmental impact of agriculture‚  animal damage‚  forest ecosystem‚  nature reserve‚  conflict of interests‚  island‚  land purchase‚  management plan‚  preventive measure

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 ...

Target species

 Columba trocaz   Monachus monachus   Pterodroma feae 

Target Habitat types

  • 8330 - Submerged or partially submerged sea caves
  • 9360 - "Macaronesian laurel forests (Laurus, Ocotea)"

Natura 2000 sites

SCI PTDES0001 Ilhas Desertas
SCI PTMAD0001 Laurissilva da Madeira



Coordinator Parque Natural da Madeira
Type of organisation Park-Reserve authority
Description Natural Parks are regional authorities responsible for nature conservation in Portugal.
Partners None


Project reference LIFE98 NAT/P/005236
Duration 01-OCT-1999 to 30-SEP -2000
Total budget 936,531.70 €
EU contribution 515,092.43 €
Project location Madeira(Portugal)


Read more:

Publication: Article-Paper Title: "Population trends and status of the Madeira Laurel Pigeon Columba trocaz" Author: Oliveira, Paulo et al. Year: 1999 Editor: Bird Conservation International 9: 387-395


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