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The biogeographic region of Macaronesia comprises three volcanic archipelagos (Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands) in the Atlantic Ocean with large differences in habitats and species diversity among islands and groups of islands, subject to a climate that is heavily influenced by the ocean. The level of endemism on these islands is high, both in plants and animals. Agriculture and tourism industry have caused severe impact on biodiversity, leading to several endangered species, especially among sea birds.

Macaronesia hub website


Main characteristics of the Region

  • Composed of 3 European Overseas Regions – the Portuguese archipelagos of Azores (AZO - 9 islands) and Madeira (MAD - 2 islands) and the Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands (CAN - 7 islands)
  • Macaronesia is a region in the northeast Atlantic of archipelagos of volcanic nature. A typical Mediterranean climate dominates in the subtropical islands of Madeira and the Canary Islands, while the Azores have a cooler climate and higher rainfall.[1]
  • Total land area – ca. 10,300 km2 (AZO – 2,300; MAD – 800; CAN – 7,200)[2]
  • Total marine area (EEZ) – ca. 2,000,000 km2 (AZO – 1,100,000; MAD – 450,000; CAN – 450,000)[3]

Socioeconomic, Policy and Civil Society Context [4]

  • Total population – 2,600,000 (AZO – 250,000; MAD – 250,000; CAN – 2,100,000)
  • The main industries in Macaronesia are agriculture, fishing, and a fast growing tourism.
  • Environmental regional instruments and organizations

At the international level:

  • Ramsar Convention (Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat)
  • Bonn Convention (Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals)
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) with the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Island Biodiversity (ATHEG) and its Canary Island Declaration for Protecting Island Biodiversity from the Impacts of Alien Species
  • Man And Biosphere programme with the IBSICA - Integrated Biodiversity Strategies for Islands and Coastal Areas project and the network REDBIOS
  • At the European level
  • Bern Convention (Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats)
  • At the EU level
  • EC Birds and Habitats Directives and the Natura 2000 network
  • EC Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Facts and Figures

There is a total of 334 species listed for the region of Macaronesia in IUCN’s red list as endangered or vulnerable (

The total number of endemic species in Macaronesia is 5,513 (AZO - 491[5]; MAD – 1,286[6]; CAN - 3,736[7]).

The total surface area of the Sites of Community Importance officially adopted under the Habitats Directive is 5,340 km2 (3,292 km2 in terrestrial areas and 2,048 km2 in marine areas). Therefore, 39 % of the terrestrial area of the Canary Islands, 29 % of the Madeira and 10 % of the Azores contribute to the European Natura 2000 network.[8]

Main challenges [9]

  • Growing human population and tourism
  • Fisheries
  • Agriculture
  • Forestry
  • Invasive species

Importance for the Region to be involved in the BEST initiative 

One BEST project has been funded in the region so far. The BEST initiative will allow a crucial assessment of priorities in biodiversity conservation in Macaronesia, highlighting its value in European and global terms. The strategies to be developed are essential to focus research and management efforts and to direct funds to where their application can have the highest positive impact. This initiative is a unique combination of geographical representativeness and institutional diversity and expertise with the aim of identifying synergies, exploring complementarities and developing joint initiatives towards the common goal of smart management of tropical and subtropical biodiversity in support of sustainable development. In addition BEST will capitalize other European projects such as the European research NETBIOME ERA-Net projects [10] , the NETBIOME-CSA[11].

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