380 Garajonay National Park – 1986

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Laurel forest covers some 70% of this park, situated in the middle of the island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands archipelago. The presence of springs and numerous streams assures a lush vegetation resembling that of the Tertiary, which, due to climatic changes, has largely disappeared from southern .

Brief synthesis

Not far off the north-west coast of lies the island of La Gomera, one of the seven islands that make up the Canary Islands archipelago in the Atlantic. These high, volcanic islands are the first to receive the rains arriving from the west, and have thus retained the remnants of a rich and luxuriant forest — the laurisilva or Laurel forest — on their windward peaks. Next to the Laurisilva of Madeira (Portugal), preserves an outstanding example of this unique vegetation, which remains almost permanently shrouded in clouds and mist. These forests are relict ecosystems, living remnants of the old rainforests and warm temperate forests that occupied much of and North during the Tertiary. Today, they are a refuge for an exceptional number of endemic species, which in many cases are also threatened.

The park covers some 11% of the island and is an important source of water for Gomera, with its network of permanently flowing streams, the best preserved in the Canary Islands. The forest hosts a great diversity of plant species, which are often surrounded by a sea of fog that gives the forest a magical aspect. These fogs are vital for the forest, producing the necessary moisture essential for the survival of this lavish green environment located within an otherwise arid island. The forest only survives thanks to the high humidity and mild temperatures, which fluctuate little during the year.

The forest is geographically unique, as remnants of this type of vegetation are only found in the Macaronesian Islands (the Canaries, Madeira and the Azores). This insular laurisilva is characterised by the evolution of a large number of endemic species of fauna and flora, which in some cases are threatened. Two relict and endemic species of birds, the White-tailed Laurel Pigeon and the Dark-tailed Laurel Pigeon, are endemic to the Canaries. On La Gomera, they are largely restricted to the national park where, as their names suggest, they live in the Laurel forest. It is thought that between 40-60% of the invertebrate fauna is endemic.

Criterion (vii):

contains an outstanding and well-preserved example of laurisilva (Laurel forest), an exceptional ecosystem typified by luxuriant evergreen trees with laurel-like leaves, which today is only found in the Macaronesian Islands. This relict ecosystem, a living remnant of the old rainforests and warm temperate forests that occupied much of Europe and North Africa during the Tertiary, is characterised by lush vegetation, fed by numerous springs and streams, and contains a rich and endemic flora and fauna. It is extraordinary that such a forest still exists at this latitude and proximity to the coasts of the Sahara.

Criterion (ix):

The Canary Islands are renowned for their relict and endemic species of plants and animals, and present outstanding examples of island evolution. contains the best-preserved examples of this evolution in the region, with a recorded flora of 450 vascular plant species, of which 34 are endemic to the island and eight found only in the national park. Two relict and endemic species of pigeons are found almost exclusively in the Laurel forest, and an estimated 40-60% of the invertebrate fauna is endemic.


Following the European colonization of La Gomera in the 15th century, major changes occurred to the forest cover, which was reduced by some 65% in just over 100 years. In the south and west of the national park, there are areas of deforestation, fires and grazing and, in some parts, the natural vegetation cover has been replaced by commercial species for plantations of Canary Pine and Monterey Pine. These activities are slowly being eliminated, although some problems derive from the existence of private property on the boundary of the park. The rat, feral cat and dog population is high. The property is also at risk from wildfires.

consists of over 3,900 ha of the best-preserved Laurel forests in the Canary Islands, with a high number of large, old trees, as well as the best-preserved network of streams, which is the most threatened habitat in all of the Macaronesian Islands. All forest types belonging to the Canary laurisilva are represented in the park, and some of these forest types are either only present in Garajonay or very rare elsewhere, such as the cloud forest rich in epiphytes. The establishment of large Integral Reserves that are free of visitor use and extractive activities is almost unique in the Laurel forests of the Canary Islands.

Protection and management requirements

was created by Spanish Law 3/81 and forms part of the Spanish National Park Network. Previously managed by the Organismo Autónomo Parques Nacionales under the Ministry of the Environment. Following a decentralization process in 2010, the responsibility has been transferred to the Regional Government of the Canary Islands. Management is based on a Master Plan that is being revised regularly. The Laurel forest is also included in the Habitat Directive 2000 92/43/CE of the European Union.

Management is mainly based on a non-interventionist approach, to allow ecosystem processes to continue, and the monitoring programme is showing important changes in the composition and structure of the forest. It is planned to increase research and monitoring of issues that are at present insufficiently studied, and for which available information is poor. Research will focus on issues that will contribute to better understanding and dealing with conservation problems.

About 15% of the Park had been degraded in the 1960s by the plantation of exotic, fast-growing commercial tree species. An important ecological restoration program aimed at restoring the native forest has been implemented, with 80% of its objectives achieved to date. It is planned to complete the restoration of degraded areas in the Park, and the control of alien invasive plant species is also planned.

The conservation of endangered flora is one of the main challenges for Park management, given the high number of taxa included in the Red List. Currently the Park is working with about 20 endangered species, and has produced 11 recovery plans. The goal is to maintain, improve and increase the number of conservation programmes for endangered plant species. These programmes have served to improve the situation of many populations and are considered a pioneer experience in Spain since they were first started in the 1980s.

There is a special plan to cooperate as much as possible in the conservation of natural areas surrounding the Park, particularly where there are well-preserved Laurel forests. An increase of the size of the National Park would be best, but a wide political and social consensus would be required for this project to come to fruition.

It is also planned to improve the public use system, meaning improvement and expansion of infrastructure, services and communication, both with the public and the tourism sector, by taking advantage of new communication technologies. Increased cooperation with the tourism sector in order to create better tourist products related to Park values is expected to improve the visitor experience as well as provide local benefits.

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