The Laurisilva is found primarily at an altitude between 300m and 1 300m and is home to an incredible variety of rare flora such as the Til, Vinhático and Barbusano trees to rare fauna including many endemic invertebrate species as well as endemic vertebrates such as the Long Toed Wood Pigeon or “Pombo Trocaz” and the Pterodroma Madeira also known as the Freira da Madeira, Zino’s Petrel or Madeira Petrel. Indeed, the greatest natural value of the Laurisilva in Madeira is its wealth of biological diversity. This area represents about 16% of the island’s surface. The Madeira Laurisilva forest is considered to be the largest of its kind in the world and was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on the 4th of December 1999 in Morocco.
Conservation of Madeira’s natural heritage, the protection of the environment including the fight against erosion as well as scientific research are factors that enjoy high priority. In 1982 the regional government declared more than 60% of the island a Nature Reserve, “O Parque Natural da Madeira”.
The Laurisilva is intrinsically linked to the destiny of Madeira. From the condensation of the fog carried by the north-east trade winds and caught by the central mountain range, the amount of rainfall at high altitudes, e.g. Bica da Cana situated at 1 560m is, on average 2,967mm per annum, to the retention of water in the leaves, branches and tree trunks of this ancient forest, the slow seeping of the water into the soil from whence it wells up again after encountering impenetrable layers of rock, the precious water is channelled to a vast network of “levadas” for consumption by the population, agriculture and the hydroelectric power stations for the production of electric energy.