Los bosques del pasado en las Islas Canarias: un viaje de 10.000 años
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The Canary Islands provide an exceptional scenario to study vegetation changes through time, since they are diverse in geographical, geological, biological and historical aspects. Surprisingly, little attention has been paid to this region to date. Suitable sites for fossil preservation have been found in three islands of the Canary Islands: Tenerife, La Gomera and Gran Canaria, and sedimentary sequences, spanning part of the Holocene, were recently studied by means of fossil pollen and charcoal analyses to reconstruct vegetation and fire history. Results obtained so far show that Canarian vegetation has been subject to changes in the past, mostly driven by climate dynamics and human activities. La Gomera sequence was the oldest, allowing to track shifts in forest composition related to past climate change. In contrast, Tenerife and Gran Canaria underwent the most significant changes in vegetation after human settlement, involving the increase of fires, the decline and disappearance of species, the opening of the forest, the spread of grasses and shrubs, and the introduction of cultivated plants. Similar patterns of vegetation change have been found on islands worldwide, where palaeoecological information is increasingly showing its potential in conservation ecology and management.