Spain - Canary Islands - More Information

The Canary Islands are an African archipelago in the Kingdom of Spain consisting of seven islands of volcanic origin in the Atlantic Ocean. The islands are Tenerife Gran Canaria Lanzarote La Palma La Gomera El Hierro Fuerteventura and La Graciosa they are located off the north-western coast of mainland Africa (Morocco and the Western Sahara). The nearest island (Fuerteventura) is 108 km from the northwest mainland African coast. They form an autonomous community of Spain.


The islands form the Macaronesia ecoregion with the Azores, Cape Verde, Madeira, and the Savage Isles. The seven main islands are volcanic in origin. The Teide volcano on Tenerife is the highest mountain in Spain, and the third largest volcano on Earth. All the islands except La Gomera have been active in the last million years; four of them (Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Palma and El Hierro) have historical records of eruptions since European discovery. The islands rise from Jurassic oceanic crust associated with the opening of the Atlantic. Underwater magmatism commenced during the Cretaceous, and reached the ocean's surface during the Miocene. The islands are considered as a distinct physiographic section of the Atlas Mountains province, which in turn is part of the larger African Alpine System division.

According to the position of the islands with respect to the trade winds, the climate can be mild and wet or very dry. Several native species are laurisilva forests.

Four of Spain's thirteen national parks are located in the Canary Islands, more than any other autonomous community. In the early 90's, there were only five Spanish national parks, four of them being the Canarian parks, and the other one Doñana. The parks are Parque Nacional de la Caldera de Taburiente, Garajonay National Park, Teide National Park and Timanfaya National Park.

Wildlife and Nature

With a range of habitats, the Canary Islands exhibit diverse plant species. The bird life includes European and African species, such as the Black-bellied Sandgrouse; and a rich variety of endemic (local) species including the:

* Canary
* Graja (endemic to La Palma)
* Blue Chaffinch
* Canary Islands Chiffchaff
* Fuerteventura Chat
* Tenerife Goldcrest
* Madeira Firecrest
* Bolle's Pigeon
* Laurel Pigeon
* Trocaz Pigeon
* Plain Swift

Terrestrial fauna includes gekkos (such as the striped Canary Islands Gecko) and wall lizards, and three endemic species of recently rediscovered and critically endangered giant lizard: the El Hierro Giant Lizard (or Roque Chico de Salmor Giant Lizard), La Gomera Giant Lizard, and La Palma Giant Lizard. Some endemic mammals, the Lava Mouse and Canary Islands Giant Rat, are extinct, as are the Canary Islands Quail and Eastern Canary Islands Chiffchaff.

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