martedì 7 giugno 2011

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The Most Visited National Park in Europe


Rising 7,500m above the ocean floor, basks the world’s third tallest volcanic structure. Encased by magnificent scenery and atmospheric conditions welcomes a National Park swamped with forever changing tones and colours of its landscape. Visually striking clouds swam together to create a misty backdrop to the mountains, and many beautiful flora species have colonised the volcanic paths uniting beauty with ecological importance. This is Teide National Park, situated on the island of Tenerife and is certainly one of the most impressive. Providing many reasons of course – to be the most visited in Europe.
National Park

Teide is the most visited National Park in the Canary Islands and Spain, attracting large numbers of international visitors, backpackers, students, nature lovers, hikers and researchers. Receiving on average an impressive 3.5 million visitors annually to the volcanic landscape it is no wonder that in 2010 Teide was declared the most visitedNational Park across Europe and has become the second worldwide.
Mount Teide is a forever-famous marvel of the park – the highest elevation in Spain and of the islands of the Atlantic. Its volcano last erupted its lava and persona across the land in 1909. Declared as a national park in 1954, it is this volcano and its surrounding 18900 hectares that promised its status.

The park itself lies around 2000m above sea level and encounters all seasons which are continuously reshaping the landscape. Mountains are dusted in snow during winter falls, gale winds sweep the grounds so wildly that some roads have to be shut off and during the summer the arid landscape ripples in waves of 40oc of heat.

Teide Flora
The plant kingdom of Teide is an outstanding one. A huge array of species has remarkably evolved to thrive in the hard-hitting living requirements of intense sunlight, extreme temperature variations, high altitudes and lack of moisture. Vegetation has colonised these dry grounds, impressively putting down roots where many plants dare not to try. But due to lava flows on the flanks of Teide, it weathers down to a very thin but mineral and nutrient rich soil that can support diverse numbers of species.
Above: Teide bugloss (Echium wildpretii) Pointing to the sky lay pyramid-shaped inflorescence of red flowers that grow to heights of 3 meters. This is one of the most striking plants at Teide during the flowering season. Blooming after two years, this honey producing plant is a favourite for bees.
Adaptations of these plants include the reduction of exposed leaf area, accumulating a downy or waxy cover and acquiring semi-spherical forms – all tactful methods of reducing the loss of water.  To current date the vascular flora of Teide National Park is composed of 168 plant species – and 58 which are endemic (can’t be found anywhere else!) to the Canary Islands  and furthermore, 12 species are exclusively found in the National park.

eide Fauna
An important reason for the need of National Parks is to protect species on a local and global scale and Teide has its own special species.
Mammal wise, the park holds 5 members – all species of bat native to the park, with the Lesiler’s bat being the most frequent. Other mammals are also present but these have all been introduced including rabbits, the house mouse, black rat, Algerian hedgehog and the Corsica mouflon that was brought to the island for hunting purposes during 1970. This herd has remained amongst these lands and the current mouflon population in the park reaches 500 members.
Birds flourish brilliantly in the park, with up to 20 species using resources and half taking nest here.  The most commonly seen on visits is the Blue Chaffinch – and when spotting the male is a striking mixture of grey and blue. The harmonious song of the bright and beautiful wild canary can also be admired here. Other species include the long eared owl, rock dove, barbary partridge, blue tit, great grey shrike and the kestrel.
Above: The great grey shrike (Lanius excubitor) is the largest of the European Shrikes, and with keen eyes of a watchful hunter, misses nothing that moves in its path.
The park also holds home to three endemic species of reptile. The Canary Island Lizard is a must see majestic species of the park – males are painted with striking violent blue gills on either side of the neck and can grow up to lengths of 30cm. They feed on invertebrates of the park, keeping population numbers in order whilst in turn providing the diet to many of the birds that sweep their wings over the park. The Canary Island wall gecko is also endemic to Tenerife, alongside with the Canary Island skink which is rare across Teide.
Despite lacking vertebrate biodiversity, there is an enormous array of diversity across invertebrate species – with insects being the leader of over 700 species. The divine blooming of hundreds of plant species lures swarms of flower feeding insects, beetles, butterflies, wasps and bees. Each, dancing and probing flowers with their longue tongues and sticky feet for survival.
Why National Parks are Important
Supporting organisations to establish National Parks preserves landscapes and ecosystems that hold many advantages to us, the environment and biodiversity by…..
  • Playing a functioning role in sustainable development of vulnerable areas to allow future generations to enjoy.
  • Providing habitats for permanent and migrating species within the area.
  • Keeping human disturbance such as settlements, logging and burning to a minimum.
  • Creating corridors: land has been taken up for agricultural purposes which hold very little ecologicalimportance. Conserving parks keep environments natural and create ‘corridors’ from one area to another, connecting populations of animals and plants together.
  • Generating income from visitors – it is far better receive income from appreciation and enjoyment of nature – rather than receiving income from exploitation and damage of natural areas.
  • Allowing the study of natural behaviours of animals, and unspoilt ecosystems to help conserve those endangered.
  • Providing recreational opportunities such as hiking, camping, photography and bird watching.
  • Providing ecosystem services: Catchment protection, water production, genetic resources and pollination of plants are all free services essential to life from national parks. A great example can be seen with protecting rivers and their catchment – an undisturbed cover of natural vegetation allows rainwater to filter slowly through the soil and into rivers, preventing erosion and muddiness of water – this is what allows us to have access to clear drinking water.
  • Keeping species of plants reserved for medical research.
  • Protecting cultural sites e.g. cave paintings.
  • Generating employment opportunities for ecologists, conservationists, biologists, park rangers, and educational officers to stimulate and educate further use of ecosystems and their species.

And most importantly – we are staying true to our Earth. Earth is a natural land which has evolved many patterns to keep things balanced – predator to prey, water to sun, plants to energy and death to life is the never ending clever list of mother earths’ rules. National parks provide an opportunity to keep things this way, instead of intervening and disrupting natural behaviours, relationships and environments.

Every country deserves to preserve some of its true beauty – the type that comes from the core. The type you can wrap a breath of fresh air around your lungs and breathe in satisfyingly. To be surrounded by the natural plants and species that dominates each environment. The type that brings freedom and releases minds from traffic jams, pollution, noise and that busy lifestyle you just need to escape from once in a while. How earth was intended to be.
Everyone deserves a National Park.


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