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This Natural Park was founded at the beginning of the 1980's, due to the acknowledgment of the important natural and landscape heritages that this archipelago possessed: the laurisilva forests, the Natural Reserve of the Salvajes Islands, the Natural Reserve of the Deserted Islands, and its sea dogs, among others.

This protected area presents a vast program including the arrangement of territory, the defense of nature, the preservation of the ecological balance, the safeguard of the scientific values, the defense of the rural landscapes and habitats, the struggle against erosion, the promotion of leisure, sports, and rural tourism.


The laurel forest is the original forest of the island of Madeira, it existed already when the Portuguese discovers arrived to the island. The laurel forest extended formerly across the European Continent, mainly around Mediterranean, in south Europe and in the north of Africa, but it extinguished because of the glacial periods. The archipelagos in the north of the Atlantic sea, specially Azores, Madeira, Canary and Cape Verde, conserved a great part of their ancient flora because of  the termoregulation capacity of the ocean that surrounds them.  

In Madeira, when the island was discovered, the laurel forest covered almost of the island; nowadays we find it mainly in the north side of the island, occupying the deep and remotes valleys in the interior, between 300 and 1.300 meters of altitude; we can consider it as a relic forest. 

This forest of sub-tropical humid characteristics, has an ecosystem very important for the botanic: it’s a rare natural patrimony, which exists in Madeira and in some islands of the Western Canary Islands, since in Azores and Cape Verde didn’t resist the human occupation. In the laurel forest we can find high trees that belong to the family Lauraceae (laurel, til, vinhático e barbusano). Some bushes grow under the treetops, almost all them with perennial leaves, like the trees. On the ground there are ferns, lichens, and other plants of small size, some of them are endemic plants: Pittosporum coriaceum, Musschia wollastonii, etc. 

Different species of fauna and flora of very high interest live inside the forest, existing a big number of land molluscs and insects. It’s specially interesting the pigeon called Pombo trocaz (Columba trocaz).

The laurel forest protects the land against the erosion of island’s slope, at the same time that guarantees the maintenance of the volume of water for rivers and springs. It’s a reality that the economy and the social well-being of the island depend on the laurel forest, since it’s responsible of the production and regularization of the water used for the human consume and to water the fields. 

The north part of the island, covered by the laurel forest, is usually under the mist, which is constantly retained by the leaves of vegetation, for the water is condensed and drip to the ground, where goes trough it and is accumulated; then the water is supplied to strings in lower altitudes.

Madeira possesses the most ample and well-conserved laurel forest of the world, embracing an area of 14.953,7 ha, completely included in the National Park of Madeira as a National Partial Reserve and as a Integral Natural Reserve. It’s a Zone of Special Protection for the Wild Birds Directive and a Place of Communitarian interest protected by the Habitats Directive. It’s a Biogenetic Reserve of the European Council since 1992, and it was included in the List of the World Natural Patrimony of the UNESCO on December 1999.