UNESCO Biosphere ReserveDecember 26, 2016
The island of Lanzarote is designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. What does that mean? What does it do?
Since 1993, Lanzarote has been covered by an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, covering the 84,600 hectares (209,051 acres) including the smaller islands to the north.
The Canary Islands themselves are young on a planetary scale, and Lanzarote is one of the oldest of the archipelago, but the eruptions of the 18th and 19th Centuries are still uniquely visible on the island today, due to the low plant cover.
Lanzarote’s position in the world is almost unique. From sea level it’s highest point is only 700m, the island does not get the humidity of the trade winds, and rainfall is very low at around 115mm per year. The wildlife, flora and fauna has adapted to the arid conditions. There are a relatively high number of species, and around 20 plants are locally endemic.
Humans have adapted the harsh volcanic island to make highly specialised agricultural landscapes, as well as taking steps to conserve the island. Timanfaya National Park was designated in 1974, at the request of the local Government (Cabildo), and a marine reserve of 70,000 hectares (172,973 acres) has been created.
The idea of mass tourism such as that enjoyed by other Canarian islands, the Balearics and the Spanish Mainland, was rejected. Celebrated local artist César Manrique helped give priority to blending the tourist infrastructure with the beautiful yet inhospitable environment.
The Cabildo de Lanzarote regulates land uses heavily, in 1994 the Natural Protected Spaces Law was modified to enable 41% of the island to be protected. This measure somewhat forced the hand of the tourism industry to adopt sustainable practices.
Lanzarote’s Biosphere Reserve designation was the choice of the local communities, who themselves created a uniquely hospitable island in the most inhospitable of locations.
Lanzarote Evening – Tamara Kulikova