Saturday, October 13, 2007

Historical volcanic eruption is linked to Canary Island's National Park

The Timanfaya National Park is one of four on the Canary IslandsDeclared a National Park in 1974, the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya covers an area of 5,107 hectares on the island of Lanzarote, and is one of four National Parks in the Canary Islands.

This natural space is the land of volcanoes, Las Montañas del Fuego, or the Fire Mountains, which were born in the 18th century when more than 100 volcanoes rose up from the earth over six years of devastating eruptions which affected a quarter of the island’s surface. The ash and lava which continued to rain down between 1730 and 1736 buried eleven villages, in one of the world’s most devastating volcanic eruptions: scientists estimate that the volume of lava could have reached up to one cubic kilometre – in other words, 1,000 million m3.

Those six long years, and later eruptions which hit the island in 1824, transformed what were once fertile lands into the lunar landscape that is still seen here today, surprising colourful with its different hues of ochre and grey, deepening to dramatic reds and blacks.While the volcanoes are considered dormant today, there are a number of hot springs and geysers in the area, with temperatures just a few metres below the surface reaching as much as 600 oC in some places: water poured into bore holes will erupt as steam in a matter of seconds.

There is little evidence of plant or wild life amongst these dramatic volcanic cones and the arid fields of lava. Timanfaya is, however, despite the scarcity of rainfall, home to more than 100 species of lichen, 15 of moss, and five species of algae, with the lichen found on the more recent lava evidence that life is returning to these desolate lands.

There are close to 200 of the higher species of flora recorded in Timanfaya, including three endemic to Lanzarote, which survived the eruptions on the ‘islotes,’ the islets, which were untouched by the flow of lava and which served as a base to colonise other parts of the land. While there is an abundance of invertebrate fauna here, vertebrate fauna is relatively scarce. It includes the Atlantic Lizard – a species endemic to the Island - and the Canary Island Wall Gecko, with three species of mammal: rabbit, the black rat and the native Canary Shrew.

Some 20 species of bird winter in the park, with more than 100 species of invertebrate sea life and 100 species of fish found on its coast.Declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1993 along with the rest of the island, photographs of this volcanic landscape were shown to the first astronauts to prepare them for the moon. It also starred, along with Raquel Welch, in the film ‘One Million Years B.C.’

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