THE HEART OF THE RESERVE: LAUREL FORESTS
The initial declaration of Los Tiles as a Biosphere Reserve was intended to protect one of the last laurel forests on earth. This is a fragile humid ecosystem that has survived from the Tertiary Age. La Palma was the first of the Canary Islands to win such recognition at the time.
bout 20 million years ago, when mammals had just begun to dominate the Earth, a kind of lush wet rain forest covered the whole Mediterranean basin. Since then, a succession of dry periods, followed by ice ages, has slowly depleted this ecosystem. Today, this so-called laurisilva can only be found in the Macaronesia area (Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores).
With the arrival of the first human beings in our islands, in the 2nd century A.D., the uncontrolled exploitation of these forests reduced them even more. The depletion and degradation were accentuated even further with the 16 th century Castilian conquest , as it brought industry based on an intensive use of wood, such as sugar cane production, ship building and repairs, etc.
The laurel forest encompasses up to 18 species in the Canaries, the most important of which, laurus azorica, gives its name to this kind of forest. All these species have developed broader and longer leaves to catch the humidity of the trade winds . So, it is hardly surprising to find these forests in the north east of the island, where the Trade Winds are strongest. The municipalities of San Andrés y Sauces, Barlovento and Puntallana are home to the best examples of laurel forests of the island, and in the world, for the reasons explained above.