Why the whole island?


In the mid 1990s, it started to become clear that the Reserve was not big enough to meet the UNESCO objectives. In a place as small as our island, it soon became clear that the conservation of the core was dependent on its capacity to adapt to the development of the areas around it.

In the words of the managing board: “the designated area became a corset that made it impossible to implement the three main functions that the MaB programme established for Biosphere Reserves (conservation, logistics and development). Two of these aspects could only be partially tackled with the reduced area of the original Reserve”.

The first extension included 13,240 hectares, an area 27 times larger than the original estate. Moreover, the original name of the Reserve, El Canal y Los Tilos Biosphere Reserve, was changed to Los Tilos Biosphere Reserve. Hence the area of an entire district was reached for the first time, including all the ecosystems from the sea up to the mountain peaks. The decision also explicitly included the role of the local inhabitants of the area in the conservation of their environment, also for the first time.

Finally, in 2002, the whole island was declared a Biosphere Reserve. The core area of the Reserve (in red in the map on the right) was established around seven natural areas that already had some form of legal protection:

  • The Caldera de Taburiente National Park
  • Pinar de Garafia Integral Nature Reserve and Guelguen Special Nature Reserve
  • The Barranco del Agua and Barranco Juan Mayor Sites of Scientific Interest
  • The restricted use area of the Cumbre Vieja and Las Nieves Nature Parks
  • The restricted use area of the Fuencaliente Marine Reserve

Around the core area, there is a buffer zone that encomapsses all the other areas included in the Canary Island Network of Natural Spaces (shown in green in the map above). The part of the island that is not included in any of the above, amounting to almost 35,000 hectares , is now considered a “transition zone”, which includes the built up areas.


  1. National Parks: A National Park is a natural area of high natural and cultural value that has not suffered any great modification due to man’s activities that, based on its exceptional natural values, its representative nature, the singularity of its flora and fauna or its geo-morphological formations, deserves preferential conservation treatment and is declared of general interest to the Nation as it represents Spanish natural heritage. In La Palma, La Caldera de Taburiente National Park was declared in 1954.
  2. Integral Nature Reserves: Natural areas that contain flora and fauna species that are either in danger of extinction or on the edge of extinction and that are so rare and fragile that they deserve special protection. Human presence is prohibited in these reserves, except for scientific purposes.
  3. Special Nature Reserves: These contain geological formations or elements that are rare or fragile enough to deserve protection. Human presence is permitted in these reserves.
  4. Nature Parks: Large natural spaces that have been greatly transformed by human occupation or activity with flora, fauna and geological values that , all together, are considered as outstanding examples of the natural heritage of the Canary islands.
  5. Marine Reserves: Provide legal protection for a certain marine area. The prime objective of a Marine Reserve is to foster the recovery of species and to prevent their deterioration to the benefit of fishermen and users of said zone.