An Article By Bernie Power with The Voice
Each year, like most of the world, we celebrate Earth Day. It is one one day that we set aside to celebrate our fragile earth and raise awareness of the care needed to protect it.
Here in Fuerteventura there is much that goes on to protect our fragile island throughout the year and is not assigned to just one particular day.
Here we have a special role to play. The uniqueness of the island’s location and its relative isolation over the 20 Million years that it has existed, has allowed it to be home to various plants and creatures that exist only here and nowhere else. The volcanic formations have been home to various species of insects and spiders. The only real visitors in all that time were the migratory birds from Africa and Europe. However, if you were lucky enough to visit Cueva Del Llano in Villaverde before it was closed for building works, you would have been able to experience the dark volcanic tube that tunnels deep beneath the earth.
At the very Botton of this cave, in complete darkness, the tour comes to a complete stop and nobody is allowed to move any further inwards. This is because the cave is home to a unique blind albino spider (which is not technically a spider and does not spin webs) which is highly protected to ensure its existence.
We have been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for many years now and are therefore charged with a special care of the environment. We have also earned the status of “Starlight Reserve” so we must ensure the pollution that comes with modern life, whether it be artificial lighting or industrial emissions, does not affect the clear skies at night. This allows many people to enjoy and study the stars and planets we have as our neighbours.
Unlike many of the coastlines on the Spanish mainland, we have beautiful dunes of white sand to protect and preserve too, especially from the risk of over building. These dunes were formed from the bones of sea creatures over a period of five hundred Million years and more recently, just nine thousand years ago, we saw the arrival of the little island known as Los Lobos which lies just off the Corralejo coast in the North. This island is designated as a nature sanctuary and must be preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Six hundred years ago the Europeans arrived. During this short time the island has suffered much damage. Local trees were felled on an industrial scale to provide the fuel to produce limestone used for building materials. This decimated the landscape and the scars are still visible today. The massive boot print of human occupation is also clearly visible. However, now that we are more informed and enlightened, we may have the opportunity to halt the damage that we cause.
Situated in the comfortable built-up resorts it is easy to forget what lies on the doorstep and here you can visit and be a part of one of the strangest and diverse terrains that manages to support life, against all odd, in just a few minutes. Just hire a car, grab a few bikes or go out on a treck and see the diversity for yourself. Whether you find yourself driving on the coastal roads or hiking through the centre of the island, you will be amazed at just how much life there is to see.
Thousands of foreign species have been introduced over the years, especially from South America, and this includes all the cacti that you see. These succulents have thrived in our deserts and add to the natural beauty but at a huge cost to the local species. Even the Barbary ground squirrel, known locally as the chipmunk, was only brought over in 1965. This animal has multiplied and with few predators has been identified as the major cause of the Prickly pear or Nopale cactus becoming a nuisance. It feasts on the fruits that contain thousands of seeds and then spreads them as they move from place to place.
The goat has been here since before man arrived and a little while back there were actually more goats than people living on the island. Fuerteventura goats have provided a massive resource for the survival of the native people and the later settlers and they have also had a massive impact on the local landscape. Goats will eat almost anything and their wandering nature means seeds get spread into areas that they usually would not have been.
A walk in the most rocky desert areas will show off the amazing variety of plant life, many in miniature, and with the most brilliant colours if you just stop and look. And thats just on the land! All of them are striving to survive in our now protected space and over 90% of all species that ever existed are now extinct. Studies are underway to try and reintroduce traditional species but it is time for all of us to be more aware. We need to cherish the species that we still have and welcome the ones that will be again and celebrate and protect this beautiful part of Earth that we call home.