Forest fires in Tenerife and the Canary Islands made headline news

After the Tenerife wildfires August, 2012

Tenerife hit international news headlines in August, 2012, because of the forest fires that were ablaze on the island. The neighbouring Canary Island of La Gomera suffered even more badly and a large are of ancient and protected woodland there was destroyed.

Some of the main fires in Tenerife were centred around the Erjos area of the island and tragically this was where past fires that burned vegetation to ashes back in 2007. Some of the trees and shrubs there were still recovering and growing back after that. It is as if Mother Nature is fighting a losing battle there!

The following report which was written back after the last fires shows how the land becomes green again and how it heals. Erjos is going to have to go through this process once more.

Erjos ponds recovery after the fire photos

Bramble shoot. Photo by Steve Andrews
Bramble shoot. Photo by Steve Andrews
Ferns Photo by Steve Andrews
Ferns Photo by Steve Andrews
Cactus hedge Photo by Steve Andrews
Cactus hedge Photo by Steve Andrews
Century Plant Photo by Steve Andrews
Century Plant Photo by Steve Andrews
A mushroom Photo by Steve Andrews
A mushroom Photo by Steve Andrews
Painted Lady Photo by Steve Andrews
Painted Lady Photo by Steve Andrews
Erjos ponds Photo by Steve Andrews
Erjos ponds Photo by Steve Andrews
Rushes Photo by Steve Andrews
Rushes Photo by Steve Andrews

The wildlife is returning

The following report was written and published originally in 2007:

If you have been out and about in the areas of Tenerife that were badly hit by the forest fires in the summer you may well have seen how just a few months of time have allowed Mother Nature time to heal her wounds. Lots of trees that looked as if they were dead have sprouted new growth and are growing back and life is returning to the countryside.

Painted Lady

With these thoughts in mind I decided to make a return visit to the ponds of Erjos to see how well the wildlife there had recovered. Walking down the pathway from the road I saw several Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui) butterflies and could see patches of greenery springing up among the charred and broken bushes and scrub. I felt happy to see these signs of life welcoming me back to a place I love.

Prickly Pear

On the one side of the path a magnificent hedge of Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-barbarica) cactus formed the boundary of a local farmer's field, and it looked as if the juicy pads of the plant had been enough to keep it alive when the fires had swept through. Other patches of this cactus and the very tough but yet succulent Century Plant (Agave americana) with its huge spiky leaves had also held their own against the blaze.

Brambles

Brambles (Rubus fruticosus) had formed new shoots at the base of their blackened stems and Gorse (Ulex europaeus) too was doing likewise. In some places there were patches that were now in flower with their cheery golden blossoms.

Large patches of green were made up of ferns that had been springing up again amongst the burnt remains of whatever was there before. The bright green feathery foliage contrasted well against the blackened twigs and ashes.

I made my way towards the ponds where I soon spotted a duck. It was an ornamental domestic duck I could tell by its colourful plumage but this one had decided to go back to the wilds and was paddling away looking for food amongst the weed and mud.

Moorhens

I saw several Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) too but they soon disappeared into the reeds and rushes when they saw me coming. Dragonflies were not so timid and I saw plenty of females dipping their hindquarters into the weeds where they lay their eggs. Males of the very big Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) with their blue bodies hawked up and down over the sunlit waters.

In the muddy shallows were thousands of little fish the size of minnows but not wanting to get my shoes wet I wasn't able to get close enough to see what they were. Just a yard or so back from the water's edge growing in the moist soil I even saw a group of some small wild mushrooms.

In some places there were rushes that had been too far from the water to escape the fire but these too were showing signs of recovery, as were the Willow (Salix canariensis) trees with new growth shooting out from the branches and from the base.

Unfortunately some of the ponds had dried up completely and the ones that still had water in them showed a lot of exposed mud. It is lovely weather we are having, I thought, but we really need a good downpour to fill the pools again.

Buzzard

I heard the unmistakeable cry of a Buzzard (Buteo buteo) patrolling the area on the lookout for small animals to eat. Tenerife Lizards (Gallotia galloti) are one of the creatures this bird of prey would take and I was pleased to see that plenty of these charming little reptiles had survived both the fire and the Buzzard so far.

I caught sight of a rabbit but it caught sight of me, and like the Moorhens had done, soon vanished into the undergrowth. The Buzzard won't catch that one, I thought.

I made my way back up to the road and stopped a while to look at a lone Canary Pine (Pinus canariensis) that was regenerating itself. Like many of these trees have done it had grown new needles, sprouted new shoots and also opened its cones to let the seeds fall to the ground.

All that the area and its plants and trees needed now was some rain, which we usually get in December that will soon be here. On the whole though, things were looking good and the animals and plants were making their comeback around the pools of Erjos. Speaking of the vegetation needing a drink so did I after my long walk so I headed across the road to the bar.

Footnote: First published in the Tenerife Sun, 2007

Please see my other hub on the subject: http://hubpages.com/_uq6h62db2t97/hub/Erjos-ponds-and-last-years-fire

Waiting for rain

In the wake of the recent forest fires in Tenerife the whole island is praying for the arrival of the autumn and winter rains. The island has been suffering a terrible drought that began last autumn when the usual seasonal rainfall failed to occur.

The ponds of Erjos were drying out in the spring. Usually they fill up with water in the winter and that keeps them going throughout the summer ahead until the wheel of the year has turned to where the rains come again. Back in 2007, there was at least water still in some of the ponds. This time the ponds were dried up and the surrounding vegetation all burned in the tinder dry conditions.

Tenerife needs as much rain as possible now. The reservoirs are all dry too or have little water remaining. Much of what was there had to be used in the firefighting efforts that went on for over a week.

Will Erjos be able to recover when the rains arrive. That remains to be seen!

UPDATE 2012: The good news is that in November the rains arrived and the ponds of Erjos are filling with water again. Land damaged badly by the fires is also starting to regenerate.

UPDATE 2013: We have had intense summer heatwaves again but fortunately no bad forest fires as yet though there have been many smaller ones that were put out.

© 2008 Steve Andrews

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Comments 10 comments

pgrundy 8 years ago

I love the photos of Tenerife and your descriptions. It's so amazing how quickly everything can come back after a fire. Here, if a building or parking lot is abandonned, it always amazes me how quickly plant life breaks up the concrete and reclaims the space. It's magical. Thanks for this hub, Steve, it's great.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Hi Pam! Thanks for posting! Yes, it is amazing but sadly the area now has to cope with drought on top of recovery from the fire. I fear the fish and frogs won't survive because there is only water in one pool now and its about half inch deep and dwindling away fast. A heron was catching the fish when I went there on Sunday. As for the frogs there is nowhere damp enough for any to survive and probably no rains now until October at the earliest!


weedgie 8 years ago

i was there last week and its totally fucked!! completely baron, desolate - the only thing that grow there are big weeds and there sure as hell aint no godammed pond - the view is till good from the top but its the kind of place id imagine deranged serial killers probably stalk holidaymakers so dont say i didn't warn you!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Hopefully the rains will start refilling the pools and we'll have more rain this month. It's going to have a real battle to recover though.


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 8 years ago from Sparti, Greece

Tenerife sounds beautiful - it is nice that nature recovered so well from fire.

We suffered some devastation in the Peloponnese, and it will be a few years before the true damage becomes apparent. Much of the unique Pine Forest of the Taygetos mountains suffered extensive burning, so we can only hope!


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thanks for posting Sufidreamer! The pines have survived but the ponds at Erjos dried out totally and hadn't refilled last time I went through the area. Even if they do fill up again all the fish, frogs and water plants have gone. We have had more rain but we need a lot more!


Sufidreamer profile image

Sufidreamer 8 years ago from Sparti, Greece

I wish we could send you some of ours - it is hammering down at the moment. Erjos seems to be a wonderful place and I hope that it recovers completely.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Yes, it is one of my favourite places here so I was really sad when it all got burnt. Although the ponds are wonderful for wildlife I have realised that they are only there because of the intervention by people who dug out all the soil many years back. Naturally we wouldn't have freshwater ponds here and that is why most of the freshwater animals have all been introduced. There are no endemic freshwater fish or amphibians. There are carp, guppies, mosquito fish and the Iberian Water frog and the Mediterranean Tree Frog and they all depend on reservoirs and ornamental ponds.


Dinah 6 years ago

What a lovely, hopeful story.


Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal Author

Thank you, Dinah!

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