Fauna and Flora from Selvagens
The vertebrate fauna of the Selvagens Islands is qualified by the wide range of nesting seabirds and the absence of native mammals.
These islands are a haven for nesting seabirds as they have particular conditions that are unique in the world. Of the nesting birds, nine species are known, including: Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea borealis), calcamar (Pelagodroma marina hypoleuca,) Bulwer's petrel (Bulweria bulwerii) Madeiran storm petrel (Oceanodroma castro) and little shearwater (Puffinus assimilis baroli).
In this area, the colony of Cory’s shearwaters appears to be of the highest density in the world. However, the most numerous bird in these islands is the white-faced storm petrel.
The resident birds that can be found throughout the year on the Selvagens Islands are the Berthelot’s pipit (Anthus bertheloti bertheloti), a passerine whose subspecies is the same as that found on the Canary Islands but not on the archipelago of Madeira, and a small number of pairs of kestrels (falco tinnunculus canariensis), a small bird of prey whose subspecies is endemic to the Madeira Archipelago.
You can also see other birds that occasionally or accidentally visit the Selvagens Islands, especially in autumn and spring. These are birds that get lost on the migration routes and find here, in the middle of the Atlantic, the ideal place to rest and gather strength to continue their journey.
Vertebrate species that can be found are the Selvagens gecko (Tarentola bischoffi) and the Madeira lizard (Teira dugesii selvagensis), which appear exclusively on the Selvagens Islands.
These islands are also home to a significant number of native invertebrates, with a high number of endemic insects, especially coleoptera and lepidoptera.
In terrestrial gastropods, there are currently eight species on the Selvagens Islands. One is native to Macaronesia, (Ovatella aequalis)and one is native to the Selvagens Islands, (Theba macandrewiana).
The marine environment of these islands is characterised by its clear waters, where it has an abundant and diverse store of fauna.
Gastropods, such as periwinkles, snails, barnacles and limpets, are frequent in the rocky areas. Sea urchins are also often found, with the dominant species being the long-spined sea urchin (Diadema antillarum). Several species of sponges, anemones and starfish cohabit along with these animals.
With regard to fish, the chromis Chromis limbata and Abudefduf luridus, golden grey mullet Liza aurata, bogue Boops boops, white seabream Diplodus sp., grouper Serranus atricauda, parrotfish Sparisoma cretense, barred hogfish Bodianus scrofa and the ornate wrasse Thalassoma pavo are frequently observed.
In the waters surrounding these islands, several species of turtles and cetaceans can be observed.
The vegetation on the Selvagens Islands is comprised of perfectly adapted species to the soil and climatic conditions. The land flora includes more than a hundred species of vascular plants and has the highest percentage of endemic species per surface unit in the entire Macaronesia Region.
The vegetation on Selvagem Pequena Island and Fora Islet is composed only of indigenous and endemic species, with no invasive species. These two islands have a surprising number of exclusive species and plant cover.
Selvagem Grande Island also has peculiar vegetation cover and interesting flora endemic to the island, and others common to the remaining Selvagens Islands and Macaronesia. It is also the limit of distribution of certain species in the southern or in the northern hemisphere.
The Selvagens Islands have eleven exclusive endemic plants, which include Madeira squill Autonoe madeirensis, Argyranthemum thalassophilum, Lobularia canariensis ssp. rosula–venti, Lotus salvagensis, Monanthes lowei and Selvagens spurge Euphorbia anachoreta
In order to preserve this natural heritage, in 2001 eradication work began on invasive plants, i.e. plants that are not part of the indigenous flora of the area and that spread very easily, competing with and destroying the natural habitats of the indigenous species. Examples of species that are being monitored and controlled are wild tobacco Nicotiana glauca and more recently, Conyza bonariensis.
The marine flora on the Selvagens Islands shows similarities to the neighbouring archipelagos. The irregularity of the sea beds and the predominance of rocky substrates is propitious to colonisation by photophilic algae. Studies indicate the presence of 173 species of macro algae, are predominantly red algae.