Costa del Chamaerops

(page 2)

The extensive agriculture in the province is on the coastal plains and up the many valleys in the mountain regions. In addition to cereals and vegetables the main crops are citrus fruit, grapes and almonds. In some areas dates and olives are of local importance. Urbanisation is spreading rapidly along the coastal strip and to an increasing number of inland sites. There are currently restrictions on the development of prime agricultural land with the result that urbanisation and industrial developments are increasingly encroaching on Chamaerops habitats.

It is difficult to make a tidy classification of Chamaerops habitats because it is not that sort of plant and the landscape has been in a state of flux for many centuries. Regeneration, evolution and degeneration of plant communities is in progress continually so my observations are only a snapshot in the long history of the vegetation of this area. What makes it particularly interesting is that Chamaerops is such an opportunistic and dynamic plant. The dry grassland communities in the south of the province are different from the communities to the north where there is a much richer flora and the growth is more lush. Although the whole province is drought prone there are often sea mists in the north due to the proximity of high ground to the sea.

For serious Chamaerops watching it is essential to have good field glasses or a manageable telescope to scan the hills and cliffs and to see the distribution in heath lands. At close quarters Chamaerops is very obvious but it soon merges into the landscape to become invisible. Fortunately the leaves reflect the light and the plants stand out dramatically, even at considerable distances, when viewed through field glasses This also holds true, though to a lesser extent, with photographs taken with zoom or telescopic lenses. A good zoom lens is essential and a telescopic camera would be a bonus. Scanning sea cliffs from a boat is very rewarding but the coastal seas can be very treacherous and I would recommend that this is only done with the aid of an experienced local boatman. Large stretches of motorway traverse otherwise undisturbed Chamaerops country and for a passenger this is a useful observation platform. The front seat of a modern coach is ideal.

I will outline the richer communities in the north region and then follow the gradual changes culminating in different communities in the drier southern region. There is a discernible progression of Chamaerops communities starting with the coastal cliffs, a limited zone of coastal shrub leading to a very extensive zone of dense shrubland which tends to thin out towards the inland extremity finishing up with a rocky landscape. This pattern is changing with pine forest regeneration and reverting in other areas as a result of fire. Unfortunately fires have been frequent and extensive during the last few summers, made worse by the persistent drought.

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  03-02-23 - 07:16GMT
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