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.