Vegetation

The archipelago is generally characterized by the natural forest, commonly known as ‘Laurissilva’, and by vegetation with introduced, exotic plants. More than half of the territory is used for agricultural activity and pasture (ca. 56%). The pastures are predominant, occupying on average 42% of the area of ​​each island; the forest and the natural vegetation occupy about 35% of the regional territory, with 22% and 13%, respectively; the islands of Flores and Terceira are those that present larger spots of pure native forest.

Thus, various types of zonal vegetation can be observed, depending on the altitude in which they are found, namely: areas with predominant endemic tree species or Macaronesia, the Laurissilva forest, at the highest altitudes (eg, laurel, cedar- bush-fodder, sawtooth, heather or broom); wetlands (puddles and bogs) with important plant communities (eg, moss, Sphagnum spp.) are predominant in the upper reaches of the islands of São Miguel, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, Faial, Flores and Corvo; areas consisting mainly of eucalyptus plantations, cryptomeria, pinus bravo and mixed forests; pasture zones, encompassing temporary pastures (low to medium altitude) and semi-natural pastures (medium to high altitude); covered areas corresponding to the coastal border where predominantly whitewood, beech, heather and herbaceous plants (e.g., milkweed, Azorina); areas of permanent agricultural crops (fruit trees, vines) and various agricultural holdings (eg family gardens, greenhouses, fodder).

The flora of the Azores is composed of about 1000 species of vascular plants, including flowering or angiospermic plants (eg, laurel, Laurus azorica) plants with cone-like or coniferous reproductive structures (eg, Juniperus brevifolia cedar ), the fetus and related plants. Approximately 200 plant species are native (ie they colonized the islands without human intervention and are part of their natural vegetation), of which about 80 species are endemic (species that have evolved exclusively in the archipelago (eg, , holly, Azorina vidalii)), constituting a unique biodiversity resource for the Azores. The remaining plants are exotic, introduced by humans, for the protection of agricultural crops (eg incense), silviculture (eg, Cryptomeria japonica cryptomeria) or as ornamental (eg, bean, giant lettuce) plants, some of them have become invasive and occupy large areas of the surface of the archipelago. The bryophytes (including mosses, hepatica and antocerotas), covering about 440 species and subspecies, constitute another group of plants of high Azorean faunistic richness.

 

Virgílio Vieira

2018