News

A transnational project for the protection of Palm Forests in Crete and Gran Canaria

06/11/2023

The LIFE Phoenix project aims to restore and improve palm forests in the islands of Crete and Gran Canaria, highlighting their unique beauty and importance.

LIFE Phoenix

In Europe there are only two species of native Phoenix palms, Phoenix canariensis and P. theophrasti, which grow in the Canary Islands (Spain) and Crete respectively. They are scattered, from single individuals in agricultural fields to natural stands, and their uniqueness justifies their inclusion in Annex I of European Directive 92/43/EEC and their designation as a Priority Habitat ('Palm Groves of Phoenix') under code 9370*.

Phoenix theophrasti, Crete - Photo: M. Gletsos
Phoenix theophrasti, Crete - Photo: M. Gletsos
Phoenix canariensis, Canary islands - Photo: D. Gamo
Phoenix canariensis, Canary islands - Photo: D. Gamo

Both species face serious threats, such as climate change (fires, heat waves), pests and invasive alien species, hybridisation, overgrazing and visitor pressure (tourism). LIFE Phoenix includes conservation actions such as habitat restoration and reforestation, information, and awareness-raising, with the aim of minimising threats.

The LIFE Phoenix project (code LIFE22 NAT/ES/101113584) is coordinated by the Spanish public company GESPLAN, with partners from Greece: the HSPN, the Ministry of Environment and Energy, the University of Crete, and HOMEOTECH; and from Spain: the Council of Gran Canaria, the General Directorate of Agriculture (Government of the Canary Islands), the Institute of Agricultural Research of the Canary Islands, and the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

At the kick-off meeting of the project, held online on the 6th and the 8th of November 2023, the participants discussed the actions, their implementation schedule, administrative and management issues, as well as possible future challenges for their implementation.

Phoenix
Palm grove, Gran Canaria - Photo: D. Gamo

The project has a duration of 5 years and its budget will be spent between the region of Crete and of Gran Canaria, enhancing the protection of the natural environment and the development of the local communities. In addition, the results of the project will be disseminated through scientific conferences and information to the public and stakeholders, such as schools, hotels, nurseries, organisations operating in the areas, agricultural cooperatives, businesses, etc. European palm forests are a rare and valuable natural asset that we must protect and promote!