Selvagens islands

 
The Selvagens archipelago is located on the North-east Atlantic, ca. 300 km south of Madeira and 160 km north of the Canaries archipelago. It is formed by three islands of volcanic origin (Selvagem Grande, Selvagem Pequena and Ilhéu de Fora) and a few more islets and stacks.
The main island is Selvagem Grande (30’09N 15’52W), which covers a surface of approximately 245 ha and is formed by a plateau (about 100 m high) surrounded by steep cliffs. The Selvagem Pequena and Ilhéu de Fora are 14 km southwest Selvagem Grande and have an area of 20 ha and 8 ha, respectively. This archipelago is protected as a Nature Reserve since 1971 and is classified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and Special Protection Area (SPA), belonging to the Natura 2000 Network.



 
The climate is dry, the rain is usually very scarce and there is not much soil in the island, and thes
e factors
together
strongly
determines the flora of the islands. However, the existing species are rather unique, with a large number of endemisms, like Euphorb
ia anachoreta or Monanthes lowei. The plant cover is sparse, being dominated by grasses and low shrubs, and at Selvagem Grande it includes species like ice plants Mesembryanthemum crystallinum and M. nodiflorum , Suaeda vera or Schizogyne sericea. The tree tobacco Nicotiana glauca, an exotic tree that was once widely distributed over this island, has recently been the target of an eradication program.
At Selvagem Pequena and Ilhéu de Fora there are no introduced species. Among the most interesting plants, we can name Periploca laevigata (characteristic of the rocky slopes), Limonium papillatum and Scilla madeirensis in sandy areas.
 
 
 
The nesting bird community is naturally impoverished, except for seabirds, which dominate by species and numbers. There are five petrels breeding on Selvagem Grande: Cory´s shearwater, white-faced storm-petrel Pelagodroma marina, Bulwer’s petrel Bulweria bulwerii, little shearwater Puffinus assimilis and Madeiran storm-petrel Oceanodroma castro. The white-faced storm-petrel is the only species numerous both on Selvagem Grande and on Selvagem pequena, with the overall numbers reaching about 40.000 pairs. The only terrestrial bird nesting regularly is the Berthelot's Pipit Anthus berthelotti. Some roseate Sterna dougalli and common terns Sterna hirundo breed at the Ilhéu de fora and Selvagem Pequena.
 
The Madeira wall lizard Teira dugesii and the gecko Tarentola boettgeri, endemic of the Macaronesian region, are both common and widespread on the Selvagens. There are currently no terrestrial mammals on these islands. The rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus and the house mouse Mus musculus, introduced centuries ago, had a very strong impact in the vegetation. The situation is now changing, because these mammals were successfully eradicated during a recent habitat restoration project carried out by the
Madeira Natural Park service. The recovery of the vegetation is now clearly visible in some areas, and the breeding success of some small petrels is also likely to have benefitted from this action.