LIFE Project Cover Photo

Recovery and conservation of species and habitats on the Madeiran Central Massif

Reference: LIFE11 NAT/PT/000327 | Acronym: LIFE Macio Montanhoso



In August 2010, a large wildfire destroyed approximately 2 800 ha, or 80% of the Maciço Montanhoso Oriental SPA, on the island of Madeira (Portugal). This SPA is part of the Natura 2000 site, Maciço Montanhoso Central. Understandably, the recovery of the natural environment has been slow, and the spread of several aggressive invasive species in burned areas poses a significant threat to the normal recovery of the indigenous flora, fauna and habitats.


The goal of the LIFE Maciço Montanhoso project was to facilitate the regeneration and conservation of the fragile natural ecosystem of the Maciço Montanhoso Oriental (MMO), following the wildfire of 2010, on the island of Madeira, including the recovery of plant, snail and bird communities. These included several endemic Madeiran species, 13 of which are listed in the Birds and Habitats Directives. This project targeted three priority habitats for conservation (Endemic Macaronesian heaths, Endemic forests with Juniperus spp., and Mediterranean Taxus baccata woods); and 11 plant species included in Annex II of the Habitats Directive and Annex I of the Birds Directive, such as Zino’s petrel (Pterodroma madeira) and the Madeiran land snail (Leiostyla cassida), the distributions of which are mostly or completely restricted to the MMO. Specific objectives included updating inventories and gathering knowledge to produce habitat and species management plans; the control or eradication of invasive species; and reintroducing native species’ populations destroyed by wildfire.


The LIFE Maciço Montanhoso project made an important contribution to the regeneration and conservation of three priority for conservation habitats in the Maciço Montanhoso Oriental SPA on the island of Madeira (Portugal), which were damaged by a serious wildlife in August 2010. It facilitated the recovery of plant and bird communities in these habitats, including 13 endemic Madeiran species listed in the Annexes of the Habitats and Bird Directives.

Project actions enhanced the regeneration of the habitats ‘Endemic Macaronesian heaths’, ‘Endemic forests with Juniperus spp.’ and ‘Mediterranean Taxus baccata woods’. The project team controlled or eradicated invasive alien species (IAS) that had colonised fire-damaged habitats, and reintroduced/reinforced populations of target plant species destroyed by the wildfire. The project removed invasive plants from 7.9 ha of inhospitable and rough terrain, and controlled populations of mice and rabbits.

Native plants species for reintroductions were grown from seeds of the same populations, previously collected, stored and grown in a greenhouse constructed for the project at the Madeira Botanical Garden in Funchal, or collected in nearby wild populations. In total, 30 000 native plant specimens were produced, with 20 000 planted in target plots. Dormancy tests were conducted for several plant species (e.g. Vaccinium padifolium, Erica arborea, Erica maderensis) to support habitat restoration. The project achieved good survival rates for reintroductions, especially for the plant species Echium candicans, Melanoselinum decipiens, Odontites holliana and Plantago malato-belizii. However, there remains an urgent need for continued management activities for native plant species to ensure the long-term success of the habitat restoration efforts. The project team also detected a new breeding area for Zino’s petrel (Pterodroma madeira), made inventories with maps of the target habitats and species, and extracted DNA from specimens to assess the genetic origin and diversity of Taxus baccata and Juniperus maderensis in the project areas.

The project assessed the impacts of removing invasive flora in a controlled manner on the growth of indigenous vegetation during habitat restoration, and the speed and the effort required to restore habitats in areas where invasive vegetation was completely removed and where mixed vegetation mosaics were created. The results were presented at technical events and in reports to decision-makers, where they will inform the implementation of future habitat restoration activities.

Due to the potential for contaminating water courses, the eradication of invasive non-native plant species was undertaken by mechanical means without the use of chemicals. After plants had been cut and shredded, subsequent regular control of regrowth or germination was required - particularly for common broom (Cytisus scoparius) in the intervention plots. The destruction of invasive plants in this manner has advantages in terms of soil fertilisation, prevention of erosion, and the creation of a woodchip cover to benefit the establishment of native plant species.

The project team drafted Action Plans for the three priority habitats and 11 species (Bunium brevifolium, Berberis maderensis, Sorbus maderensis, Echium candicans, Odontites holliana, Anthyllis lemanniana, Viola paradoxa, Melanoselinum decipiens, Orchis scopulorum, Deschampsia maderensis and Plantago malato-belizii), which were sent to the regional authority on nature conservation for inclusion in proposed nature conservation measures on the Madeira archipelago.

Extensive and efficient dissemination and awareness-raising activities were targeted at key audiences, with most of the material available on the project website. The implementation of project actions along tourist hiking trails have alerted visitors to the value of the area’s rich natural heritage and to the importance of existing threats, including fire prevention.

The project directly contributed to the implementation of the Habitats Directive, the Birds Directive and Natura 2000 network, in particular by safeguarding habitats and species of EU importance by reducing the impact of invasive species.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Reference: LIFE11 NAT/PT/000327
Acronym: LIFE Macio Montanhoso
Start Date: 02/07/2012
End Date: 02/10/2017
Total Eligible Budget: 1,225,022 €
EU Contribution: 593,487 €
Project Location:


Coordinating Beneficiary: Direco Regional de Florestas - Secretaria Regional do Ambiente e Recursos Naturais
Legal Status: PAT
Address: Estrada Comandante Camacho de Freitas, 308, 9020-149, Funchal,
Contact Person: External Team NEEMO-IDOM
Email: Send Email

LIFE Project Map



  • Plants
  • Invasive species
  • Heath and Scrublands


  • endemic species
  • protected area
  • island
  • nature conservation
  • restoration measure
  • sensitive area
  • endangered species


  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020” (03.05.2011)
  • Directive 2009/147 - Conservation of wild birds - Birds Directive (codified version of Directive 79/409/EEC as amended) (30.11.2009)
  • Regulation 1143/2014 - Prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species (22.10.2014)


  • 4050 - Endemic macaronesian heaths
  • 9560 - Endemic forests with Juniperus spp.
  • 9580 - Mediterranean Taxus baccata woods


  • Pterodroma madeira
  • Viola paradoxa
  • Orchis scopulorum
  • Odontites holliana
  • Melanoselinum decipiens
  • Echium candicans
  • Deschampsia maderensis
  • Bunium brevifolium
  • Plantago malato-belizii
  • Berberis maderensis
  • Anthyllis lemanniana
  • Sorbus maderensis
  • Leiostyla cassida


Type Code Name
SCI PTMAD0002 Maciço Montanhoso Central da Ilha da Madeira
SPA PTZPE0041 Maciço Montanhoso Oriental da Ilha da Madeira


Name Type
Direco Regional de Florestas - Secretaria Regional do Ambiente e Recursos Naturais Coordinator
Serviço do Parque Natural da Madeira, Portugal Participant