Forest Hydrology, Soil Conservation and Green Barriers in Canary Islands

In volcanic islands, the rainfall regime and its torrential nature, together with the steep slopes and the soil types present are considered to be some of the main factors affecting forest hydrology and soil conservation. In such environments, rain regime is generally irregular and characterized by short and intense rainfalls, which could cause destructive flows at times, followed by long periods of rain absence. The volcanic nature of these islands have as a direct resultant steep slopes which influences the runoff volume and speed, as well as the amount of topsoil susceptible to be detached and transported downstream. The soil type also affects the susceptibility to erosion processes. Andisols are the most typical soil on volcanic islands. Their particularities derive their mineral constituents, called short-range-order products, which provide these soils with an increased structural stability, which in turn reduces their susceptibility to erosion. However, the land use changes and the environmental factors such as rain regime and steep slopes may be determinant factor in destabilizing these soils and ultimately a cause for soil erosion and runoffs, which become a threat to the population downstream. Green barriers have been traditionally used to prevent or reduce these processes, also to enhance the dew effect and the fog water collection, and as a firebreak which acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a wildfire. Wooded species present and subsequently their performance have a major influence on their effectiveness. The use of this natural erosion and fire control methods on volcanic islands is discussed in this paper.

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