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Sustainable forestry in Gran Canaria: A model for arid regions

By Preferred by Nature

Gran Canaria, a jewel in the Canary Islands, thrives with lush greenery despite its arid climate. The secret lies not in traditional rainfall, but in a fascinating phenomenon – horizontal precipitation. This article explores how our certificate holder, the Cabildo of Gran Canaria, leverages innovative forest management practices to foster a thriving ecosystem. 

This fascinating meteorological process, especially prevalent in areas like the Canary Islands, plays a crucial role in sustaining ecosystems where traditional rainfall is scarce.

The power of fog drip

Unlike vertical rainfall, horizontal precipitation, also known as fog drip or cloud water interception, occurs when moisture in the form of fog or low clouds is captured by the leaves and branches of trees and other vegetation. 

Winds carry this moisture-laden air, which gets snagged by the leaves and branches of trees. These leafy canopies act as natural filters, collecting water droplets that slowly drip down, nourishing the roots and surrounding soil.

Our recent Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC™) Forest Management audit in Gran Canaria highlighted the island's dependence on horizontal precipitation. The Cabildo of Gran Canaria, known for their unique microclimates and biodiversity, champions sustainable forestry practices and understands this vital link.

"Horizontal precipitation is a key factor in maintaining our island's green landscapes," says Carlos Velázquez from the Cabildo of Gran Canaria. 

"Our efforts to protect and manage our forests are essential in capturing this moisture and supporting our biodiversity," he added. 

Building on this natural phenomenon, the Cabildo of Gran Canaria, with support from an EU-backed project, has implemented innovative fog catchers that harvest moisture from passing clouds. These devices provide a crucial water source for reforestation efforts, amplifying this natural process in Gran Canaria. The innovative systems now capture over 500 litres of water per square metre within just 10 months.

The vital role of trees

Gran Canaria's forests have been benefiting from horizontal precipitation for centuries, allowing the island to sustain lush green areas despite its relatively low annual rainfall.

In arid regions, captured moisture can be a significant water source. Trees effectively "harvest" water from the air, ensuring that even in the absence of regular rainfall, the ecosystem remains hydrated. This is particularly important for maintaining biodiversity, supporting agriculture and preventing soil erosion.

Our experience in Gran Canaria

The Cabildo of Gran Canaria’s sustainable forestry practices have been recognised by Preferred by Nature, with their certificate being our oldest FSC Forest Management certificate, including Ecosystem Services, in Spain. 

This certification, since 2004, underscores the importance of responsible forest management in maintaining the delicate balance of these arid yet thriving environments. 

"Gran Canaria's dedication to sustainable forestry serves as a model for other regions facing similar challenges."

Pablo Rodríguez-Noriega
Preferred by Nature’s Climate and Restoration Programme Manager

"The proactive measures taken here ensure the ongoing vitality of these distinctive ecosystems," he explained. 

Preserving the lifeline

Horizontal precipitation and the trees that facilitate it are lifelines for dry regions. By promoting sustainable forestry practices and supporting initiatives like those undertaken by the Cabildo of Gran Canaria, we can ensure these ecosystems not only survive but thrive, even in the face of challenging climatic conditions.


Photos by Pablo Rodriguez Noriega / Preferred by Nature


Learn more about our certification services for FSC Forest Management.


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