This will be the operation to save the ‘gold’ of La Palma: tons of fertile land from the north of the island

Related news

Are already 166 hectares washed away by lava on its way from Cumbre Vieja to the sea. Although volcanic soils are fertile, there is no room for deceit: the affected area will be a wasteland for many years. Bananas play a vital role in the economy of La Palma, since it accounts for 50% of its GDP and 30% of existing employment. A good part of the more than 5,300 banana growers have seen their lands crushed under an inferno of molten rock these days. But there is a way to recover lost land and facilitate the return of crops in a reasonable period of time: the transfer of land from other areas of the island.

“The lava flow area can be protected, forming part of the natural park that now exists, Cumbre Vieja,” he says. Luis Jordá, specialist in geological engineering, geotechnics and geophysics applied to civil engineering. In fact, the eruption occurred in the middle of the park, created in 1987 and currently has about 7,500 hectares.

This is what happened with the Teneguía volcano, the last to erupt until this month. Located in the extreme south of the island, it was declared a protected area also in 1987 (it would join the Cumbre Vieja park in 1994). “Observing what has happened in this and in the Timanfaya, in Lanzarote, we can see what will happen to the vegetation where the current lava flow is located “.

Jordá explains that volcanic soil, due to its porosity, is fertile, “but in the medium or long term. After a volcanic eruption you cannot plant anything, the first thing that will appear are lichens and only for many decades will it not recoverNow, in the apparently barren area of ​​La Geria, near Timanfaya, there are vines that, in the words of the researcher at the Institute of Natural Products and Agrobiology Juan Ignacio Padrón, “they are few but of high quality”.

Padrón indicates, however, that the recovery of the land depends on the orography, “the type of eruption and how time passes.” Regarding Lanzarote, he emphasizes that its volcanic lands have no height and it has allowed, although not as much time has passed as in other regions of the archipelago, “vines are grown on volcanic terrain.”

Dirt trucks to the rescue

The point is that La Palma is made up mostly of slopes and slopes, so it is not directly comparable with the example of Lanzarote. In addition, the economies of the two islands are different, which plays an essential role in the recovery of the land.

Manuel Nogales He is the delegate of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) in La Palma. It coordinates the efforts of about twenty scientists – “reinforcements are arriving right now” – around the volcano. “The development of crops is key,” he says.

On the possibilities of recovering the land for agricultural uses, he points to the north. “You have to bring trucks with soil from the most fertile parts”, tons transported by road to be able to recover the soil devastated by the lava. Is about the oldest part of the island, “which has deeper land horizons.” This is something that, he warns, is very expensive, so its use is restricted to the generation of productive tissue.

Curiously, the most popular use of land transport in the Canaries did have a recreational purpose: Las Teresitas, located in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, is a white sand beach in a region of black volcanic sand. The material was brought in the 70s from the Sahara desert to expand the extension of the original beach, which received the name of Las Teresas.

Returning to La Palma, the use of the fertile land “would serve to put up seedlings, the ‘children’ of the adult banana trees”. Therefore, until it becomes a productive area it will take time: it usually takes about nine months for them to produce the first fruits.

In addition, if the terrain is a little sloping, you must build in a staggered manner, with stone walls that contain the earth and that it is not lost in case of rains. “It is a very expensive process from the economic and energy point of view, you have to invest a lot to recover the land.”

Damaged ecosystems

Nogales points out that the eruption of Cumbre Vieja is, “from a social point of view,” much more damaging than that of Teneguía, which occurred in a less populated part of the island. In that case, “being very close to the sea, there was no point in rehabilitating the land from an agricultural point of view: there was enough land next to it to cultivate without costing so much effort “.

The scientist is cautious and waits for a few weeks to clear up the future of the lands occupied by the lava, depending on the extent of the lava sleeve. Although he warns that recovery for a residential area “is not impossible”, and in fact there are examples close in time as in the case of the El Hierro volcano, “it is an area of ​​active volcanism, with a good number of volcanic cones that will make the authorities think twice“.

Lava flow has affected three different ecosystems. The highest, “where the volcano has burst”, is made up of Canary Island pines. The next stratum has been an intermediate zone, where there were already houses and crops, “with thermophilic scrub vegetation.” These are plants adapted to semi-desert conditions, such as lavender, rockrose or cornicabra.

In the lowest part is the cardonal tabaibal, where it is located much of the endemic vegetation of the Canary Islands, such as dragon tree and thick-leaved plants such as cacti and succulents. According to Nogales, the area attacked by the lava is not one of the most biodiverse on the island, so from an ecological point of view there has been no great tragedy.

Leave a Comment