The Selvagens 50 Expedition, organized by the Institute of Forests and Nature Conservation of Madeira, took place between April 23 and May 1, 2023. The initiative was part of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Selvagens Islands Nature Reserve.
This expedition brought together about 40 experts from various institutions, including CESAM and Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon (FCUL) researcher José Pedro Granadeiro (a specialist in seabirds). The journey to the islands was provided by the sailing ship Santa Maria Manuela, which served as a working base for the various teams throughout the expedition. The teams working on land replicated the biodiversity monitoring work carried out on Selvagem Grande between 2000 and 2005, covering the pre- and post-eradication period of rats and rabbits.
In a press release, the Regional Secretariat for Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change of the Autonomous Region of Madeira highlights that in this expedition “about 80 hours of diving were carried out, and on land, only the inventory and monitoring work of flora and vegetation, mollusks, insects, and reptiles took up more than 700 hours of the involved researchers. Preliminary data, both at sea and on land, point to the extraordinary state of conservation of those habitats.”
This small oceanic archipelago is of great importance from a natural point of view, being considered the most important nesting site for seabirds in national territory. According to José Pedro Granadeiro, various seabird research projects were continued, including a detailed characterization of vegetation at monitoring points using drones, and the placement of 30 GPS loggers on Cory’s Shearwaters, which form the largest known colony of this species here, currently with about 40,000 breeding pairs. It was also possible to collect diet samples from yellow-legged gulls and monitor their population not only on Selvagem Grande but also on Selvagem Pequena and Ilhéu de Fora.
The Selvagens Islands were designated as a Nature Reserve by the Regional Government of the Autonomous Region of Madeira in 1971, and in November 2021, their boundaries were extended to 12 nautical miles around the islands. They are thus the largest fully protected marine area in the North Atlantic, covering 2,677 km2.
For more information about this expedition, please refer to this link.
Text by: CESAM in collaboration with FCUL and José Pedro Granadeiro