A photograph made by Harry Seijmonsbergen, assistant professor at the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), is selected as winner in the Landscape Ecology and Ecosystems section in the BMC Image Competition.
The winning picture was taken in ‘Las Cañadas del Teide’ on Tenerife island, Spain. The picture shows the microhabitat of the north-facing caldera slopes at 2100m altitude. Harry Seijmonsbergen explains in his description why this picture is so special: ‘On the picture you see a rare mixture of the Canary pine (Pinus canariensis) and the flowering endemic Teide bugloss (Echium wildpretii), amongst other plants, such as the rosallilo de cumbre (Pterocephalus lasiospermus). The unique geological environment and geomorphological development created a specific micro-habitat, perfectly suitable for both the Canary pine trees invading from outside the caldera depression and the ‘Tower of Jewels’ or ‘Red bugloss’, a rare species fully adapted to survive in this harsh terrain.’
‘The microhabitat is formed by coarse rock fall deposits, piling up at the foot of the >3 million years old basaltic cliffs, creating local scree slopes. Locally, fine-grained sub-horizontal soil patches form behind larger fallen blocks, as the result of fine-scale surface runoff and sediment transport and deposition, which, in combination with mechanical and chemical weathering, release sufficient nutrients from the basaltic parent material to sustain this unique vegetation cover. Signs of forest fire, especially on the pine trees, emphasize the vulnerability and dynamic nature of this ecologically fragile (micro-)ecosystem.’
This picture was amongst others chosen as winner in the section Landscape Ecology and Ecosystems to emphasise how fragile many endemic species are. BMC Section Editor Michel Baguette explains in his comment: ‘Endemic species have usually a low number of individuals and are restricted to small areas that are threatened by human activities. This is perfectly exemplified by the description written by Harry Seijmonsbergen of the complex processes required for the creation of the microhabitat illustrated in the winning picture. The preservation of endemic species on islands is thus a paradigm for biodiversity conservation everywhere on Earth.’