Cies Islands – Nature
Protected Natural Area
The Cíes Islands archipelago is a natural area which has numerous protection systems, its inclusion in the National Parks Network being especially remarkable. The restrictions on the number of daily visitors allowed on the islands is one of the main measures adopted in order to ensure their preservation.
In 1980, Cíes Islands were declared as a Natural Park so that they could be preserved, protected and regenerated, spreading the knowledge about them and making it possible for the public to enjoy them while respecting the natural spaces.
Later on, in 2002, the Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park was created, including the archipelagos, islands and islets of Cíes, Ons, Sálvora and Cortegada.
The climate of Cíes Islands is quite unusual. Like the other islands which are part of the National Park, it has an Atlantic transitional sub-humid Mediterranean climate, which means that it rains significantly less than it does on the coast and that the temperatures are slightly higher.
Endemic Terrestrial Flora
Among the flora on the islands, the trees are quite remarkable, the pine and the eucalyptus trees prevailing over other species. However, there are also some endemic species which only exist in this environment, such as the Sea Thrift or the Camarinha.
As for shrubs, the gorse, the cistus, the flax-leaved daphne and the thornless blackberry prevail. On the most protected areas, gorses are quite large, acting like a barrier against the colonies of marine birds.
But, as it has been mentioned, the most important plants in the islands are those having the highest ecological value, which are those appearing in dunes and cliffs, since these are plants that grow only in this environment, and thus scarce and endemic. Amongst these, the armeria maritima (or sea thrift) and the camarinha stand out. In the past, the former was used in magical love and fertility potions. As for the latter, it is a shrub which has little edible fruits.
Special Terrestrial Fauna
Cíes Islands have a very special terrestrial fauna. This archipelago is the habitat of the European shag, which is certainly one of the most peculiar species that can be found in the area and one of the most spectacular examples of adaptation to the marine environment existing in the nature. This bird lives in the archipelago together with the biggest colony of yellow-legged herring gulls in the world, as well as other species such as the dark gulls, the guillemots or the European storm petrels.
Besides the birds living in the park, the presence of other marine and water birds that use the park on their migrations and winter periods is not unusual during the year. These include species such as the peregrine falcon or the northern goshawk.
The Marine Environment
The marine environment makes up approximately 85% of the Galician Atlantic Islands Maritime-Terrestrial National Park. The underwater area surrounding Cíes Islands is one of the richest ecosystems in the entire Galician coast and it has an important kelp forest of brown algae and corals.
In the cliffs, exposed to strong currents, barnacles and mussels grow. In the underwater area, very rocky, velvet crabs, European spider crabs, lobsters and octopus can be found. In the beaches in the most protected areas, there are many bivalve molluscs, as well as turbots, plaices and soles. The rocky yet protected areas in the interior of the islands are populated by anemone forests and a lot of sea urchins.
Other species can also be found living under the water of the National Park, such as white seabreams, otters or starfishes.
The waters around Cíes Islands are frequently visited by dolphins, whales and sea turtles