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Facts & figures
Total area:
Land area:
Protected land area:
Total marine area:
Exclusive economic
zone (EEZ):
Marine protected
area: (MPA and/or
Current situation & main challenges
Socio-economic context
980,515 km
2,333 km (0.24%)
560 km (24%)
(1) (3)
978,182 km (99.76%)
2 (3)
948,439 km
112,635 km (1,242 km
marine coastal, 111,393 km
marine offshore) (12%)
Overseas Regions
The Azores has 246,772 inhabitants (2011) with 56% of them living in the
largest island of São Miguel. There is a slowdown trend of the population growth
in most of the islands, which is linked to the drop in net migration rates, together
with the reduction of natural growth rates. The population density shows a
relatively stable trend over the last decade of the 20th Century, standing at
around 106 inhabitants per km in 2011.
The archipelago’s economy contributes, on average, with 2.2% to the national
economy of Portugal, and its GDP per capita is 14,600 € (2012, preliminary
data) , 6% below the national average.
In the economic system, the primary sector has traditionally accounted for the
region’s economic activity, although currently there is a growing concentration of
activity in the tertiary sector, which has the main contribution to the GDP.
Agriculture remains relevant for the regional economy, particularly livestock and
dairy production, with an annual production of over 500 million litres of milk, or
25% of Portuguese milk production . Fishing brings in revenues of about 38
million € for the region each year, with 13,000 tonnes of fish extracted from an
exclusive economic zone of about a million km². The tourist industry has grown
markedly over the last 15 years, with the accommodation capacity nearly
doubling between 2001 and 2011, reaching about 10,000 beds .
Socio-economic facts 246 772,
Total population:
Population density:
GDP (2012, prelimin. data):
Main income sources
1.Public administration and
defence; compulsory social
security; education; human
health and social work
activities (30.2%)
2. Wholesale and retail trade;
repair of motor vehicles and
motorcycles; transportation
and storages;
accommodation and food
service activities (25.3%)
Threatened ecosystems*:
Legal and political context
The Azores are an autonomous overseas region of the Republic of Portugal and
consist of a chain of nine volcanic islands stretching some 370 miles across the
Atlantic ocean, with a total area of 2,344 km of emerged land. The Azores
includes an Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) of nearly one million Km², the
largest of all Portugal. Its strategic location midway between North America and
Europe contributed to a historical role in trans-Atlantic navigation.
Besides an extensive Marine Park, the archipelago has a Regional Network of
Protected Areas which, along with others areas designated under regional,
national or international frameworks (such as the Ramsar Convention and the
Man and Biosphere UNESCO Program), are managed under a recent (2012)
scheme of Natural Parks, one per island. In terms of Global Agreements,
Portugal has concluded or ratified the main Treaties and Conventions on Nature
and Biodiversity Conservation, such as CBD, Bern Convention, CITES, Bonn
Convention and Ramsar Convention. Other policy instruments of direct
importance for biodiversity of the archipelago are the EC Birds and Habitats
directives and the Natura 2000 network, the Man And Biosphere programme
and the network REDBIOS.
246 77246,772 (2011)
106.3 inhabitants / km²
3,569 million €
3. Mining and quarrying;
manufacturing; electricity,
gas, steam and air
conditioning supply; water
abstraction, purification and
supply; sewerage, waste
management and
remediation activities (10%)
4. Agriculture, livestock
production, hunting,
forestry and fishing (8.7%)
Laurel forest (laurisilva)
(only 2% of the original
cover remains today)
Endemic species**:
461 endemic species (6%
of total identified species)
Hydrobates monteiroi;
Azorina vidalii; Picconia
azorica; Regulus regulus
sanctae mariae
Pyrrhula azorica; Nyctalus
azoreum; Myosotis azorica;
Juniperus brevifolia; Buteo
buteo rothschildi
Threatened species***:
Pyrrhula azorica; azorina vidali; Nyctalus Azoreum
Current conservation status
Important conservation activities
(Iconic conservation projects)
Threats and pressures on biodiversity
Since the arrival in the Azores of the first settlers, on the XVth
century, the indigenous flora and fauna have been under severe
pressure from habitat destruction, harvesting of living resources
and the introduction of invasive species. The numerous introduced
species in the area mainly occur in the coastal zone and in
connection with human settlements, many on flat fertile areas
(‘fajãs’). By the beginning of the XIXth century, practically all the
mid and low altitude land had been urbanized or converted to
agriculture (particularly to livestock production, motivated by the
EU’s by subsidies from the Common Agriculture Policy). From the
1940’s to the 1960’s a huge effort, led or supported by public
authorities, replaced the vegetation of most mid and high altitude
areas with monocultures of the fast growing Japanese cedar
(Cryptomeria japonica).
SOS Cagarro: a government-led campaign carried out annually
since 1995, which objective is to involve the public in saving the
Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea borealis) juveniles when
flying from the nest in Autumn and are disoriented by human
activities, namely by urban public lights.
Today, only 2% of the original Laurel forest cover (a conservation
priority and only found in the Macaronesia region) has been
spared from deforestation , the existing population of the monk
seal was eradicated and the huge colonies of seabirds confined to
small nesting places in remote islets and cliffs.
Results: In 2013 nearly 7,000 birds were saved.
Current investments
Regional Network of Protected Areas and Natural Park of the
Azores: establishment of a network of protected areas (from the
reserves and natural monuments to protected landscapes), as well
as a nature park in each Island, to assure the management of the
territory oriented to the conservation of biodiversity and the
sustainable use of natural resources.
Designation of 3 Biosphere Reserves: Three islands (Corvo,
Graciosa and Flores) have been proposed by the Azores
Government and approved by UNESCO as Biosphere Reserves,
with the purpose of promoting solutions to conciliate biodiversity
and its sustainable usage.
Erradication and control of invasive plant species: The strategic
and operational plans "PRECEFIAS" (Regional Plan of Eradication
and Control of Invasive Plant Species in Sensitive Areas) and
"MAIS ENDÉMICAS - PLANTAR O FUTURO" (More Endemics Planting the Future) are two complementary instruments that have
the common goal of improving the conservation status of species
and habitats of the Azores, with direct influence on the recovery of
the Azorean landscape.
Azorean Biodiversity Databank: An Internet database for regional
biodiversity outreach. It is an important resource for fundamental
research in systematics, biodiversity, education and conservation
management in the Azores. It also provides an original platform for
biogeographical and macroecological research on islands.
Critical areas for action / Investment niches
• Improve distributional data on the Azorean endemic taxa both in
native and human-made habitats ;
Activities: a) Development in schools and libraries of several
activities aiming at environmental awareness and education; b)
Organization of evening rescue brigades to collect juveniles
shearwaters in danger and to release them in next morning; c)
Development of joint actions with the police and scouts to raise
drivers awareness; d) Development of promotional and educational
materials to be distributed to the people engaged in the campaign
(volunteers, etc.); e) Reduction of public lighting during the night.
Priolo Environmental Centre: It is a partnership between SPEA (a
Portuguese NGO dedicated to the study and conservation of birds)
and the Azores government, with support from the Life program,
dedicated to the study and conservation of Pyrrula murina, an
endemic bullfinch. Conservation projects involving this species have
been running since 2003.
Activities: a) establishment of a partners and volunteers network to
promote the bullfinch conservation and of its habitat; birdwatching
activities; Bullfinch Census; educational activities with schools.
Results: a) enlargement of the SPA “Pico da Vara/Ribeira do
Guilherme”; b) Recovery and management of the bullfinch’s habitat;
c) Monitoring of the bullfinch population and of its habitat; d)
Environmental promotion and awareness raising of the population.
Useful links
• Selection of additional areas needed for the conservation of
Azorean indigenous fauna and flora, with the support of the
ATLANTIS software (used for the Azorean Biodiversity Portal) ;
• Development of a RED LIST for the Azorean fauna and flora
ideally following IUCN’s recommended criteria for Red Lists.
QR Code to your
Ecosystem Profile
Azores: Regional Protected Areas and Natura 2000 sites
Azores: Marine Protected Areas
(1) Governo dos Açores (2014). Diretiva Quadro Estratégia Marinha – Subdivisão Açores. Versão Consulta Pública. <>
(2) Direção Regional do Ambiente dos Açores (2014)
(5) Instituto Nacional de Estatística (2012). Censos - Resultados definitivos - Região Autónoma dos Açores – 2011.
(6) SREA (2012). Anuário Estatístico Açores 2012, III.1.2 - Indicadores de contas regionais por NUTS II e atividade económica, 2010.
(7) Schuh, B., Formeyer, H., Trimmel, H. (2011). The role of regional Policy in addressing the effects of Climate Change in Outermost
Regions. European Parliament, Directorate General for Internal Policies. <>
(8) Calculated from: Azores Biodiversity Portal (2014) < >
[7810 identified species and subspecies, from which 461 are endemic: 11 Lichens & Fungi; 9 Bryophytes; 87 vascular plants; 0 marine
invertebrades; 46 terrestrial molluscs; 287 arthropods; 21 vertebrades]
(9) Calculated from IUCN & National Red Lists (Categories: CR, EN,VU):
IUCN 2014. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <>. Downloaded on 30 August 2014.
Cabral MJ (coord.), Almeida J, Almeida PR, Dellinger T, Ferrand de Almeida N, Oliveira ME, Palmeirim JM, Queiroz AI, Rogado L &
Santos-Reis M (eds.) (2005). Livro Vermelho dos Vertebrados de Portugal. Instituto da Conservação da Natureza. Lisboa. 660 pp.
< >
(10) Serviço Regional de Estatística dos Açores, 2012. Estatísticas da Agricultura, Janeiro a Dezembro de 2013. SREA.
< >
(11) Serviço Regional de Estatística dos Açores, 2012. Q.09.01 - Número de estabelecimentos, capacidade de alojamento, referentes
a 31 de Julho, hóspedes e dormidas dos estabelecimentos hoteleiros dos Açores, que responderam ao inquérito, por Ilha e por ano.