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cuevo villaverde llanos

Cueva del Llano, Villaverde
Having driven past the site many times, we finally took the turn-off to visit the caves, about three years ago. Greatly disappointed to find the caves themselves not only closed, but clearly closed-off fir some time. This despite the fact that they were still being advertised as a tourist attraction by the la Oliva Ayuntamiento at that time. I’m surprised to see in the article that they were closed in 1988, because I’m sure there were TA reviews since then? There IS a very good visitor centre, with lots of info on history etc, but making them safe for visitors would be a significant attraction!
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I went on a guided tour of the cave around 2008 when it was open to the public.
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The Ecological Transition Ministry of the Government of the Canary Islands has approved the second plan of recovery of the Opilión de la Cueva del Llano or Opilión cavernícola majorero (Maiorerus rando), an endemic species that is included in the category of 'endangered' in the Spanish Catalogue of Endangered Species, whose only known population is located in the volcanic tube Cueva del Llano, in the municipality of La Oliva, in Fuerteventura.
This second recovery plan aims to ensure the survival of this species, which develops its entire life cycle in the underground environment and is in a precarious state of conservation, paying special attention to amending the conditions that are limiting the supply of nutrients to the cavity.

The scope of this plan covers the entire known range of the species, and which is confined to the volcanic tube Cueva del Llano, the projection of it on the surface and a protection zone that covers 50 meters in all directions measured from the perimeter of the aforementioned volcanic tube.
This plan is developed with special attention to amending the conditions that are limiting the supply of nutrients to the cavity and as a continuation of another previous plan approved by Decree 38/2012 that was in force for five years.

The advisor of the regional department, José Antonio Valbuena, emphasized that "considering that this species is very susceptible to changes in environmental conditions, the recovery plan proposes actions aimed at improving the state of the cavity, particularly in sectors III and IV of the volcanic tube".

Among the actions aimed at improving the state of conservation of the Cueva del Llano is "modifying the enclosure of the Interpretation Center of the Cave of the Llano to allow the entry of water from runoff, as well as the channeling of surface waters from the channel of the ravine, and the regulation of uses in the critical areas delimited by the plan" , stressed the director.

[Image: zTwACsZ.jpg]
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The case of the opilión majorero: taking biodiversity seriously (or not)
  • "It is used as an emblem, but little or nothing is done for its conservation", highlights the expert Pedro Oromí, an international eminence in the study of underground fauna.
  • It measures just over two millimeters and is a unique arachnid in the world, which has only been found in the Cueva del Llano. Its existence reveals essential information about the adaptation and evolution of living things. Threatened by urban operations that have violated the laws that protect biodiversity, the Government of the Canary Islands says it wants to guarantee their survival.
    The adventure began in 1990, when two students from the Faculty of Biology of the University of La Laguna, Juan Carlos Rando and Lucas Sala, explored the Cueva del Llano at the suggestion of a professor who taught a subject on arthropods: the entomologist Pedro Oromí, an international eminence in the study of underground fauna. There they discovered a tiny arachnid, barely two millimeters long, with a depigmented body and atrophied eyes, which uses its second pair of extremely long and tactile legs, like the walking sticks of a blind man.
    No one had investigated this cave until then, despite being the second oldest cavity in the Canary Islands, one of the largest internal diameter and the only one in all of Fuerteventura that has enough interior humidity to house cave fauna. Formed after the eruption of the Montaña Escanfraga volcano, more than 800,000 years ago, this cave is a living encyclopedia on geology, palentology and biology. At the end of the 20th century, the Cueva del Llano extended its almost 650 meters of volcanic tube in Villaverde (La Oliva) without buildings around it. It had been used as a stable, barn, powder keg, and as a training ground for the Legion.
    The arachnid that the students found in November 1990 is a "relictic" species of the Opilion group: it belongs to a genus that no longer exists anywhere else in the world. Thanks to the sequencing of its DNA, researchers have found that the ancestors of this animal inhabited North Africa and the Sahel before the Sahara became a desert. The opiliones of this genus that remained in that environment became extinct, but others fled from climate change and made the leap to the Canary Islands. They reached Fuerteventura, perhaps on board a leaf, floating precariously in the ocean, or on a bird. When the island began to be more arid, they took refuge in the humidity of the subterranean environment. And until now.
    Three years after the discovery, in 1993, Dr. María Rambla Castells described it as a new species for science. Its scientific name: Maiorerus randoi. Its popular name: opilión majorero. His home: the last section of the Cueva del Llano and the deep underground environment. This means that to guarantee the survival of this animal of high scientific value, the conservation measures must include an area around the Cueva del Llano that should not be altered, “not even on the surface, given that all excavations on the ground or the spills of phytosanitary products, fertilizers or wastewater will affect the underground habitat ”. It has already happened in the Cueva del Viento, in Icod de los Vinos (Tenerife): as the surroundings were urbanized, the wastewater began to contaminate the subsoil with nitrates and nitrites, and the underground fauna disappeared in a good part of its route.Arachnid in (real) danger of extinction . Let's see why.

    Years of lack of protection
    On the one hand, the general interest of protecting biodiversity and supporting scientific research. On the other, the urbanization of the territory so that a limited number of people achieve economic profitability in the short term. The Canary Islands have faced this situation on numerous occasions. This is the chronology of the Events.
    Once described by scientists and given its very small number of individuals, in 1998 the opilion was included in the list of threatened species in Spain. In 2001, the Government of the Canary Islands declared it in danger of extinction. In 2002, ignoring these two protection figures in force, the La Oliva City Council approved the Casilla de Costa Partial Plan to build 2,500 homes. The land was classified as rustic, but it was re-classified as residential-industrial by the then mayor Domingo González Arroyo, recently convicted of tax fraud and disqualified for another crime of prevarication. Neither the Island Plan for the Management of Fuerteventura, nor the Plan for the Management of Natural Resources ever recognized the Partial Plan.
    Quote:"Opilión belongs to a genre that no longer exists anywhere else"
  • The State included the opilión in the Spanish Catalog of Threatened Species in 2011, forcing the Government of the Canary Islands to approve a Recovery Plan in 2012. In 2014 the promoter of the Casilla de Costa urbanization began preparations for the works and Agonane-Ecologists in Acción denounces its beginning in the surroundings of the Cueva del Llano during the summer of 2015. The machinery excavates in the critical area delimited by the Recovery Plan, less than one hundred meters from the end of the volcanic tube, violating regional and state regulations. In December of that same year the works were paralyzed and in 2015 the Environment agents of the Government of the Canary Islands ordered to delimit a perimeter of fifty meters on each side of the tube.
    In 2017, the five years of validity of the Recovery Plan expire without it having met any of its objectives. In August 2020, the Government of the Canary Islands approved a second Recovery Plan for opilion, having identified several threat factors: “The alteration of the environmental conditions of the Cueva del Llano, the introduction of waste and other non-cave fauna species , the filtration of pollutants, the lack of availability of food, visits to the cave and the execution of the Casilla de Costa urbanization ”.
    This new plan affirms that it has been necessary to paralyze the works in one of the plots and that "the modification of the Partial Plan is foreseen to leave the delimited area free of building. As long as this does not happen, it has been prohibited to build in the delimited area. It also proposes to change the enclosure of the Cueva del Llano Interpretation Center and channel the waters of the ravine to recover runoff water, the main nutritional contribution of cave fauna. The plan of the regional Executive also considers a "risk factor" the visits that the Council of the Network of Museums of the Cabildo de Fuerteventura makes inside the cave, currently closed to the public.
    The last census of underground fauna in the Cueva del Llano in which Pedro Oromí participated was carried out before the urbanization concluded its works, three years ago. The investigator has not been able to personally verify whether the construction of the development has caused further damage. "It is to be suspected that the effects will have to be noticed in the cave, since the works are very close, practically at the same limit," he warns. “As there is release of sewage in the area, it will be a disaster for this species that is used as an emblem of the area for propaganda, but little or nothing is done for its conservation. Even the Government of the Canary Islands tried to eliminate it from the list of endangered species, but a higher State law prevented it, ”he recalls.
    Retired from his job as a professor at the Faculty of Biology, but very active in the field of research and dissemination, Oromí does not know in what state the recovery actions proposed by the Plan are, he only hopes that the same will not happen as with the previous one: "The term expired and it took years to propose it again."
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Radio Sintonia:

Cueva del Llano, from the depths of Fuerteventura.

Fuerteventura, the oldest of the Canary Islands, is a paradise of volcanic and erosive forms.

In the bowels of Fuerteventura
The twenty million years of erosion that have passed since the beginning of its volcanic formation, have revealed great treasures difficult to find in nature with the naked eye.

The Cueva del Llano, a million-year-old lava tube with a length of 650 meters, seems to have been formed as a result of the eruption of the volcano of the famous mountain of Escanfraga, the highest volcanic cone in Fuerteventura.

But its high geological value is not the only thing that the cave has to offer, it is also a paleontological site with a large amount of fossilized bone remains, and also home to a very special fauna, such as the blind spider maiorerus randoi, unique in the world. These and other wonders await in the Cueva del Llano and its interpretation center.

An endangered species
The blind spider maiorerus randoi, endemic species of Fuerteventura and located in the Cueva del Llano (Villaverde), is included in the category "in danger of extinction" in the Spanish Catalogue of Threatened Species.

Currently the habitat of this species is very deteriorated mainly due to the uses that the aforementioned cavity has suffered. The Government of the Canary Islands has tried to reverse the conditions in which this cave is located through the Recovery Plan of the Opilión de La Cueva del Llano. The visits made by specialists indicate that there is a gradual impoverishment of the cave.

Source: Government of the Canary Islands, Museums of Fuerteventura
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Not sure what this means, are they ploughing some Money into the tube cave to recover damage from visitors?, is the visitor centre open ?, is the tube open ?
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