HABITATS & FLORA
In the past, much of the site was heavily terraced and turned into small cultivated fields. Areas bare of soil or too steep for agriculture were left unworked. Most of these fields were eventually abandoned, and many retaining drystone walls gradually collapsed.
Despite the years of neglect or direct damage to the site, over 200 species of plants have been recorded at Foresta 2000. Thanks to the woodland project, the flora at Foresta 2000 will diversify further.
The main vegetation habitats at Foresta 2000 are steppe, woodland, maquis and garrigue.
The eastern part of Foresta 2000 is dominated by a steep clay slope, which forms a steppe habitat. This habitat is dominated by grasses like Esparto Grass and the very rare Truncate Canary Grass. The wetter parts of the slope support the Winter-flowering Narcissus, while Sulla, Boar Thistle and Wild Artichoke dominate the scene in spring. Such areas are being preserved, but several areas of abandoned fields had developed a much poorer steppe community and it is in these that most of the woodland project is being carried out.
Woodland is dominated by trees, and the regeneration of woodland has been the main focus of activity in the Foresta 2000 project. As the project only started in 2000, most of the trees on site are still young and as yet do not dominate the area. The species being grown at Foresta 2000 are mostly Aleppo Pine and Holm Oak, interspersed with other native species like Araar and Carob. As the trees mature they form a canopy under which shade-loving plants like Bear’s Breeches can flourish. The undergrowth of trees also creates ideal habitat for several mushrooms like Pine Boletus and Wood Blewits.
A pine-and-acacia plantation from the 1960s will eventually merge into the new afforestation project, although the alien acacias are being removed to make way for native growth.
In areas where tree cover will not create a canopy, a maquis habitat will be encouraged to form. Maquis is a habitat of Mediterranean-type climate, dominated by large, often berry-bearing shrubs like Mediterranean Buckthorn, Lentisk and Hawthorn. These form dense, impenetrable thickets. Formerly widespread in Malta, maquis was virtually all destroyed by humans and grazing animals. Foresta 2000 will re-create some of this lost habitat, and thousands of shrubs have been planted to this effect.
Garrigue is characterised by exposed and often much-weathered coralline limestone, with many shallow pockets of soil. The Upper Coralline Limestone garrigue areas at Foresta 2000 support a rich flora, including hardy shrubs like Mediterranean Thyme, Mediterranean Heath, White Hedge-nettle and the endemic Maltese Spurge. A number of orchids also occur, such as Fan-lipped Orchid and the endemic Maltese Pyramidal Orchid.