Pico da Esperança e Planalto Central
Protected Area for the Management of Habitats or Species
This area, located on the central volcanic ridge of the island, occupies about 1087 hectares and includes the highest point of São Jorge, Pico da Esperança, with 1053 metres of altitude.
In this volcanic ridge, about 54 kilometres long, it is possible to observe several volcano-tectonic alignments, standing out the Pico da Esperança (formed around 5500 years ago) and the Morro Pelado, which has the deepest volcanic pit of the Azores, with a depth of 140 metres. This area is rich in biodiversity and includes several inland lagoons and peatbogs that allow for various endemic species of the Azores to occur.
The central ridge has about 150 eruptive centres, mostly scoria cones, spatter cones and eruptive fissures, of the Holocene (less than 10 thousand years old).
In turn, Morro Pelado is a basaltic scoria cone where the Algar do Montoso (or Algar do Morro Pelado) is. It is the deepest volcanic pit of the Azores archipelago, with a depth of 140 metres, and has two openings, one of which is used to access its interior with two overlapping chambers. The lower one has considerably big dimensions, 150 metres long, 70 metres wide and approximately 50 meters high. There are boulders on the floor of these chambers that collapsed from the walls and ceiling. This volcanic pit hosts different communities of cave species, standing out the endemic beetle Trechus isabelae, perfectly adapted to the low light conditions of this habitat.
In this protected area, occur, amongst other endemics, rare species such as Chaerophyllum azoricum, Ammi trifoliatum, Tolpis azorica and Euphrasia grandiflora. It is also possible to observe the rarest orchid of Europe, Platanthera azorica.
Regarding fauna stand out the endemic species of arthropods such as Trechus jorgensis and the bird Gallinago gallinago.
It is possible to cross this protected area through the Pico do Pedro - Pico da Esperança - Fajã do Ouvidor walking trail (PR04SJO).
This site is part of the Ramsar Site named Planalto Central de São Jorge (central plateau - Pico da Esperança) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) Costa Noroeste and Ponta do Topo within the Natura 2000 network. It is also classified as a geosite of the Azores UNESCO Global Geopark.