Conserving and restoring ecosystems
The main threats to conservation areas are forest fires and the presence of invasive woody species. The best way of protecting conservation areas is to ensure good management of spaces used for forest production.
The Parque Natural de São Mamede, the serra de Monchique mountain, the serra do Caramulo mountain, and the areas of Arouca and Góis, are all areas where Altri Florestal has significant amounts of land and where there are very relevant conservation areas which sometimes require more robust intervention and restoration.
These areas of high conservation value will host projects with careful restoration sized in accordance with the landscape, which will mitigate specific threats to the habitats and species.
Actions will include controlling and eradicating invasive plants, and promoting threatened indigenous species whose conservation is very important, such as forest birds of prey and the Algerian oak. The main threat to conservation areas is forest fires.
This is why the good management of forest production areas is also the best way of protecting conservation areas. The eradication of invasive species is the main pillar of action of one of the operational goals. If acacias, for example, are present, they end up disturbing the natural habitats, and we have to intervene to remove them.
Pedro Serafim, Altri Florestal’s head of Biodiversity and Forest Certification, tells us that “We have had some success. It’s an ongoing job, it’s not something we can achieve quickly.”
He goes on to explain that in order to eradicate an invasive species in a certain location, work has to be done prior to starting the task.
The natural value of the location has to be analysed first, to realise whether the cost of this intervention is beneficial. If the analysis reveals that it is, given the natural value of the area, then a medium to long-term plan of intervention is drawn up, because if work is scaled back at a certain time then things will quickly unravel and the conditions achieved by the previous interventions will deteriorate.
Whenever invasive specie are detected, it is very important to perform an early intervention, with the appropriate techniques and timings, in order to contain their expansion.
He claims it is possible to eradicate an invasive species, but it requires continuous effort. Work must not stop. There are many methods which can be applied, and Altri Florestal works with various different institutions to test the different restoration and eradication techniques, such as the Instituto Superior de Agronomia and other research colleges and local environmental organisations which support these efforts.
In terms of the landscape, these small restoration efforts are extremely important for biodiversity, but “it needs to be a much broader project so that we can act more effectively in terms of the landscape”.
Focusing on restoring habitats and species
Altri Florestal estimates that it will undertake one intervention per year in a large area, and will monitor it throughout the years the strategy is in place. This year, the company started out in a very challenging area, in Monchique, which is part of the Renature Monchique project.
The project is headed up by the environmental protection association Grupo de Estudos de Ordenamento do Território e Ambiente (GEOTA). Pedro Serafim says: “After the 2018 fire in Monchique, which raged quite intensely on Altri Florestal’s property, GEOTA purpose to us the challenge to restore the area. The property had already been identified as a biodiversity hotspot. It’s classified as an area of high conservation value, and it was destroyed by the fire.
It is an area which is regenerating, but natural engineering actions need to be undertaken to recover the slopes. Some areas that had eucalyptus at the head of the waterline will be removed, to encourage all the riparian and waterfront vegetation growing there, such as, for example, the rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum), a very rare species which is considered a relict plant of the flora on the serra de Monchique mountain.
“It’s a site of great relevance in promoting the recuperation of a threatened species – the Algerian oak – which is by far the most threatened oak in Portugal.” Hence the importance of the work being done to produce Quercus canariensis at the Viveiros do Furadouro nursery, so that these saplings can then be taken to the Monchique mountain.
The reforestation project has already kicked off on Altri Florestal’s property, but in the near future saplings will also be given to other institutions wanting to perform restoration work in the area which suffered the most devastation in the fires of 2018.
Renature Monchique project
In 2019 Altri Florestal signed a protocol with the GEOTA (Grupo de Estudos de Ordenamento do Território e Ambiente) within the scope of the Renature Monchique project, whereby it committed to working in partnership with the aim of restoring the ecosystems which form part of the Rede Natura 2000 network in the district of Monchique. This area was devastated by Europe’s largest fire in 2018, which hit the Barranco do Corgo property, which is an area classified as High Conservation Value and which is under Altri Florestal management.
The partnership’s ecological restoration operations involve recovering strawberry trees, cork oak and Portuguese oak habitats, and above all, restoring and protecting the rare formations of Rhododendron – Rhododendron ponticum.