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Reforesting Portugal with “firefighting trees”  RSS feed

 
Burra Maluca
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UTAD (the university of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro) have stressed the need to reforest with “árvores bombeiros”, or firefighting trees and is suggesting birch, oak and chestnut: the arguments being that they have a lot of leaves and keep the environment relatively humid.

Full article here

This photo graphically illustrates how farms with traditional trees are far more fire resistant than the eucalyptus plantations, taken from this this Portuguese article



According to the article, the mayor of the region is calling on the government to impost limits to the planting of eucalyptus, which 'burned like gunpowder while the areas that had indigenous trees worked much better as a barrier to fire, for these species show a greater fire resistance'

This photo was taken a few years ago on land very close to me after a fire which spread to our own land and burned out a couple of acres.  I think I need to get a few more fire resistant trees planted and set an example!

 
Andre Lemos
Posts: 62
Location: Castelo Branco, Portugal
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Hi Burra,
that eden amongst the ashes is a very powerfull image, i would like to know the owner of that land!

A fire/wind/animal fence can be made of fruit trees, any of them
 
João Carneiro
Posts: 77
Location: Portugal
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This really sounds pretty romantic, but... that won't take care of the problem. Not in Portugal.

There is a whole economy thriving on forest fires. If you can't break the money cycle, you can't solve the problem, but... i guess you can plant trees anyway, no harm comes from that .

I have been in the middle of a couple of forest fires, one of them surrounded my family's village and burn out everything around for miles. The fire was as high as 7 meters(above that, really thick smoke). A couple of miles away from the fire, the air was so dry that it was not dificult to ignite anything at all besides dirt and rocks. Firemen took off to a 'safe' distance leaving the locals behind. Only stayed the one's that could handle the situation, but clearly with their lives on the line. In their madness, they managed to save the village, but at the cost of their sanity, it took them years just to surpass the trauma, a lifetime to recover from the financial and ecological loss.

If you have been there, you understand what happens, if you live there or your family does, you'll know the impact/desolation/loss first hand.

So i really invite people that come to me talking about forest fires in the city, to grab a dozen jerrycan's of fresh water, some food, and set sail to the affected regions to give out some support to the people on the ground, firemen included. That does give them some insight on what happens and what's involved.

But if you do want to get some answers and takle with it at the source, please do follow the money...

ps.: I could talk about this for a long time, but in my experience, i have come to realise that in this matter it is better to let people experience things themselves and take their own conclusions rather than providing them with the biased output from my own.
 
Burra Maluca
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Just for reference, I don't live in the city.  I live in fire country, surrounded by eucalyptus, I've had my land on fire, and I've evacuated my son from fires, though my husband refused to leave and stayed on the land helping fight the fire.  I've had to make decisions like 'Do I set the donkeys free so they can take their own chances, or do I ensure they can't reach the railway or a major road where they might cause an accident?' I know what it's like! 

I think putting limits on the planting of eucalyptus, as is being proposed in Arouca where that photo was taken, and encouraging planting of more fire resistant trees instead could help significantly. 

This was the view from my door - the fire had reached the bottom part of my land and we were taking decisions on whether to fight or flee.



View from behind the house (that's the old roof...)



When the sun looks like this, it's time to think of leaving!  By this point there were hot ashes floating around and the risk of new fires starting anywhere they might land was seriously high.



This is our neighbour's land, taken the next day.  His is the green bit.  The fire took out the eucalyptus  beyond but stopped at his boundary.



On the other side of his land, he did have a few eucalyptus - they were taken out.



The pines burn easily too, but not as well as the eucalyptus.



We'd just helped him set this bee hive up a couple of weeks before and were amazed it had survived the fire.  Turned out a fireman had lifted up the whole thing and moved it to safety, then returned it to it's original position when the fire was out. 



We kept finding roots on fire for days afterwards.



And, just to fan the flames, here's a photo of one of the biggest employers in the area - the paper factory that processes all the eucalyptus.  To make toilet paper. 



So, how do we teach people to wash their butts with water and grow food instead of inflammables?  Without talking about politics of course, because that's cider press material...

 
João Carneiro
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Location: Portugal
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When i was refering to people in the city, i definitively wasn't thinking of you but to the inumerous people that cross my path every day as i do live in the city. But i did enjoyed your update on the topic

About the political thing, i really bypass as much as i can, i have spent unsurmountable amounts of energy trying to change things that maybe are way out of my reach(hey, i was younger and dumb), so these day's i settle into looking up to people like ghandi and francis and making the best of things without reaching the point of giving up on my beliefs.

A couple of weeks ago i wrote a very comprehensive and concise rebuttal to an article presented on a local and very reputed technology website(i usually hang around in the foruns of the community built around that website giving a hand to people). They were actualy promoting the achievements(a biomass plant instalation on the council) of a local politician, and for some reason that might be related to this previous statement, they censored my contribution.

To me, this was just another reminder that when people have some strong bias influencing their better judgement, we really cannot trust them to stay focused on the matter at hand and have a clean debate.

I am heavily biased in this forest fires situation, even so because a big part of my family works/explores woodlands. So that being said, it is obvious that my better judgement is also compromised.

So speaking of trees, oak and chestnut are realy my favourites, i also have a corner in my heart to "sobreiro"(Quercus suber - the cork tree).

I actually dream recurrently of planting a whole hill of chestnuts and "sobreiros", as i see it, it is a very rational approach to anyone that has some land and wants to take care(set up) of their grandchildren.

I will, in my lifetime, achieve this small undertaking.
 
João Carneiro
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Location: Portugal
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Still about forestfires, just found this sample that seems pretty good:



edit: tried to get this to embed the video at the right minute, clearly without success. The part i was refering to is at 24:10.

The documentary as a whole was interesting, but i found that piece about the fire familiar.

About your question:

Burra Maluca wrote:So, how do we teach people to wash their butts with water and grow food instead of inflammables?


I really don't have an answer to give you, but it seems to me that the whole thing is way out of reach on a big perspective, maybe there are some small steps along the way we can achieve as individuals without disturbing the peace.

 
Alder Burns
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Here in California (also a Mediterranean climate, fire-prone ecosystem in general) I and others have long suspected that forestry agencies set forest fires deliberately, since there is a clause in the law permitting "salvage logging" of fire-killed timber. Of course this is unnecessary in plantations, but here there is still a lot of otherwise protected native forest.
It is also common knowledge that the eucalypts and conifers, as well as anything else resinous or aromatic, are prime problems and definitely to be avoided around human habitations.  Even olives qualify.  Unfortunately these are often the trees most adapted to the climate. 
Many lessons remain to be learned from the practices of Native peoples on this landscape and others, who would practice "cool burns" in damper weather to clear dry grass and weeds and kill back underbrush and dense saplings repeatedly, leaving a parklike landscape of grass, low underbrush, and well-spaced tall trees.....a landscape productive of food-plants and animals, and amenable to quick grass fires and resistant to destructive crown fires.  In essence...the problem can be the solution...
     I would imagine from reading about it, that in Portugal and Spain, open forest ecosystems based around oak would be more fire-resistant than plantations of any kind, and such forests would give multiple yields of acorns, cork, truffles, and more...
 
Liz Hoxie
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Location: Ellisforde, WA
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I'm in zone 5a. Lots of fires. I was about to give up my idea of trees until I saw this thread. Anybody know what I should search to find fire-resistant trees hardy to 5a?
Before this, I was considering butternuts for the humans and honey locusts, mulberries, and possibly seaberry to share with the goats. I was considering putting a named self-fruiting variety of American Persimmon for shade/fruit in the goat pen.
 
Burra Maluca
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Bumping this up as it's such a hot topic right now.
 
Burra Maluca
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It seems the farm that escape being burned was not a fluke.  Here's another article about a farm that escaped being burned in the recent fires in the Pedrogao Grande area of Portugal - farmhouse surrounded by oak and chestnut trees escapes fire



The flames that hit the center of the country were very close to Quinta da Fonte in Figueiró dos Vinhos. Everything burned around, except for the native trees planted decades ago.

Liedewij Schieving is still recovering from the scare of Saturday and Sunday, when the fire hit Figueiró dos Vinhos. Living for 10 years in Portugal, that Dutch businesswoman had never been in such a situation.

"There were a lot of eucalyptus trees that could not stand the flames," says Liedewij Schievin.

A green spot stands out from the surrounding black landscape, which depicts the violence of the fire. "The only thing that did not burn was the oak trees, the chestnut trees, the olive trees and the elder trees," she explains.


 
Sergio Cunha
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Location: Southeast Brazil
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I read an articule that Portugal manufactures most of the toilette paper used in whole Europe, is that true?
 
Burra Maluca
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I haven't been able to get accurate information to confirm or deny, but I know that we supply a lot of it.  I just don't know how much or what the percentage is. 

It doesn't answer the question, but found this article when I was looking - portugal's killer forest

 
João Carneiro
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That article is interesting, thanks for sharing Burra.
 
Dale Hodgins
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The government and private growers seem to love monoculture. Almost any monoculture would be better than what currently exists. I'll bet they'd like a tree that has a 10-year turn around. The Paulownia needs more moisture than is available on those hilltops, but I'll bet it would do just fine in wetter areas.

Most settlements need to deal with greywater. A  greywater treatment system, based on these trees, could give a great deal of Fire Protection in a short amount of time. A big ring around each little town could be irrigated. This would satisfy the desire to grow trees, to the exclusion of other things, and it would prevent the spread of fire. The finished crop is more valuable than eucalyptus.

The eucalyptus plantation industry employs only about 3,000 people. Your country has allowed a vast area to be mono cropped, in the name of saving 3000 jobs. Almost any other forestry system, would produce  more jobs. With Pulp and Paper, it's mostly planting, wait the requisite number of years, then cut it down and run it through a giant porridge machine. Trees that are milled into lumber, create a large number of spin-off industries. There would be sawmills, furniture makers, and the makers of anything that can use a strong Balsa-like wood. If the same quantity of land were covered in any tree that needs to be milled, it is bound to employ more than 3,000 people. This is something that needs to be embraced by the people and government. Let the paper industry die. Scandinavia can easily supply pulpwood and toilet paper for Europe. With a fast-growing, millable tree and lower wages than Scandinavia, Portugal could easily give Ikea some stiff competition.

The Paulownia tree goes by a variety of names ...
Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa)

Common Name(s): Paulownia, Royal Paulownia, Princess Tree, Kiri, Empress tree, Empress splendor tree...
 
Jorge Morais
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Location: Belazaima do Chão, Águeda
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Hi all,

Great share and perspective about an alternative for the major monoculture that is taking the lead on our forests.

I can speak from experience of only 2 years on the ground, collaborating with a regeneration forest project called Cabeço Santo, near the city of Águeda.
https://ecosanto.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/cabecosanto/

We are working for almost 11 years, after a great fire that burned everything around in 2005, we have corridors on the top of the hills, valleys and near the river with native species.
The native shrubs (Matagal Atlãntico) are exposed to the danger of being close to the eucalyptus monoculture, but, the hand of Man is the cause of the fires, my opinion.
We had also a fire on the 28th of April 2017, after a month without any rain, in a second day with east wind, the fire started at 00h or 01h.
https://ecosanto.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/28-de-abril-de-2017-um-olhar/
Still we can show on our project, how the fire stopped in the line of fire close to the native species, the we planted (majority Quercus robur), regrettably, neither the local government of the central one come to see the example to try to replicate in other areas.

On the perspective of creating jobs, myself and the friends of other reforestation project are making an appeal for voting in a National Participative Budget 2017.
Anyone can vote, thanks for you possible support and sharing on your network.
We want to educate and teach by doing people to work in the many areas that conservation forests needs manual work. We need to move thousands of people from urban areas
back to the country side. Teach people to produce their own food organic and relearn how ot live in community one of the many solutions.

https://opp.gov.pt/projetos/todos/123-aprender-fazendo-centro-de-educacao-ambiental
https://www.facebook.com/Aprender-fazendo-Centro-de-Educa%C3%A7%C3%A3o-e-A%C3%A7%C3%A3o-Ambiental-1336652936441724/

Thank you




 
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