European project LIFE REFOREST has initiated the implementation and validation of its micro-soil system to mitigate erosion and soil loss in two areas affected by forest fires in Galicia and Portugal.
This project financed by the European LIFE Program, and which we lead in the CETIM Technology Centre, aims to mitigate erosion and soil loss in areas affected by forest fires through an innovative system based on micotechnosols, a combination of organic waste stabilized inoculated with fungi, contained in tubular sleeves of biodegradable material. The Galician companies Hifas da Terra and TEN Tecnosuelos, with the collaboration of the Centre for Environmental and Marine Research (CESAM) of the University of Aveiro in Portugal and CETIM Technology Centre from A Coruña, have allowed the development and optimization of the system to initiate its validation This October.
After completing the characterization, formulation, design and laboratory development of the LIFE REFOREST solution, in which CETIM have worked during 2019, installation work on this solution has now begun in the two pilot locations selected for testing its effectiveness . Montes Vecinales de Nespereira, in the Galician municipality of Pazos de Borbén (Pontevedra) and the mountains of Albergaria (Aveiro) in the central region of Portugal are the areas affected by recent fires that will allow evaluating the performance of this solution and validate its evolution .
AFG, the Galician Forestry Association, and FORESTIS, Portuguese Forestry Association, project partners, have allowed an adequate selection of the burned areas and, together with CESAM and CETIM, we have achieved a fast and efficient installation of both pilots in the mountains that They manage.
The problem of forest fires and the objectives of LIFE REFOREST
Portugal and Spain stand out in Europe for being the countries most affected by forest fires. 80% of the burned European area is concentrated in the Mediterranean area, with both countries having the greatest number of affected areas.
More than 200 m2 of burned forest area have been protected in this pilot experience with biodegradable sleeves of micotecnosuelos that will allow a rapid recovery of the vegetation cover, also minimizing the contamination of the bodies of water near these areas. The LIFE REFOREST solution will allow a reduction of up to 2.5 times the flow of runoff water as a result of the application of the micro-soil, thus minimizing the impact of water on the soil surface and the runoff speed.
The project expects to achieve an 80% reduction of dissolved solids and turbidity levels, minimizing the contamination of the waters in these burned areas. Additionally, the LIFE REFOREST micotecnosuelo will provide organic matter and nutrients to the soil, as well as seeds of fast-growing herbaceous plants, to accelerate the restoration of plant coverings – eucalyptus in Portugal and pinewood in Galicia, promoting water infiltration. The retention of the soil structure thanks to the rapid development of fungal mycelium will guarantee the recovery of the two ecosystems – it is expected to achieve a 70% reduction in the erosion of these soils. Likewise, it is expected to achieve a solution to improve the erosion of burnt soils with 25% less application costs than existing solutions and LIFE REFOREST will allow a significant reduction of the environmental and socioeconomic impact associated with fires, estimated at 50 %, given the considerable reduction in time required for the restoration of forest productivity.
Upcoming actions in the framework of LIFE REFOREST
During the next two years and until the summer of 2021, both associations, CESAM, Hifas da Terra, TEN Tecnosuelos, Indutec Ingenieros and CETIM will validate the effectiveness of the LIFE REFOREST system in soil erosion and pollution of runoff waters, evaluating its future replicability in other European areas affected by this important problem.
In order to facilitate the future market implementation of the LIFE REFOREST solution, as leaders of the CETIM project, we develop guides that help the replicability and transferability of the system in other geographical areas burned in Europe. In parallel to the technical validation of the solution, Indutec Ingenieros will carry out the Life Cycle Analysis to assess the environmental impact of the new solution, as well as the analysis of the associated economic costs.
The LIFE REFOREST project will therefore contribute to the improvement of soils eroded by fires in Europe, also helping to implement the principles of the Circular Economy through the recovery of waste and by-products. Likewise, the European Soil and Forest Strategies and the European Water Directive will be favored by the development of LIFE REFOREST.