LIFE REFOREST biosolution achieves up to 80% efficiency in reducing erosion of soils burnt by fires
As it is a prefabricated system, it can be implemented more quickly than conventional systems.
Based on the three pilots installed in southern Galicia and central Portugal, a complete transferability and replicability plan has been developed for other European areas.
These conclusions were presented today during the European conference on forestry strategy organised by CETIM to close four years of R&D&I research applied in the framework of LIFE REFOREST.
Throughout the almost four years of applied R&D&I research of the LIFE REFOREST project, the solution developed, validated and implemented with mycotechnosoils has proven to be 70-80% effective in reducing erosion in areas affected by fires. This conclusion is the result of an intensive study in the three pilot areas created in southern Galicia and central Portugal, and in comparison with other areas without treatment.
Julio Fierro, senior researcher at CETIM Technological Centre and scientific coordinator of LIFE REFOREST, pointed out that these good results at an environmental level show the importance of acting on soils burnt by fires as quickly as possible, before the first rains take place, given that these are the ones that generate the greatest impact due to erosion and contamination of water bodies. On this point, he stressed that as it is a prefabricated system, which can be prepared in advance, it can be applied more quickly than conventional systems such as barriers, which are built in situ.
Jan Jacob Keizer, from the Laboratório Associado Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do Mar (CESAM) of the University of Aveiro, explained in detail the experiments in the Nespereira, Albergaria-a-Velha and Penouços mountains, and highlighted that they have also observed a reduction in the amount of runoff water generated and the presence of pollutants, favouring natural regeneration.
Accumulated knowledge result
The LIFE REFOREST solution consists of a series of biodegradable tubular sleeves filled with a technosol made from organic waste, stabilised and inoculated with fungi. Due to their shape and composition, they allow the soil structure to be retained against rainfall runoff and promote natural recovery thanks to the rapid development of fungal mycelium in the plant cover. This mycotechnosol (technosol plus fungi) also provides organic matter, nutrients and seeds of native vegetation (previously selected) to achieve a faster restoration of the surface and promote water retention.
On an economic level, LIFE REFOREST’s research has allowed the development of an economically viable solution, since, according to initial calculations, its cost is 25% lower than current practices to combat erosion.
These findings were presented this morning during the European forestry strategy day organised by CETIM as the final event of LIFE REFOREST and to conclude the research launched in June 2018.
Among the guest speakers were Silvia Abruscato, coordinator of rapid fire response actions and high-level policy dialogue at the FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference; Fernando Veiga, Deputy Director General for Fire Fighting of the Xunta de Galicia; António Patrão, from the Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e das Florestas (ICNF); Francisco Dans, Director of the Galician Forestry Association, and Rosàrio Alves, Executive Director of FORESTIS, the Portuguese Forestry Association.
Cristina Fernández, from the Lourizán Forestry Research Centre, part of the Galician Rural Development Agency (AGACAL), and Antonio Rigueiro, professor at the University of Santiago de Compostela, presented other experiences of innovative forest management in Galicia. Xosé Covelo, technical director of the Galician Forestry Association, closed the day by reviewing the future prospects of the LIFE REFOREST solution and recommendations for the improvement of regional, national and European public policies.
R&D&I needs for the sector
Forest fires are a serious problem in southern European countries, aggravated by climate change. Specifically, Galicia accounts for 50% of the fires recorded in Spain and Portugal being the most affected country in the European Union. Fires devastate biodiversity, cause soil erosion, water scarcity and weaken the regeneration capacity of burned areas, threatening ecological stability.
Faced with the need to find an ad hoc solution to reduce the impact of these natural disasters in the cross-border region, in June 2018 the LIFE REFOREST project consortium launched an innovative R&D&I research project funded through the LIFE programme, the EU’s funding instrument for environment and climate action. Its suitability is also justified by the importance of the agroforestry sector which, with an annual turnover of €1.8 billion, represents 3.5% of the national GDP.
Likewise, the LIFE REFOREST consortium encompasses the entire value chain as it is made up of the two main sectoral associations on both sides of the border, such as the Galician Forestry Association (AFG) and the Portuguese Forestry Association (FORESTIS); private biosolutions and circular economy companies such as the Galician companies Hifas da Terra, TEN Tecnosuelos and Indutec Ingenieros; and two leading knowledge centres such as the Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do Mar (CESAM) of the University of Aveiro (Portugal) and CETIM Technological Centre (leader and scientific coordinator).
In general, the work carried out by this multidisciplinary consortium has achieved promising results both environmentally and economically. Furthermore, thanks to the three pilot projects installed in 9 plots in the forests of Nespereira – Pazos de Borbén (southern Galicia), Albergaria-a-Velha and Penouços – Oliveira de Frades (central Portugal), a complete plan for transferability, replicability and best practices has been developed for other European areas affected by this problem.