Eucalyptus considered as any other species

Eucalyptus considered as any other species


In the first three months of controversial legislation, 92% of the new area of forests or reforestation refers to this species.

The eucalyptus trees are dominating the forests planting or replanting under a new law that environmental organizations and some academics want to see repealed.


The new legal regime, published last july and in force since october, has considered the eucalyptus like any other forest species and no longer be subject to specific regulations that existed since 1988.

Under the law, the planting of new forests (afforestation) or replanting of degraded areas, cut or burned (reforestation) is subject to an authorization when the occupied area exceeds two hectares. Below this limit, just need a prior notification. The rule applies to all species.

Between October 17 and December 31, the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forestry (ICNF) received 193 applications for authorization and 175 previous communications, for actions covering a total of 2626 hectares. The overwhelming majority of this area refers to the intentions of eucalyptus plant (92%). Of the remainder, half refers to stone pine areas and the rest is divided among various other species.

The figures confirm a trend that has been observed in the Portuguese forest for at least two decades. The eucalyptus area has been steadily increasing its short-term economic performance. According to the latest data from the National Forest Inventory, eucalyptus grew by 13% between 1995 and 2010 and are now the dominant species in the Portuguese forest, with 812,000 hectares.

On the other hand walks the maritime pine, which is being decimated by fires, by a forest pest (nematode) and the consequent lack of interest in their exploitation. The occupied area fell 27% between 1995 and 2010 and the species that was once dominant, is now in third position, below the eucalyptus and glued to the cork.

The lack of interest in maritime pine is revealed in the new law enforcement figures. Only 0.7% of the area of afforestation or afforestation, between October and December, are of that kind. More success is having the stone pine, the second most important species in applications for authorization or prior communications - 4% of the total area. The growing interest in the stone pine was already identified in the Forest Inventory, which recorded a rise of 54% in the occupied area between 1995 and 2010.

The new law on afforestation and reforestation has been strongly challenged for allegedly facilitating the expansion of eucalyptus. For more than two decades that the species is seen by many as a danger, the risk of high consumption of water, soil erosion and bet on forest monocultures with little potential in terms of biodiversity.

According to legislation that has now been repealed, the crops they had completed continuous areas with more than 50 hectares were subject to prior authorization from the forestry authority. Below that were subject to approval of municipal councils, under a decree law on changes in the relief and vegetation.

This week, non-governmental organizations and the academic community joined a Platform for Forest, which requires the repeal of the new law. The platform subscribers say, in a statement, that the law "is an incentive for the perpetuation of the existing uncontrolled and disordering situation at the moment in the Portuguese forest."

The possibility of planting forest without authorization under two hectares is one of the aspects that concern critics of the legislation. This possibility is proving to be not significant, according to figures released by now ICNF. While nearly half (48%) of all cases brought in ICNF refer to previous communications, the area is represented only 8% of the surface relating to all requests. The average area of each communication is 1.3 hectares.

Already permits totaling 52% of applications and 92% of the area, with an average area of 12.5 hectares.

The new forest area - 446 hectares of afforestation applications - is almost negligible compared with the existing forest area in the country, which is 3.2 million hectares.

The ICNF draws attention to the fact that this data was referring to applications and communications, not operations already approved.


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