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sustainable forestry practice
The Portuguese Operational Group OakRegeneration proposes agricultural set aside schemes to promote oak natural regeneration hot spots and forest management practices to speed up the lengthy natural regeneration process.
Woodlands with evergreen oaks - cork oak (Quercus suber L.) and holm oak (Quercus rotundifolia Lam.) - are dominant features in the agrarian landscapes of Southern Portugal, where they occupy about 1.2 million ha. These woodlands, called Montados, are open woodlands which have a tree layer and a herbaceous understorey (herbs and grasses growing underneath the trees). The trees are managed for the production of firewood, charcoal, acorns and cork. Annual crops, pastures or fallows are grown in the understorey and it is also used for rearing livestock.
Trees in these oak woodlands are considered as “ecosystem engineers” (Costa et al., 2014), they control ecological processes and functions and enhance structural complexity, habitats and biodiversity. However, trees are currently facing many risks due to environmental and social changes and their failure to regenerate naturally is the major threat to the restoration and conservation of Montados.
Natural regeneration is a sustainable solution for oak woodland conservation and must not be neglected. Natural cork and holm oak regeneration areas still occur spontaneously in oak woodlands and when carefully managed, these areas can prosper and even be extended. Enabling cork and holm oak woodlands to regenerate naturally however, requires specific, active and long-term management.
The success of a complex and long-term process of natural regeneration depends on multiple factors acting at different stages of the trees’ lives, these include:
The Operational Group OakRegeneration assumes that agricultural set aside schemes when applied in restricted and selected oak woodland areas will contribute to the onset of the natural oak regeneration process through a secondary forest ecological succession. The project will analyse the regeneration process success on two main pilot areas with distinct set aside areas in oak woodlands, for 5 to 20 years:
Also, the project is implementing agricultural set aside schemes in selected oak woodland areas in order to enable natural oak regeneration. The forest owners involved in the project have restricted agricultural set aside areas in their oak woodlands and are applying specific forest management practices and testing them under local conditions.
The management practices include:
The necessary time period of agricultural set aside for a successful natural regeneration process will be assessed, based on a natural regeneration forest inventory.
The OakRegeneration Group will disseminate its results to foresters and policy makers at regional and national level. It has set up a website (www.oakregeneration.pt) where all of the actions in each agricultural set aside area can be monitored, it also includes a free georeferenced spatial platform and scientific and technical publications related to natural regeneration.
OakRegeneration has participated in two national and two international workshops and has published two documents. It will organise dedicated workshops this year to bring together agri-associations, forest owners and forest managers.
The final goal of OakRegeneration Operational Group is to provide basic scientific and technical knowledge on the process of oak natural regeneration for the conservation of Montados, with improved adaptive capacity to global changes:
Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e Veterinária, I.P. email@example.com
This Operational Group presented their project at the Agri-Innovation Summit 2017 (AIS 2017) which took place in October 2017 in Oeiras, Portugal. More information on this event.