LAURISSILVA SUSTENTAVEL - Recovery, conservation and sustainable management of Tronqueira/Planalto dos Graminhais

LIFE07 NAT/P/000630

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Joaquim TEODOSIO
Tel: +351 213 220 430
Fax: +351 213 220 439
Email: joaquim.teodosio@spea.pt

Project description:


Millions of euros are spent every year on the attempted eradication or control of invasive alien species – often with little result. This kind of work is very demanding on human and financial resources. The behaviour of these species requires the use of very efficient techniques and the continuous monitoring of new invasions.

The problem is even greater for islands that often have unique habitats and species. Two of the difficulties for islands with a large number of invasive alien plants (for example, São Miguel) are the need for specially qualified teams and the availability of native flora to plant in the spaces freed of exotic species through control measures. Projects, such as the LIFE Priolo/Azores bullfinch project, have demonstrated the possibility of adopting a habitat approach to combat some alien plant species. Previous initiatives have resulted in several policy-related actions, management plans and new regional laws, but it is still difficult to find enough native plants for the restoration of habitats. It is also difficult to find workers who already have experience with invasive species control.

Independent funding allocated to the conservation of a Natura 2000 site (SPA and SCI) is crucial for its long-term sustainability. Economic activities that depend on the maintenance of the rich local natural heritage can contribute to the continuity of the conservation efforts after the end of a LIFE project. It would also be beneficial to assist local producers in the development of products and services that could benefit the conservation of the area or support these efforts economically, e.g. handcrafts, gastronomy, tourism, etc.


The LAURISSILVA SUSTENTAVEL project aimed to achieve the future management of native habitats and control of invasive alien species by addressing the basic needs that were not being met, including a nursery dedicated to the production of native plants for conservation purposes and a qualified team that can launch a programme for alien species control for the management of natural sites. Sustainable management will also be ensured by the creation of a network of protected areas.


The LAURISSILVA SUSTENTAVEL project reached all the proposed objectives and even surpassed them in some respects, for instance, regarding the surface area of Laurel forest recovered. The change achieve in the environment is already quite visible. As one of its main achievements, the project allowed the identification and designation of a new NATURA 2000 network site in the Azores, namely the Site of Community Importance Serra da Tronqueira/Planalto dos Graminhais (PTMIG0024), which had already been classified as a Special Protection Area due to the presence of the Azores bullfinch or ‘Priolo’ (Pyrrhula murina), a bird endemic to this site. The site covers an area of 2 010 ha.

Further objectives included the conservation of priority natural habitats of the Azores, in particular, areas of Azorean natural forest (including the following priority habitats for conservation: 9560 * endemic Juniper forests; 9360 * Macaronesian laurel forest; 4050 * endemic Macaronesian heaths ) and mires (e.g. 7110 * active raised bogs; 7120 degraded raised bogs still capable of natural regeneration; 91D0 * bog woodland).

The project successfully tested and implemented methodologies for the recovery and management of important areas of priority habitats, conducted dissemination and awareness-raising activities regarding the importance of the habitats’ preservation as well as activities to foster and promote alternative and sustainable ways to improve the local economy, coupled with the conservation of ecosystems, for example through nature tourism. Direct actions for the recovery of natural areas were implemented by controlling invasive exotic vegetation and planting various types of native species grown in nurseries. During this project, 52 ha of natural forest habitats in four different areas (Pico Bartolomeu, Malhada, Labaçal and Mata dos Bispos) were treated. The interventions in these areas, which exhibit different characteristics regarding exposure to sun and wind, altitude and rainfall patterns, allowed to recover areas of native forest with variations in terms of floristic composition. In the areas, where interventions took place, more than 86 000 native plants, produced in a nursery built specifically for the purpose, were planted. The project’s control measures have high demonstrative value for the removal of exotic vegetation and the recovery of native Macaronesian habitats. To achieve their objectives, the team applied innovative mechanical and chemical methods that could be replicated in other Macaronesian islands.

To ensure that lessons learnt are not lost, the project included a practical guide to the eradication of exotic species as part of its final report. It is a 52-page document, including detailed information about the different exotic species found in Azores Islands. For each species, it details the distribution, types of reproduction, description, ecology, and general impact as invasive species, and control methods. The creation of an original Azorean blueberry orchard and restructuring of the only active raised bogs area in Sao Miguel to restore the water regulation system that affects all the remaining natural habitats downstream also exhibit high demonstrative value. During the runtime of the project, this nursery produced over 126 000 specimen of 21 endemic and native species to support the recovery of the intervention areas during as well as after the completion of the project.

In the peatland areas, the team took additional actions beyond invasive alien species control measures to restore the soil water level and thus allow the recovery of the plant communities that make up these habitats. These actions involved recovering old penetration roads, closing drainage ditches, preventing cattle grazing, and improving walking trails, among others.

As a result of these actions, the project recovered 81 ha of peatlands and potential habitat on the plateau of Graminhais. In addition, the forestry services Serviços Florestais do Nordeste contributed to the conservation of over 24 ha of peatland adjacent to the intervention areas of the LIFE+.

The project developed several territorial management tools and also conducted a review of the European Action Plan for the Azores bullfinch for the period 2009-2019 and the Management Plan 2013-2017 for the areas of the Natural Park of São Miguel Island covering the SPA and SCI, both plans already under implementation. Moreover, the team prepared and submitted an application to the ‘European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in the Lands of Priolo’, officially approved in 2012. Its plan of action (2012-2016) is also in implementation in the target territory (municipalities of Nordeste and Povoação). Within this charter, the project also established and promoted the Priolo Brand, which already counted 19 companies from the tourism sector as members only one year after its inception.

All of the actions were monitored to assess their effects as well as of the actual recovery rate in the intervention areas, enabling an adaptive management of the project according to the observed results. The monitoring schemes helped to analyse the success of invasive species control, the recovery of native vegetation, the water level of the bogs, the production of plants, the evolution of some indicator species including the Azores bullfinch, and the effectiveness of the project’s awareness-raising and dissemination actions.

Regarding the dissemination and public awareness actions, the team carried out a wide range of activities targeting schools as well as the general population. At the end of the project, more than 10 600 young people from across the island had participated in 261 activities developed in their schools. Moreover, more than 90 activities for the general population had been implemented, reaching a total of over 820 participants. These actions included guided tours in the intervention areas, volunteer activities, lectures, courses, and exhibitions.

The consortium also developed various dissemination and awareness-raising materials such as brochures about the habitats to be protected and recovered, activity books, educational blogs and sites, etc. During the project, the dissemination of the actions was considered a key issue, using different media such as the internet (website, blog, video channel), newspapers, TV and radio. The good results of the project have also led to several invitations to give presentations at seminars and workshops in Portugal and in other European countries related to different topics covered by the project.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Biodiversity issues - Invasive species


protected area‚  management plan

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...

Target species

 Pyrrhula murina     

Target Habitat types

  • 7110 - Active raised bogs
  • 7120 - Degraded raised bogs still capable of natural regeneration
  • 91D0 - Bog woodland
  • 9360 - "Macaronesian laurel forests (Laurus, Ocotea)"
  • 9560 - Endemic forests with Juniperus spp.
  • 4050 - Endemic macaronesian heaths

Natura 2000 sites

SPA PTZPE0033 Pico da Vara / Ribeira do Guilherme - Ilha de S. Miguel



Coordinator Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description SPEA is a non-profit environmental NGO that promotes the study and conservation of birds and their habitats in Portugal by promoting sustainable development for the benefit of future generations.
Partners Câmara Municipal de Povoação (CMP), Portugal Secretaria Regional do Ambiente e do Mar (SRAM), Portugal


Project reference LIFE07 NAT/P/000630
Duration 01-JAN-2009 to 30-JUN -2013
Total budget 2,297,598.00 €
EU contribution 1,642,323.00 €
Project location Açores(Portugal)


Read more:

Leaflet "Nursery of azorean plants = Viveiro de plantas do ...
Leaflet "Habitat Naturais: protecção e bem-estar" (721 KB)
Leaflet "Turfeiras, fonte de água" (759 KB)
Leaflet "Peatland, source of water" (738 KB)
Leaflet "Floresta laurissilva, um fóssil vivo"(951 KB)
Leaflet "Laurel forest, a living fossil" (887 KB)
Poster "Projecto Laurissilva sustentável: uma floresta, u ...
Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Layman report Layman report (Portuguese version)
Publication: Pedagogical tool "Exposiçao : Uma floresta, um futuro. Actividades ...
Publication: Pedagogical tool "Exposiçao : Uma floresta, um futuro. Actividades ...
Publication: Pedagogical tool "Exposiçao : Uma floresta, um futuro. Actividades ...
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report
Video link "Açores, terras do Priolo : zona leste de S. Miguel = Azores, lands of Priolo: east of S. Miguel Island"


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version