Ecological Restoration of a Cork Oak Forest

Project location: PORTUGAL, Green Belt
Project start date: January 2004 - Project end date: January 2005
Project number: 2003-24
Beneficiary: WWF-Mediterranean Programme

Background Information

Non Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) are all those commercial products other than timber, that can be extracted from forests. Typical NTFP include: resins, oils and gums, medicinal plants, spices, honey, fruits, and nuts (chestnuts, pine kernels etc). NTFPs are important for the conservation of forests around the Globe, because they add concrete economic value to them: through the sustainable collection of NTFPs, local communities and enterprises can gain revenues from the forest without destroying it, and this is a very important argument in favour of the conservation of forests. Since 1998 WWF-MedPO is active on the issue of NTFPs in several countries of the Mediterranean region. Several achievements have been reached particularly in Portugal and Tunisia, where products such as honey, spices, and medicinal plants are sold for the benefit of grassroots communities, in the framework of conservation projects promoted by WWF. Cork is without any doubt the most important NTFP in the Mediterranean, and its production cycle is indissolubly linked to the conservation of critical forest ecosystems and traditional rural landscapes in the whole western part of the basin, from Portugal to the Thyrrenian coast of Italy - as well as in the countries of the Maghreb. In order to reverse the serious negative trend which threatens the survival of this important resource, WWF has recently decided to initiate a campaign for the protection, certification and sustainable management of cork forests in the Western Mediterranean.
Cork is obtained from a outer bark-layer extraction process of the oak tree Quercus suber - a tree endemic to the western Mediterranean region. If properly done - cork extraction does not damage the trees, and this socio-economic activity has an extremely world-wide significance, being part of important international markets, particularly the wine and champagne industry. Unfortunately, during the last decades, the cork oak management systems have gone through a global crisis which has resulted in the abandonment, degradation, and conversion of many cork oak woodlands. Increasingly, the cork market for the wine and champagne industry is under threat due to growing competition and substitution from synthetic (plastic, metal) stoppers. The restoration, conservation and adequate management of the cork oak woodlands according to well-defined certification standards, and the promotion of cork production have an incredible potential to both support local, national and international economies, and to contribute towards the maintenance of large areas of Mediterranean forests.

Project Results


Final Report

Executive Summary

Project Title: The Southern Portugal Green Belt - the ecological restoration of a cork oak forest (pilot project)  

Duration of the Project: One year (March 2004 - February 2005) 

Implementing Organisation: WWF Mediterranean Programme Office (WWF MedPO) - a branch of the WWF European Policy Office  The Southern Portugal Green Belt - the ecological restoration of a cork oak forest is a pilot project, which began in March 2004, implemented by the WWF Mediterranean Programme Office (WWF MedPO) - a branch of the WWF European Policy Office. 

Over a year the pilot project aimed to:  
- Develop ecological restoration guidelines for cork oak forests; 
- Test those guidelines through the engagement of various local stakeholders, in setting up two (2) field ecological restoration teams, each in one project site : The Monte do Vento (Guadiana Valley at the eastern border of the Green belt area & Ribeira Abaixo (Grandola the western border of the Green Belt area);
- Produce plants for use in the restoration of the two pilot project sites, at the Monte do Vento tree nursery owned and run by a local NGO partner (ADPM); 
- Raise the awareness of local stakeholders (land owners) to apply the guidelines/ project pilot experiences to their own lands in the same areas (Guadiana valley & Grandola) The project was run by a team of technical staff and a communicator from WWF MedPO, ADPM, CBA.

The project was successful in each of the areas outlined above. Furthermore, the achievements of the pilot project can be developed and built upon. The pilot project team has developed proposals for fundraising to continue the work at the two sites (monitoring & maintenance of field work). In addition, the success of the pilot project has led to an expansion of the project strategy to other areas in the Green Belt. Support for this has been obtained from the Algarve reforestation commission to develop and implement a restoration  project in Monchique (a burnt area) involving other partners (Monchqiue land owners co operative, Pulp companies like Celbi and Portucel, local NGO Vicentina). WWF is also in discussion with LPN (an NGO active in the Caldeirao region, implementing a project on the conservation of the Iberian Lynx), to develop a project for restoring habitat requirements for the Lynx.   
Activities The following activities were carried out during the project: 

1. Priority areas for forest landscape restoration were mapped. Specific sites were selected in biodiversity hotspot areas identified by the Green Belt project in its first phase. The selected sites are : 
- Herdade da Ribeira Abaixo (HRA), located in the Cercal/Grandola Natura 2000 site (221 ha) owned by the Centre for Environmental biology /CBA) research station of the University of Lisbon and the Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture. An MOU was signed with CBA to undertake the work.               See Annex 1. A detailed presentation of the site is included in Annex 2. Maps are included in the document "technical specifications of the project" in Annex 3.1. The restoration intervention zone covers approximately 15.5 ha.
- Monte do Vento, located in the Baixo Guadiana Valley Natural park (198 ha), belongs to ADPM (Associao de Defesa do patrimonio de Mértola). The intervention zone is extending over 13 ha. See Annex 4.1 & 4.2 for localisation of the site.

2. Ecological restoration guidelines were developed. These have been published in both Portuguese and English, and the guidelines were used by the team in designing the pilot restoration activities. They were also instrumental in raising the awareness of different stakeholders on Forest landscape restoration. These guidelines were sent as an annex to the interim report.   The detailed methodological guidelines and restoration plans were developed (methodology, selection of plant species & work plan) by the project team. See detailed technical specifications in Annex 5.  3. Local farmers were involved and participatory plan (meetings, workshops, field visits) implemented.  As the Southern Portugal Green Belt project is a demonstration project, its primary objective is the involvement of key stakeholders (farmers, forestry departments, local associations) whose participation, it is hoped, will generate resources and the continuation of restoration work within the whole green belt area in the longer-term. In addition to the workshops & meetings already undertaken during the last reporting period, the team: 

a) Organized 5 field visits for invited stakeholders in January and February 05 to the project sites to demonstrate the ecological restoration methodology implemented in the project;
b) Organized 15 spontaneous visits to the restoration site (requested by farmers);
c) Organized a workshop in Monte do Vento, in January 2005  to explain the project and the methodology as well as the results to farmers. See Annex 6 including agenda and minutes of the workshop. See pictures in Annex 14
4. Plant material (seeds, etc) was collected and planting proceeded in the tree nursery. Acorns were collected in Monte do Vento and Herdade da Ribeira Abaixo at the beginning of January 2004. Seven thousand of these were planted in January/February 2004 in the tree nursery, to be used at the 2 sites. In addition, during the period March to May 2004, 3,000 native plants (Arbutus Unedo, Cercis siliquastrum, Punica granatum and Fraxinus angustifolia ) were produced in the tree nursery to increase/ improve biodiversity in the areas to be restored. See in Annex 7 the exhaustive list of plant species used. Moreover, between December 2004 and February 2005,  15,000 native plants of various species were prepared for the following restoration work to be undertaken in 2005 after the closure of the NPF-funded project. 5. Saplings were planted and field operations began. Based on the detailed methodology and plan developed (see Annex 3.1 & 3.2), field work was executed in 13 ha at Monte do Vento and in 15.5 ha at Herdade da Ribeira Abaixo as follows : 
a) Preparation and cleaning (May 2004) and contracting the executants (September 2004);
b) Vegetation control and soil mobilization (November 2004);
c) Cork oak saplings were inoculated with fungi to improve soil ecosystems and plant health;
d) Planting in November 2004.

6. Lobbying, public participation & demonstration events were undertaken. In addition to the actions mentioned in point 3, various events (training days and field visits) were organized to demonstrate the methodology/results of the project: 
a) A one-day applied training workshop for tree nursery production techniques for native species from cork oak forests was organized by WWF in Mertola (Monte do Vento, November 2004) targeting NGOs, land owners and foresters involved in the WWF cork oak forest projects in Portugal, Tunisia, Morocco.
b) As a follow-up to the training, a two-day field visit through the Green belt area was organized to share experiences, project restoration results of the 2 sites (Monte de Vento, HRA) and other sites where restoration is foreseen (Monchique, Cladeirao). See in Annex 8, detailed agenda, minutes and evaluation of the exchange programme. A press conference was organized by the Communication consultant (Angela Morgado) and communications team of WWF MedPO with the local and national press during the last day of the visit (30 November) to present the project results. See in Annex 9,  the detailed press conference report including the press clippings.
c) Organization of a workshop with interested stakeholders to build a project to extend restoration to 100 ha in Monte do Vento, to be funded through AGRO and the RURIS Programme. See the description of the project in Annex 10.
d) Organization of a workshop about the project results with the GB partners and institutions in January 2005. See attached the agenda and minutes of the workshop in Annex 6.
e) Field visits to the Monte do Vento restoration project site including explanation of methodology applied and results were included is part of the regular environmental education programme undertaken by ADPM in Monte do Vento during the period December 2004- February 2005). See Pictures in Annex 14. 
Following is a summary of the concrete results achieved by the project:  Planting: a)  A total of 25,000 plants (including Q. suber, Q faginea, Fraxinus, Arbutus      unedo); were produced by the tree nursery    b)  4,500 saplings were planted at Monte do Vento in November 2004; c)  10,000 saplings were planted at HRA in November 2004.  Capacity building a)  5 official visits were organized and 15 spontaneous visits were organized for local farmers who asked to visit the project; b)  Significant number of land owners (15) asked for and received the team's technical advice on restoration issues in the green belt area; c)  The ecological restoration methodology developed by the project team was applied to the Santo Andrea nature reserve as requested by the nature reserve director after her participation in the Press conference held in November 2004 in HRA.
d)  Participants from Portugal, Morocco and Tunisia (foresters and NGOs were trained on tree nursery and ecological restoration and learnt about the project sites.
 Partnerships a)  A number of important stakeholders support the project and are now collaborating on its implementation. Partnerships between WWF and a research institution (CBA-FFUL) and local partner NGO ADPM have been officially formed; b)  Partnerships created with different types of stakeholders, including the regional Algarve reforestation commission, the farmers association of Monchique, other NGOs like LPN and In LOCO in Guadiana valley for expanding the project's methodology/ results/experience into other areas of the green belt (Monchique, Caldeirao). See attached in Annex 11, the list of partners.   c)  The reforestation commission officially agreed to fund a restoration project in Monchique (during the press conference in HRA, November 2004). A project proposal is currently under development. See in Annex 12, the project description. This project will also involve other local stakeholders (Local associations and cooperatives, the NGO Inloco and important organisations such as Portucel, Celbi) and will be launched at the beginning of June 2005.     Continued funding: a)  Funding has been secured through the cork oak landscapes programme and local funding programmes for the Ribeira Abaixo and Monte do Vento projects.  b)  Secured funding from the FEDER programme (50,000 euros), matching funds secured by WWF 18,000 euros through the cork programme  for the development and implementation of a restoration project in Monchique as mentioned above.
 Main challenges encountered during the project a)  Drought in winter and high temperatures in summer damaged many of the saplings at Monte do Vento. The Monte do Vento team will be following up with continued actions (planting during Spring/Autumn) and maintenance.  b)  The project encompassed not only field work but also awareness raising, education and building partnerships for successful restoration. This work entailed a large and consistent effort from the team, and needs to be sustained in the future.  c)  It will be necessary to monitor and evaluate the work carried out so far over the coming years. Monitoring will be developed for the Green belt areas for the 2 sites and other new sites (Monchique and Caldeirao).  

To ensure the successful dissemination and communication of the project and its results, a communications consultant was hired. The communicator (Angela Morgado) has built a Media database and contacts and developed a communications strategy. The communications activities  have been implemented successfully. These are described as follows :

Portugal, 7 October 2004
In the Southern Portugal Green Belt area a communication action was launched on the impact of forest fires, in Sao Bras de Alportel. Media were invited to an exhibition of photos of burnt forests ("Cordao Negro - para que naovolte a contecer" ) and a series of panels on the Green Belt project in Portugal was presented.  A press release was distributed as well as a press kit containing detailed information about WWF's approach and work to restore burnt landscapes in Southern Portugal. The event drew the attention of the main media of the country. Five journalists attended the press conference and the news was published / broadcast in 14 different media including the main newspapers and radio, and on websites, both general and those specialising in environmental matters. See attached in Annex 13, the communications report, October 2004  including press clippings.

Portugal, 31 November 2004
A media event was organised to promote the first WWF restoration projects in the Green Belt area, in Ribeira Abaixo. A press conference and a field visit took place, with the participation of the Portuguese National Commission for Forestry and forestry department representatives and NGO representatives from  Portugal, Tunisia and Morocco.
A press release was distributed as well as a press kit containing detailed information and photos about WWF's approach and work to restore landscapes in Ribeira Abaixo and Southern Portugal. It was covered by 16 media, including newspapers, websites, TV and radio. Pedro Regato and Luis Neves Silva were interviewed by the national radio and television. See Annex 9 communication report, November 04. The event was followed by the official signature of a partnership between the Portuguese government and WWF for the restoration of burnt landscapes at Monchique in Southern Portugal.
The way forward
Through its recently developed Cork Oak Landscapes Programme, which aims to protect, manage and restore cork oak landscapes in the South Western Mediterranean, WWF will ensure the sustainability of the work and results produced by the pilot project funded by the Nando Peretti Foundation. Moreover WWF will continue to disseminate the results of this project through its partners in Portugal, both throughout the Mediterranean and internationally. As demonstrated in the above section on achievements, in addition to the project activities implemented during this year-long pilot project, WWF and local partners have put much effort into securing funding for: 
- the continuation of the restoration work; 
- the expansion of the project strategy to other sites where restoration is a priority (Monchique and Caldeirao initially).

These projects are possible thanks to WWF's partnerships with the Algarve regional reforestation commission (The Algarve Regional Forestry Commission (Ministry of Agriculture), the main pulp companies in Portugal (Portucel and Celbi), associations of farmers and local development NGOs, initiated and strengthened through the pilot project.

The following will ensure continuation of the restoration work in the Southern Portugal Green Belt:
- The Heredade de Ribera Baixo pilot restoration plan has been submitted to the EC/Leader budget line. Funding has been secured to continue the field restoration work (that was supported by Nando Peretti foundation in 2004)  in 2005 and 2006.
- The Monte do Vento pilot restoration plan will be submitted to the European Commission (EC) Agro and Ruris programmes for securing funding for 2005 and 2006. See Annex 3.2.  
- The Monchique pilot restoration plan has secured funding for 2005 through WWF UK. The Algarve Regional Forestry Commission (Ministry of Agriculture) has committed to co-fund 75% of the WWF pilot restoration work in Monchique for 2005 and 2006. Project proposal is under finalization, see draft proposal description in Annex 12. 
- A pilot restoration plan for Caldeirao is currently being discussed with other actors involved in nature conservation (i.e. The Iberian lynx project managed by the Portuguese NGO LPN) and development projects in this Natura 2000 site (i.e. the cork oak forest management project led by the local NGO In Loco).

ADL Associação de Desenvolvimento do Litoral Alentejano
ADPM  Associação de Desenvolvimento do Património de Mértola
AGRO and the RURIS Programme The Operational Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development
Alentejo XXI Associação de Desenvolvimento Integrado do Meio Rural
CBA-FFCUL  Centro de Biologia Ambiental da Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa
ESDIME Agência para o Desenvolvimento Local no Alentejo Sudoeste
HRA Herdade da Ribeira Abaixo
In Loco  Associação In Loco
IMOBIENTE IMOBIENTE, Ambiente e Recursos da Terra
INAG Water National Institute
LPN Liga para a Protecção da Natureza
MICOFLORA  Micologia Florestal Aplicada, Lda.
NGO Non-governmental organisation
PNVG Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana
Vicentina Associação para o Desenvolvimento do Sudoeste
WWF MedPO Mediterranean Programme Office

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