The morning was coordinated by João Oliveira, an expert and consultant ecologist working in the field of ecosystem restoration. The topics covered during the morning provided a contextualisation of the main threats to biodiversity in this area of Portugal.

The entire talk focused on the concept of ecological succession, understood as the natural process of evolution of forest ecosystems as a consequence of traumatic events.

The context in which we found ourselves, specifically, was already heavily altered by the eucalyptus monoculture which, also due to the use of nitrogen fertilisers and herbicides such as glyphosate, made the landscape extremely desolate.

The most important message was to realise that the time scale is the greatest constraint for humans to restore ecosystems following traumatic events, as nature works and evolves on longer time scales than humans. A forest can take more than 200 years to reach maturity after a traumatic event and man cannot afford to wait.

Starting from this generic point of view, he then went on to describe the characteristics of the pioneer species, often invasive, that first establish themselves following events such as fires, which completely disrupt environmental conditions. The management of these species, which often monopolise the landscape to the detriment of biodiversity, must be done by trying to understand how energy flows regulate the evolution of ecosystems, and once we understand them, use nature-based solutions (which exploit the same dynamics, favouring their natural occurrence) to accelerate the recovery and maturation of the forest.

To do this we must also exploit the positive aspects of invasive and pioneer species, in order to put the ecosystem in a condition of self-regeneration, limiting human intervention to a minimum, which should be limited to the subsequent monitoring of the ecosystem’s progress and improvement.

At the same time as explaining these theoretical and fundamental concepts, a number of invasive species control techniques were illustrated, highlighting the impossibility of intervening directly and practically on a large scale, due to a lack of money, time and manpower, and therefore the consequent need, through targeted actions, to put ecosystems in a condition to recover autonomously and evolve towards their climax (maximum biodiversity, stability and maturation).


The afternoon activities saw the practical application of the notions addressed during the morning, in the company of a group of Portuguese high school students.

The meeting began with a brief and open discussion with the girls, asking them what their passions were, how they felt about nature, whether they undertook activities to immerse themselves in or help nature (referring to the activities carried out by the Cabeço Santo association), and what they considered to be the main difficulties preventing them from undertaking actions to connect and restore nature  (in all their aspects: from moments of simple immersion in nature to concrete actions such as waste collection).

The girls proved to be extremely openminded, collaborative and mature, immediately empathising with the project members and being able to share with great clarity the major difficulties limiting them from connecting with nature, mainly due to the fact that no one provides them with a concrete opportunity to connect; on the contrary, the topic is often not even discussed, especially in the school environment.

Following this initial moment, the activity moved to the field, where the girls were able to undertake direct restoration actions, felling trees of invasive species that had previously withered and placing them, neatly, in special piles in the forest that will be used in the future as new soil fertiliser and for restoring slope stability.

The activities took place in an atmosphere of extreme serenity and fun in which the girls enjoyed themselves and were enthusiastic about lending a concrete hand to the cause.

The afternoon ended with a tour of the forest that the association has purchased and aims to restore, highlighting the difficulties of the native vegetation to establish itself, compared to the preponderant and asphyxiating presence of pioneer species.

Adamo Irma

Member of Natufriends Italy

1 commento su “EcoCoWaLa: Activities in Portugal – day 2”

  1. Sarei felice di partecipare a queste attività. I would be very glad to support and partecipating to these very important activities . Let me know I csn join the Giam activities

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