Conservation Actions

  • Seeds are coming to life!

Germination of the seeds of Portuguese Laurel, Pontic Rhododendron, oaks and many other species began!

During the months of November and December 2018 thousands of seeds were collected from various plants typical of the Portuguese Laurel  (Prunus lusitanica L.) and Pontic Rhododendron (Rhododendron ponticum subsp. Baeticum) Communities. . These seeds are found in the CICYTEX nursery to germinate and grow sufficiently to be planted in the Life-Relict project areas (Serra de Monchique, Açor and Estrela). The initial difficulties, especially associated with germination, were overcome and this year we have a large amount of seedlings.

It’s amazing how the germination of the Portuguese Laurel is vigorous. Good news is expected for recovery!

 

Pontic Rhododendron seeds have high germination percentage, however, many of the seedlings are lost due to adaptive difficulties. In this sense, the substrate used is collected directly in the field, thus reproducing more faithfully the conditions favorable to seedling growth.

 

Also oaks, in general, already have evidence of germination. Monchique oak (Quercus canariensis), White oak (Quercus robur subsp. Broteroana), black oak (Quercus pyrenaica), among others, are already eager to show themselves to the public.

Soon we will have beautiful oaks to plant!

  

 

 

  • Recovery of the “Levada” in Cabeça

“Levadas” are man-made waterway conduction systems that allow the displacement and use of water for multiple purposes. They usually have a gentle slope and have gained particular relevance in the development of Madeira Island, where water flows from the wetter north slopes to the south slopes.

In the village of Cabeça (Serra da Estrela), they were built mainly to feed watermills and support agriculture.

  

However, with the rural exodus, the agricultural land of many villages in the country was being abandoned and, consequently, all associated irrigation systems. This is the case of the “Levada” in Cabeça village which is in a poor state of conservation. This “levada” is supplied by the waters of Loriga Stream and, due to its traditional character, is not waterproofed, which allows the constant infiltration of water in the soil along its path. This increase in soil water favors Portuguese Laurel communities, thus increasing their installation success and resilience to eventual climate change.

Thus, the Life-Relict project recovered, by the end of 2018, the “levada” along 1.2 kilometers. The canal clearance works were performed manually by cleaning with shovels.

  

We hope with the recovery of this led to significant improvement of conservation status of Portuguese Laurel communities (Prunus lusitanica L.) in Cabeça village.

 

 

 

 

  • Control of heliophilic scrubs in Monchique

Heliophilous shrubs are, in vegetation dynamic terms, part of the first stages of progressive ecological succession. That is, it is usually the bushes that are further away from the potential vegetation of a given territory¹. Due to their pioneering character, they are the first shrubs to settle after the abandonment of pasture areas, erosion soils or even on land tilled by fire (depending on seed availability). On the other hand, the heliophilic shrubs are those that present the highest risk of fire, due to their morphological structure, very woody from the base, narrow, long, hairy leaves and sometimes rich in essential oils. Within this type of shrubs stand out those belonging to the genera Cistus, Erica, Lavandula, Ulex, Calluna and Cytisus.

  

The existing communities of Pontic Rhododendron in Serra de Monchique are degraded, forming small patches between a “sea” of heliophilic scrub. Given this scenario, the Life-Relict project has moved on to control these shrubs with the aim to reducing the risk of fire and will promote the mature stages of progressive ecological succession, closer to the Habitat 5230 (92/43 / EEC). A higher evolved vegetation presents, in this case, greater resistance to fire, constituting an important refuge for a set of species of high patrimonial interest.

In the intervention area, although there are currently no well-formed forests, the potential climatophilic vegetation would be dominated, depending on the ecology, by oaks, such as the monchique oak (Quercus canariensis), the Estremadura oak (Quercus estremadurensis). , the cork oak (Quercus suber), among others.

 

 

  • Management of the burned areas of Portuguese Laurel  in Mata da Margaraça

On April 19th, the Life-Relict project began the recovery the area most affected by the fire of October 2017 in Mata da Margaraça. The forest team of Seia Municipality cut down all the tree specimens that had the total canopy burned, then cut down in small pieces these trees and deposited the trunks and branches on the slopes perpendicular to the highest slope line, avoiding the dragging of trunks so as not to aggravate erosion.

The work was difficult due to the high density of burnt plant material, but also by the steep slopes. However, the extensive experience of the forest team of Seia Municipality was crucial for the good development of the work. The interventions were made cautiously and conservatively to ensure a better recovery of the local tree vegetation.