Air Force joins reforestation efforts in Serra da Estrela

The Portuguese Air Force has participated in a reforestation mission in the Central Serra da Estrela region, where a large fire in 2017 destroyed thousands of hectares of forest. The mission was organized by the Friends of Serra da Estrela cultural association, which aims to restore the natural heritage of the mountain range.

The Air Force collaborated with the association by providing aerial support for planting trees in difficult-to-access places. The operation involved two helicopters, which carried about 1,000 seedlings of native species, such as oak, chestnut, and birch. The seedlings were then distributed by volunteers on the ground, who planted them in strategic locations to prevent soil erosion and promote biodiversity.

Air Force joins reforestation efforts in Serra da Estrela
Air Force joins reforestation efforts in Serra da Estrela

The Air Force’s involvement in the reforestation mission was part of its social responsibility and environmental awareness initiatives, which seek to contribute to the preservation of the national territory and the well-being of the population. The Air Force also expressed its gratitude to the association for inviting it to participate in this noble cause.

A long-term vision for Serra da Estrela

The reforestation mission was not the first one carried out by the Friends of Serra da Estrela association, which has been working since 2018 to restore the natural landscape of the mountain range, which was severely affected by the fire that broke out in October 2017. The fire burned for 11 days and consumed more than 27,000 hectares of forest, mainly composed of pine and eucalyptus.

The association’s goal is to rewild Serra da Estrela and make it more resilient to fire, more functional from the ecological point of view, and more diverse and abundant in fauna and flora. To achieve this, the association has been implementing various actions, such as:

  • Cutting and disposing of dead wood to prevent further fires and create palisades to prevent erosion
  • Sowing seeds of native species to regenerate the vegetation and provide food and shelter for the wildlife
  • Improving the water collection in the landscape by creating small ponds and flooding areas
  • Increasing the herbivory and reintroducing key species of wild and semi-wild herbivores, such as horses, deer, and mountain goats
  • Creating an Integral Forest Management Plan for the Serra da Estrela for the next decade

The association has also been collaborating with other entities, such as the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests, the Portuguese Environment Agency, and the City Councils of the Serra da Estrela region, to coordinate and optimize the restoration efforts.

A challenge and an opportunity for Serra da Estrela

The fire that devastated Serra da Estrela in 2017 was one of the worst in the history of Portugal, and had a huge impact on the ecosystems, the economy, and the culture of the region. However, it also created an opportunity to rethink and redesign the future of the mountain range, and to adopt a more sustainable and holistic approach to its management.

The reforestation mission carried out by the Air Force and the Friends of Serra da Estrela association is an example of how different actors can work together to restore the natural heritage of Serra da Estrela and prevent further disasters. It is also a sign of hope and resilience for the people who live in and love this unique and beautiful place.

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