More than one-third of Portugal is forested. Most of the mountainous areas are well suited to forestry and forest products, such as cork, resins and pine and eucalyptus timber. The market value of these so-called “natural products” has increased and there is a growing demand for the industry. But also causes major problems.
Eucalyptus was first imported from Australia in the 18th century. They are among the world’s fastest-growing trees and became Portugal’s most common one – a profitable cash crop for paper and pulp. Several species are invasive and causing major problems for local ecosystems, mainly due to the absence of wildlife corridors and rotations management. Eucalyptus trees exacerbate deadly fires. Their sap is flammable, and so is their bark, which flies off when burned, igniting new fires up to 100 yards away. The fuel for the non-stoppable 2003, 2013, and 2017 forest fires.
- In 2003, 317 square kilometers of forest burned in ten days, i.e. 80% of the municipality.
- In 2017, 66 people died in the fires – the largest loss of life in Portugal’s history. 204 people were injured, including 13 firefighters. A total of 45,000 hectares (450 sq. km) of land was burned by the fires as of 20 June. Of this, 30,000 hectares were in the Pedrógão Grande area. In Pardieros, Shiveshvar and Supriya lost their hose, including many other homes of progressive-minded members.
The greed of Eucalyptus commercial value, 10% of the Portuguese state went in smoke in less than a generation. Destroyed the eco-system which was already damaged when native trees were cut for shipbuilding and maintenance.
The massive naval construction during the maritime expansion (mainly in the 15th–16th centuries) involved a felling of approximately 5 million trees mainly Quercus suber, Pinus pinea, and other Quercus species. Cumulative fuel-wood consumption of 959 Mm3 during 1300–1854 was attributed to demographic expansion while the deforestation rate from 1636–1854 accounted for a minimum of 72.6% and a maximum of 96% of total forest cover. The volume of timber used in railway sleepers from 1856 onward might have reached 0.5 Mm3. The last quarter of the 20th century increased the forest cover of Portugal through the World Bank program of Eucalyptus globulus reforestation.
By Rasatmakananda (14 September 2019)