The Buçaco National Forest was created in the 17th century by the Unshod Carmelites, who fenced off an area of 400 ha and planted ‘Biblical’ tree species such as cypress and cedar. In 1834, the forest came under State ownership and new trees were planted. Together with other surviving parts of the original forests which are characteristic of the region – especially oak and laurel woods – these autochtonous woods encompass about 17.5 ha of a adernal habitat, which is unique in Portugal and Europe. Sharing some characteristics with Thermo-Mediterranean and pre-steppe scrub habitats, these relict woods are under threat from the expansion of alien invasive species, such as three acacia species, which have been the subject of eradication attempts in other areas.
The LIFE BRIGHT Biodiversity project aimed to control and eradicate the invasive alien species that are threatening biodiversity in the Buçaco National Forest. The project also aimed to recover local habitats by implementing a set of integrated conservation actions: control/eradication of alien species, propagation/plantation of autochtonous flora that is characteristic of the original habitats, and the active involvement of stakeholders (such as schools, local communities, visitors, and families and employees of local businesses committed to social/environmental policies).
The BRIGHT project achieved its main objectives of controlling and eradicating invasive alien flora species threatening biodiversity in the Buçaco National Forest in Portugal, recovering habitats by implementing a set of integrated conservation actions, and actively involving stakeholders, such as local communities, schools and businesses, in this work.
The project’s main achievements include:
- A total of around 92 500 plants produced in the plant nursery;
- A total of 61 602 native plants planted in the target areas during the project;
- 51.5 ha of autochthonous forest of Phillyrea latifoliaand Ruscus aculeatus recovered (30.6 ha foreseen);
- 10.3 ha of Pinus pinaster forest replaced by native species (5 ha foreseen);
- Control of invasive herbaceous species in an area of 16.7 ha;
- Control of invasive tree species in an area of 43 ha;
- Drafting of pedagogic kit and Fauna and Flora Field Guide;
- Project dissemination in the media. In total, 258 news items about the project in national newspapers, as well as 13 radio and 7 TV interviews;
- Proficient dissemination directed at the general public, with a total of 261 activities undertaken with 10 398 participants and enterprises (177 companies, public entities or social institutions);
- School programme implemented (362 activities involving a total of 13 857 students from the four levels of the teaching programme);
- Regular organisation of dissemination events for results transference;
- Networking with a high number of LIFE and non-LIFE projects.
During the first two years of the project, conservation actions were implemented at such a rate that the beneficiary expected to largely surpass the initial goals. However, in January 2013 a cyclone hit the project area, destroying an important part of the forest, and two further storms also affected the work programme. As a consequence, for three/four months all project work was stopped to allow the removal of fallen trees. Nevertheless, work subsequently continued at a good pace despite the continuous need to remove trees at risk of falling and other vegetation biomass in the implementation plots.
None of the invasive alien species in the project area was eradicated, but their densities were substantially reduced and the beneficiaries are on track to eliminate this threat in the coming years, if control tasks are implemented as set out in the post-LIFE Plan.