Afforestation with Pinus Halepensis after the fire of 1979 (La Molinera)
Spain - Repoblación “La Molinera” con Pino Halepensis después del incendio del año 1979 (Spanish)
left: The Pinus Halepensis seedlings were planted linearly which is still visible from the distance. (Photo: Nina Lauterburg)
right: The success of this Pinus Halepensis afforestation is not only proved by the occurence of healthy old pines, but also by the growth of young pines and resprouter species such as Quercus which have not been planted. (Photo: Nina Lauterburg)


Post-fire afforestation with Pinus Halepensis to reduce soil erosion and to enhance forest growth.

As a consequence of the devastating fire of the year 1979 which destroyed 33’000 ha of forest, strong erosion processes occurred on the bare soil and hindered the vegetation to regrow. Furthermore, this region was already abandoned (rural exodus) and missing management practices increased the problem of erosion. Therefore the government mandated to afforest the burnt areas in 1985.
The main purpose of the afforestation was to reduce the soil erosion (which was severe at that time) by planting trees, which increases soil stability and enables forest growth again. But the state also wanted to ensure wood extraction in the future. Furthermore, the visual impact was an important driver for afforesting this area.
The afforestation was executed in the winter of 1985 (November-February/March) by the regional forest services (Conselleria de agricultura). Forest engineers, who worked for the state and planned the project, collaborated with forest agents whereas the involved forest agents contracted local villagers to help afforesting these areas. The forest agent acted as a link between engineer and forest brigade and controlled if the brigade executed what the engineer proposed. He also provided assistance to the workers. The forest brigade was paid by day-if it was raining, people did not work and did not get any salary. Nobody could provide direct information on the afforestation process in 1985 but there are not many differences of how they did it in the past and how it works today. The planting holes (60cm x 60cm x 60cm) were created with a machine (Caterpillar) using a “spoon” to open a hole and cover it again. This process loosens the soil (only possible in soils which are free from big stones). It should be noted that they did not use a ripper, they knew that the soil is destroyed using this technique. The seedlings were planted manually by the forest workers and arranged linearly because this facilitated the handling of the machines. Since the soil had a low stone content, it was suitable for the establishment of a forest. The afforested area covered around 100 ha (not continuously). Today, the costs of an afforestation are around 1500 Euro per ha, but in the past it was less expensive. They only planted Pinus Halepensis. Today, a seedling of this tree species costs between 20 and 60 Cents. If the regional forest services have their own nurseries, they do not need to spend money to buy seedlings. The success of an afforestation depends on numerous factors such as aspect and humidity (better on north-facing slopes), soil amount/fertility (better conditions on former cultivated fields), origin of the seedlings (adapted to the local climatic conditions), variability/uncertainty of the weather conditions (e.g. droughts, freezing). Usually a plantation is done in October/November and therefore especially the first summer determines the success. If it is too dry the plant will not grow (roots are too short to reach the humidity deeper in the ground). Further, the availability of trained people and the selection of appropriate machines are crucial. The documented afforestation is one of a few examples of afforestation trials which succeeded. Today there is a forest where young pines are growing naturally ("children" of the planted ones), but also resprouter species (e.g. Quercus) can be found, which regenerated without having been planted and apparently were dispersed by birds. But there are also some problems related to this afforestation. The forest agent explained that there is a high pest risk since monoplantations are less resilient to diseases (sick or dead plants in turn increase the fire risk). Another problem is that the trees were planted too densely (800-1000 plants per ha with a spacing of 5-10m) which requires recurrent management of the forest. Knowing about this problem, around the year 2003 they managed the area doing a selective clearing to reduce both the continuity and the competition between the species and thus also reduced the fire risk (“ayuda regeneración”). But the forest has become extremely dense again, thus increasing the risk of fires. There is a need to manage this area again and to extract biomass (selective clearing), but unfortunately no management project is planned for the near future.
The region of Ayora is mountainous with a dry subhumid climate (~380 mm annual rainfall). The risk of fire incidence is at its highest from June to September when there are adverse conditions like drought, high temperatures and strong winds (mainly the winds coming from central Spain, called “poniente”). The population density is very low and there are only few job opportunities (e.g. marginal agriculture, grazing, hunting, beekeeping). The plantation provided jobs for rural people. Also today forest management could be a source for jobs.
Location: Spain, Valencia
Region: Ayora, La Molinera
Technology area: 1 km2
Conservation measure: vegetative
Stage of intervention: rehabilitation / reclamation of denuded land
Origin: Developed externally / introduced through project, 10-50 years ago
Land use type:
Forests / woodlands: Natural
Forests / woodlands: Plantations, afforestations
Land use:
Other: Other: wastelands, deserts, glaciers, swamps, recreation areas, etc (before), Forests / woodlandsrests / woodlands: Plantations, afforestations (after)
Climate: subhumid, temperate
WOCAT database reference: T_SPA012en
Related approach:
Compiled by: Nina Lauterburg, Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)
Date: 2013-06-01
Contact person: Vicente Colomer, Forest Agent Generalitat Valenciana (Conselleria de infraestructura, territorio y medio ambiente). Phone: +34 669 819 522 E-mail: colomer.vju@gmail.com

        


Classification
Land use problems:
- The past land use resulted in a change of the vegetation composition (e.g. through removal of resprouter species). Due to rural exodus and land abandonment, the natural succession took place and fire-prone early-successional species colonized the abandoned fields. The vegetation grew without any control which seems to have caused the devastating fire of the year 1979 which destroyed 33’000 ha of forest. As a consequence of this fire, strong erosion processes occurred on the bare soil and hindered the vegetation to regrow. Furthermore, people which still lived there lost their properties after the fire and moved away as well. A consequence of the depopulation was a lack of management practices which increased the problem of post-fire erosion. (expert's point of view)
-


Land useClimateDegradationConservation measure
Land use Land useSubhumid
Natural
Plantations, afforestations
Other: Other: wastelands, deserts, glaciers, swamps, recreation areas, etc (before)
Forests / woodlandsrests / woodlands: Plantations, afforestations (after)
plantation forestry
subhumid
Soil erosion by water: loss of topsoil / surface erosion, Biological degradation: detrimental effects of fires
Vegetative: Tree and shrub cover
Stage of interventionOriginLevel of technical knowledge
   Prevention
   Mitigation / Reduction
   Rehabilitation
   Land users initiative
   Experiments / Research
   Externally introduced: 10-50 years ago
   Agricultural advisor
   Land user
   Engineer
Main causes of land degradation:
Direct causes - Human induced: deforestation / removal of natural vegetation (incl. forest fires)
Indirect causes: population pressure, land tenure, labour availability, inputs and infrastructure
Main technical functions:
- control of raindrop splash
- control of dispersed runoff: retain / trap
- control of dispersed runoff: impede / retard
- control of concentrated runoff: retain / trap
- control of concentrated runoff: impede / retard
- improvement of ground cover
- stabilisation of soil (eg by tree roots against land slides)
- sediment retention / trapping, sediment harvesting
- increase of biomass (quantity)
Secondary technical functions:
- increase of surface roughness
- increase in organic matter
- increase in nutrient availability (supply, recycling,…)
- increase of infiltration
- promotion of vegetation species and varieties (quality, eg palatable fodder)

Environment
Natural Environment
Average annual rainfall (mm)Altitude (m a.s.l.)    LandformSlope (%)
> 4000 mm
3000-4000 mm
2000-3000 mm
1500-2000 mm
1000-1500 mm
750-1000 mm
500-750 mm
250-500 mm
< 250 mm

> 4000   
3000-4000   
2500-3000   
2000-2500   
1500-2000   
1000-1500   
500-1000   
100-500   
<100   

    plateau / plains
    ridges
    mountain slopes
    hill slopes
    footslopes
    valley floors

flat
gentle
moderate
rolling
hilly
steep
very steep

Soil depth (cm)

0-20
20-50
50-80
80-120
>120

Soil texture: fine / heavy (clay)
Soil fertility: low
Topsoil organic matter: medium (1-3%)
Soil drainage/infiltration: medium
Soil water storage capacity: medium
Ground water table: 5 - 50 m, > 50 m
Availability of surface water: poor / none
Water quality: good drinking water
Biodiversity: medium
Tolerant of climatic extremes: temperature increase, seasonal rainfall increase, heavy rainfall events (intensities and amount)
Sensitive to climatic extremes: seasonal rainfall decrease, droughts / dry spells, decreasing length of growing period, fires, temperature decrease, hail/snow
If sensitive, what modifications were made / are possible: The technology was not modified but it is important to add some notes to the above stated reactions to climatic extremes. If the temperature is decreasing to -15°C the pines are sensitive because they freeze. But they are tolerant against temperature increase always when there is water available (Pinus Hal. is more tolerant to temperature increase than Pinus Pinaster). Afforestations are more sensitive to droughts than natural forests because the afforested trees are not used to these hard conditions. If the pines are mature, they are more tolerant than young pines because their roots are longer and reach deeper into the ground. If there is a drought when pines are still young it can increase the risk of a fire. The pines are also sensitive to hail and snow.

Human Environment
Forests / woodlands per household (ha)

<0.5
0.5-1
1-2
2-5
5-15
15-50
50-100
100-500
500-1,000
1,000-10,000
>10,000
Land user: employee (company, government), common / average land users, mainly men
Population density: < 10 persons/km2
Annual population growth: negative
Land ownership: state, individual, titled
Land use rights: individual, public/open access but organised (e.g. hunting)
(In the region, there is some public land, controlled by the state. But there is also some private land. The access to the public land is open but organized. Permission is needed from the government to cut trees, to build a house or to hunt. There are some private hunting areas for which the hunting association has to pay a fee.)
Market orientation: mixed (subsistence and commercial)
Purpose of forest / woodland use: nature conservation / protection, protection against natural hazards


blob_id=3495Technical drawing

The Pinus Halepensis seedlings were planted on a line in order to facilitate the operation of machines. The linear arrangement is still visible when observing the plantation from the distance, but when finding oneself within the forest this alignment is not visible anymore since the forest grew very densely. A part of today's forest grew naturally after planting the trees - some young pines but also some resprouters (e.g. Quercus) can be found which is pleasant and shows the success of this plantation effort. However, it would have been better to plant less trees with a bigger distance between the individuals. To reduce the high density and continuity of the forest (and thus to reduce the fire risk) a selective clearing would be required but currently the state does not invest money in forest management practices. Without extraction of biomass this dense forest contains a high risk of fire. (Nina Lauterburg)

Implementation activities, inputs and costs
Establishment activitiesEstablishment inputs and costs per ha
- Digging holes (60cm x 60cm x 60cm)
- Plantation of the seedlings (pinus halepensis)
InputsCosts (US$)% met by land user
Equipment  
  - machine use 4857.00 0%
TOTAL 4857.00 0.00%

Maintenance/recurrent activitiesMaintenance/recurrent inputs and costs per ha per year
- Selective clearing "ayuda regeneración" (only done once in 2003 but should be done again to decrease the risk of fires and competition between species)
InputsCosts (US$)% met by land user
Equipment  
  - machine use 2428.00 0%
TOTAL 2428.00 0.00%

Remarks:
The costs of a plantation can be affected by numerous factors, such as slope (if the slope is steep, the work is much more difficult and takes more time, also because machines cannot be used on steep slopes), distance from a street (people can work less in a day if they have to walk far to plant), stone content of the soil (if there are many stones the work is much more difficult for the machines), soil type (plantations work much better on previous cropland because the soil is more fertile), origin of the seedlings (adapted to the local climatic conditions), variability/uncertainty of the weather conditions (e.g. droughts, freezing). If there are adverse climatic conditions or other negative circumstances the afforestation will not work well and this might cause higher costs.
The costs were calculated for the application of the technology on one hectare. Furthermore, the total costs of the afforestation were calculated with today’s costs because the costs at the time it was implemented are not known. The currency rate (Euro-Dollar) was calculated on November 16th, 2013.

Assessment
Impacts of the Technology
Production and socio-economic benefitsProduction and socio-economic disadvantages
   increased wood production
   increased product diversification
   loss of land
   reduced animal production
Socio-cultural benefitsSocio-cultural disadvantages
   improved conservation / erosion knowledge
   improved situation of disadvantaged groups
   increased recreational opportunities
Ecological benefitsEcological disadvantages
   improved harvesting / collection of water
   increased soil moisture
   reduced surface runoff
   improved excess water drainage
   improved soil cover
   increased biomass above ground C
   increased nutrient cycling recharge
   increased soil organic matter / below ground C
   reduced soil loss
   Reduction of soil surface temperature
   reduced evaporation
   recharge of groundwater table / aquifer
   reduced wind velocity
   reduced soil crusting / sealing
   increased animal diversity
   increased plant diversity
   Increase in shade
   increased fire risk
   increased niches for pests
Off-site benefitsOff-site disadvantages
   reduced downstream flooding
   reduced damage on neighbours fields
   reduced damage on public / private infrastructure
   Reduced amount of sediments in the water ponds for fire extinction
Contribution to human well-being / livelihoods
   In the year 1985 the afforestation created jobs for the unemployed. But it seems that in general forest management is not something people want to do, they work in this sector only if there are no other job opportunities. Until today this attitude did not change much. Forest management means a hard job and this kind of work is not well-respected in society.

Benefits /costs according to land user
Benefits compared with costsshort-term:long-term:
Establishmentnegativepositive
Maintenance / recurrentneutral / balancedneutral / balanced
Short-term returns are negative because the management practice is expensive and until the trees reach a mature state, there are not many returns (in terms of wood and biomass). In the long-term this management practice shows a positive result because compared to bare soil or shrubland it has ecological benefits such as the reduction of soil erosion, and it also provides wood and biomass which could be extracted. Currently there is no management project because the state does not invest money but it would actually be required in order to maintain the healthy state of this forest patch and to control the fire risk. If there is money invested by the state they can do a selective clearing which will result in short-term returns, e.g. wood (but also in the long-term they will be able to extract wood).

Acceptance / adoption:

There is no trend towards (growing) spontaneous adoption of the technology. In Spain a lot of afforestation trials have been realized in the past but only a few of them succeeded.

Concluding statements

Strengths and how to sustain/improveWeaknesses and how to overcome
The afforestation allowed the rehabilitation of an area affected by a devastating wildfire. It is an example out of many afforestation trials which succeeded. The success of this Pinus Halepensis afforestation is not only shown by the occurrence of healthy old pines, but also by the growth of young pines and resprouter species such as Quercus which were not planted. Recurrent management, e.g. selective clearing, is crucial to ensure a healthy forest
Through the plantation of pines, the soil cover and stability was improved which in turn led to a decrease of soil erosion. The reduction in soil erosion (less transported sediments) also resulted in a decrease of damages of the infrastructure (such as streets or water ponds for fire extinction). There is no need to plant more trees or shrubs because the ecosystem regenerated well. But recurrent management, e.g. selective clearing, is crucial to ensure a healthy forest
There are also economic benefits for local people. The afforestation provided jobs for rural people. Furthermore, Pinus Halepensis seedlings grow faster and show a higher survival rate than other species, therefore the natural process of forest growth is increased which in turn results in the possibility to use the forest after some years again, e.g. extraction of wood/biomass for bioenergy or timber. But unfortunately this is not done frequently because it is expensive to clear the forest (located in a remote area). Also today forest management could be a source for jobs. It was also mentioned by many stakeholders that traditional activities (such as grazing, agriculture, wood gathering, selective clearings) should be reactivated and that the villagers should get economic compensation to maintain the forest in a good state
Many stakeholders mentioned the positive visual impact. They prefer to have a forest instead of bare soil or shrubland, and it reminds them of how the state of the forest was before the fire. Trees have a higher value for them than shrubs. They supported the fact that the afforestation helped the environment to regenerate. Recurrent management, e.g. selective clearing, is crucial to ensure a healthy forest.
Compared to the situation after the fire there is a higher biodiversity due to the afforestation. Recurrent management, e.g. selective clearing, is crucial to ensure a healthy forest.
The afforestation contributed to rural development
It would be necessary to extract biomass from the forest to decrease the continuity of the trees and shrubs. Due to the lack of forest management (the management activities are expensive and labour-intensive) there is an increased risk of fires. More investments in forest management such as selective forest clearings are required. Managing the forest would not only decrease the risk of fire and the competition between the species but also generate benefits such as timber or biomass for bioenergy production. Furthermore, jobs would be generated. In general, after afforestations, it would be required that people manage the forest. Nowadays, there is only limited use of the forest – in the past people lived of the land, but today this is not the case anymore. E.g. grazing is almost not existing anymore but in fact this would be really important for the reduction of the fire risk.
It is not fully clear whether Pinus Halepensis plantations are a useful tool for restoration and it is also questioned whether it is sustainable to plant only Pinus Halepensis. Monoplantations result in the simplification of the landscape and alterations of habitats. One of the reasons why they used this species is that planting pines is kind of a tradition: it was always used for economic purposes because in earlier times the wood had a higher value. Furthermore, Pinus Halepensis seedlings grow faster and show a higher survival rate than other species, and since the aim of the afforestations was to have forest again in a short period of time, this species seemed to be the most suitable. But often in Pinus Halepensis Monoplantations other species do not grow (which is not the case in the documented afforestation). Research carried out on this topic showed that it would be good to increase the diversity (e.g. with carrasca, sabina, enebros, madroños), to combine the plantation of pines with the plantation of broad-leaved resprouting species (such as holm oak), in order to take advantage of both the fast-growth features of pines and the high resilience of oaks. This also provides higher diversity and landscape heterogeneity
Monoplantations are more vulnerable to perturbations such as forest fires or pests. If there is a high amount of one specific species the spread of a pest is facilitated. Sick or dead trees in turn increase the fire risk. It would be good to increase the diversity (e.g. with carrasca, sabina, enebros, madroños), to combine the plantation of pines with the plantation of broad-leaved resprouting species (such as holm oak), in order to take advantage of both the fast-growth features of pines and the high resilience of oaks.
Additional information: The here documented afforestation was successful, but usually many plantations of Pinus Halepensis failed (low seedling survival rate) Seedling survival can in some cases (has also be questioned) be enhanced through preconditioning, water harvesting techniques (micro-catchments), tree-shelters (protective tubes), fertilisation, application of mulch, using facilitating effects (planting close to a resource island or a nurse plant, to benefit from shade, change in soil properties, retention of soil and nutrients, protection from grazers), perch effect (providing bird perches e.g. dead trees, artificial woody structures, in old fields to accelerate colonisation rates (bird-mediated restoration))
The area which was afforested is now not available anymore for agriculture. There is therefore a loss of agricultural land, but it is not sure either whether there would be a farmer using this land since it is located in a remote area.
The area is now less accessible for hunters because of the density of the forest which allows animals to hide themselves Local hunters are cultivating cereals next to the forest to attract the animals. This is also important for the animals because without these fields, they would probably have to leave this area due to the scarce fodder supply
Some stakeholders criticized the linear planting. This is not like nature “would do it”.
There are many stakeholder who said that it was an error to do so many afforestations with Pinus Halepensis because in many regions nature would have regenerated by itself. It would have been possible to save a lot of money. A plantation causes high costs.
Due to the lack of management and because there is almost no use of the forest by the local population, there is a high amount of shrubs which increases the fire risk and hinders from walking through the forest In the opinion of the villagers it would be important to promote the relationship between humans and nature and to find a balance between forest use and natural processes. The consciousness of the patrimonial value of the forest should also be promoted.


Copyright (c) WOCAT (2018)