This year Interreg celebrates its thirtieth birthday, focusing on three themes of interest for European cohesion: youth, a greener Europe and we all have neighbors. In this context, each month, we present one of our emblematic projects related to one of these themes. This month we talked with the Open2Preserve project team, a project that reduces the risk of fire in mountain areas.
What is OPEN2PRESERVE about?
Open2preserve is a project that arises from the knowledge of the reality of the abandoned rural world in disadvantaged mountain areas. In the last decades these areas are undergoing a great landscape change, the mosaic landscapes and the open areas disappear due to lack of management, and producing an accumulation of vegetable fuel, which increases the risk of forest fire. The situation caused by climate change, heat waves and more intense droughts, aggravate this problem, favoring the fires to be more severe and of greater magnitude. Consequently, mega-fires that exceed extinction capacity are becoming more frequent, such as those that have occurred recently in other regions of the planet such as California or Australia. The risk in Sudoe territory is equally important and we must take steps to meet this challenge.
The Open2preserve project aims to demonstrate that it is necessary to combine knowledge and techniques from different disciplines to obtain satisfactory results and that in the right combination of alternatives is the solution, merging scientific knowledge (fire ecology, animal ethology, plant ecology, ...), and technical (directed grazing, controlled burning, ..) to obtain positive results in the medium term.
How is transnationality essential for this project?
It is essential in two aspects: first, it allows to establish pilot experiences in regions with different environmental and socio-political environments that nevertheless share similar problems. Then, the transnationality allows to contribute complementary and multidisciplinary knowledge of the different partners of the project, constituted by technical organizations of management, universities, regional administrations, technological centers and agricultural chambers. This partnership consisting of 13 partners, combines knowledge and experience in aspects as varied as the use of controlled fire (South of France, Catalonia), pastoralism with environmental functions (Andalusia, Navarra), silvopastoral practices (Galicia) and strategies rural valorization (North Portugal).
How is the project developed?
The project has established eight pilot experiences in Portuguese, French and Spanish territory where practices of pyric herbivorism are emulated, that is, the ancestral action of fire (controlled burning) and herbivore (directed grazing) is combined using modern tools to consolidate open areas and favor landscapes that are resilient to global change. In critical areas for firefighting these open areas represent an opportunity for fire control. In this way, an initial treatment of controlled and low intensity winter fire is used and the created open space is maintained and consolidated over time by means of directed grazing practices of native cattle, which is revalued by its environmental role, as a biodebroker, in front of his traditional role of food producer.
In the pilot experiences, the environmental effects of the combined practices on soil characteristics, biodiversity, and subsequent vegetation growth are being monitored. Modern practices are also being tested to be able to carry out more efficient pastoral management with ICT tools. Finally, the project is testing economic valuation solutions of these practices at the regional level.4. What results are expected? Are they exportable to other areas of the EU?
The results of the practices of pyric herbivorism that are being carried out in the territory will be visible in the medium term. The extension of the project, 3 years with implementation of the practices at the beginning of the second year, is sufficient for changes to be detected at the level of scientific monitoring (of soils and vegetation), but to observe significant changes in the landscape, periods of Longer time.
Undoubtedly, the results are exportable to the entire European territory that suffers the ravages of abandoning the uses of the mountain and the consequences of climate change. Regions of central and northern Europe, where forest fires were rare and of low severity, are undergoing in recent years a gradual change in the incendiary regime, becoming more severe and destructive episodes. In addition, these countries do not accumulate knowledge and experience in the prevention and extinction of forest fire, unlike other countries in the south of the continent where fire has always been present (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, ..). The application of large fire prevention measures and, with it, the creation of resilient landscapes in anthropized environments, is a task that concerns the entire continent.
Why is OPEN2PRESERVE a project that should matter to everyone?
Because the effects of global change, which include climate change and land use changes, are the present and affect us all. We must be aware of this, understand how ecosystems work and the risk of non-management in humanized media, such as our continent, and act accordingly, developing pioneering initiatives such as this one, which are a reflection for subsequent development of management policies of the territory.
How Interreg contributed to the project?
Interreg allows, first and foremost, to develop a social awareness and awareness of this problem, which until now seemed reduced to the understanding of technicians and scientists knowledgeable about the natural environment. The project also allows for the necessary financing to be able to implement the demonstrative pilot experiences, the necessary environmental monitoring and the testing of new tools and strategies of economic valorization that help to make these regional practices a reality in the near future. Finally, the project is the best existing tool to publicize, disseminate and communicate the results of experiences and demonstrate their applicability in many regions of the territory with similar problems.