Eucalyptus in Portugal - A Very Hot Item

Posted by Marianne Hoesen on Monday, May 18, 2015 Under: nature

                       

One after the other, long and heavy trucks loaded with eucalyptus logs, drive back and forth. Because of their weight they destroy the streets. They transport the logs from the eucalyptus forests, such as the ones in the Monchique area, to the cellulose processing industry in the middle of the country. "Normal" trucks are not allowed on the street when their load is this heavy, but these giants have a special license.

Eucalytus is the most common tree in the country. 25.4% of all the forest area is occupied by this tree. That equates to 812,000 hectares. In comparison, cork oak occupies 23% of the forests and pine trees are good for 22.3%. Another special feature: Of all the forests in the country, 93% is private property!

The eucalyptus tree is easily recognizable by the typical leafs, scaly bark and of course the characteristic odor. Eucalyptus globulus, the species growing in Portugal, originally comes from Tasmania (Australia) and was introduced here in 1866. It is also known as Blue Gum Eucalyptus. This name comes from the fact that a young sapling has a blue-greenish color. Only a few years later, the tree turns green.


                                     

In addition to the wood of the tree, the leaves also have a value. These contain essential oils which have many
benefits. It is antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, cleansing, disinfecting and insect repelling. It is also widely used as a flavouring ingredient.

In the second half of the twentieth century, the production of Eucalyptus took a flight and brouhgt the Portuguese cellulose and paper production international fame. The biggest producers are Portucel Soporcel and Altri. They produce bleached pulp and paper. The success of the cellulose factories was applauded by many, since it makes an important contribution to the Gross National Product and creates jobs.

Due to the success of cellulose production, the large companies wanted more land for planting new eucalyptus. Much farmland has been replaced by eucalyptus plantations and sometimes even cork oaks had to give way to this lucrative tree. This development resulted in an invasive monoculture and a loss of biodiversity.

                       
Locals and environmentalists are not happy with this. They say that the eucalyptus consumes too much water, thus lowering the ground water level and therefore the quality of the ground. This is why the eucalyptus has a disastrous impact on the surrounding flora and fauna, according to the environmentalists.

But there are other drawbacks to these trees: they are highly flammable and can even explode when on fire. This makes some fires in Portugal very difficult to control. In addition, the cellulose production itself (the boiling of the wood with addition of chemicals) is not really environmentally friendly as well. Therefore, Eucalyptus will always be a very hot item and there will always be a strained relationship between the economic benefits of the eucalyptus and the adverse effects of production.

Nevertheless, if they are planted here and there in small groups, these evergreen and fast-growing trees look nice in the landscape. The bees collect nectar from its flowers and thus the high quality local honey has a characteristic aroma. They also function well as windbreaks. The sound of the wind passing through the foliage of the eucalyptus trees makes me think of the sound of the waves of the sea touching the beach. And a handful of dried leaves is perfect kindle for the wood stove in winter and that even smells good! 


 

In : nature 


Tags: eucalyptus in portugal  eucalyptus globulus 

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About Me


Marianne Hoesen Born in the deep south of The Netherlands, I moved to the central Algarve in 2007, together with my partner and 2 dogs. In the meantime we added some goats and chickens and are living a peaceful life in the rolling hills of the rural south of Portugal. I invite you to read a bit in my blog and to leave a comment afterwards. Also check out the holiday accommodations mentioned elsewhere in this website.

 

 
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