Eucalyptus trees cause heavy forest fires in Portugal

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In Portugal raging there since last Friday due to the drought and the heat of the fierce forest fires. Last year came to burn in the country with 114 people killed. It is mainly the fault of the eucalyptus trees.

The forest fires in the area of Monchique which is already more than 2,000 acres have been consumed, partly due to the large amount of eucalyptus forests. That take now a quarter of the total forest land in Portugal in attachment.

‘In the recent past, the emphasis very much on timber production, hence there are so many eucalyptusmonoculturen, ” says Bart Muys, professor of forest ecology and forest management at the KU Leuven. Eucalyptus is a wood that is particularly fast growing, the trees interesting, for example, the paper production. “Portugal has many more forests than 100 years ago, so that makes that there are a lot of flammable material and that there is more chance of forest fires.’

The eucalyptus tree is also a very flammable species, the control of forest fires more difficult. “The tree has essential oils in the leaves and branches are very well lit,” says Muys. The trees can be a fire by which oil can also ‘explode’ and hundreds of metres further catapulted.

Better policy

According to Muys is a better forest policy is necessary for such fires to prevent: “Portugal has over the past years prevention measures taken, but the emphasis is still on the combating of fires. To the voter is that more attractive because it falls on: helicopters, airplanes, fire fighters. While prevention is often more effective. It would be useful to this policy to commemorate.’

Nevertheless, the country has over the past year, some prevention measures are taken. Residents of rural areas were forced to scrub to clear and trees to prune within a radius of 50 metres from houses and 100 metres from villages.

Moreover, many of the forests in Portugal made up of only a single species, such as, for example, the eucalyptus. Such forests are less fire-resistant than mixed forests: “In the context of the risk of dangerous forest fires would be better to more mixed forests. That are more resistant to fire because they are more humid and more water can absorb, ” says Muys.

‘Most of the fires lit’

About the cause of the fires in Portugal, nothing is yet known, but according to Muys are natural burn ‘rare’. “Most fires are lit. It’s not just pyromaniacs who do that, some people like forests and land use. Sometimes the forest fires also due to conflicts between foresters and shepherds.’

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