The dire situation of Portugal’s forests has been highlighted this week by environmental association Quercus, quoting data from Global Forest Watch which puts this country as the fourth worst for deforestation worldwide.
Even more worrying, our primary forests – those that exist in their natural state and are not dependant on human activity – are “at risk of disappearing” altogether, currently occupying just 1% of forest areas nationwide.
According to Quercus, Portugal’s “alarming” rate of deforestation stems from “the conversion” of forestland to “urban, touristic and industrial zones”, the building of dams and motorways, and “recurrent forest fires which have consumed various hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest in each recent decade”.
Intervention by the government, in the form of an updated national forestry inventory or policies for forestry reform “have been too long in coming”, says the NGO, stressing that legislation to protect “the genetic heritage of much of the country’s flora and fauna” is vital.
At particular risk are the “last primary oak forests” that have been diminished year-by-year due to the cutting down of trees for firewood, and “the cultivation of mushrooms”.
Hot on Quercus’ heels came data compiled by the Report on the State of the Environment (REA) which warned that a “large number of species and protected habitats have been destroyed by inumerous environmental reasons, namely wildfires and coastal erosion”.