The project, called Além Risco, has the central goal of planting 50,000 trees in the urban areas of the 14 municipalities of Alentejo Central in order to reduce the number of heat wave-related deaths by increasing the areas of shade. However, Miguel Bastos Araújo, coordinator of the project, goes on to say that “everyone plants trees” and that what makes Além Risco the most exciting are the ideas that are being developed to keep the new trees in the cities of Alentejo through to adulthood can survive. “The challenge of planting trees and not dying is great. Planting trees is easy, what is difficult is low mortality. The problem of maintenance after the plantation is not always easy, ”says the researcher, a specialist in biogeography.
That said, while Além Risco acquires the 50,000 trees that will ideally be distributed in all the municipalities of the central Alentejo, the project team is gaining new ways or developing new ways to ensure that the trees are the same as planted in an Alandroal garden that Sunday become – during the start of the project – they manage to survive. Currently, according to Miguel Bastos Araújo, three solutions are being considered, in which potters, tree nurseries and universities should be involved.
“We are researching a planting technique that implies that the moment a tree is planted it has a 70 centimeter high root. It’s a tree that may even be small, but the root is huge and therefore already has the ability to fetch more underground water than traditionally produced, “says the researcher and winner of the Pessoa Prize in 2018. One technique involves that Manufacture “pipes filled with earth” with linen bags. “We put the plant on top, it gets stuck in the litter and the root grows there deep down. When we plant it, it is right with that tube so there is no damage, ”he explains.
The other two techniques on the table also include providing small trees with enough water to develop at a time when projections of the Alentejo in the context of climate change suggest increasingly persistent heat waves and can reach 17 days in the middle of the century, recalls the researcher. One is based on “saving a technology that was invented more than two thousand years ago,” explains Miguel Bastos Araújo. “It’s the ollo technique. Basically, they are clay water jugs that are buried with the plant. “Fill the jar and the earth will always be moist as long as the water is in this container. “It’s a much more effective technique than drop-by-drop because it uses less water and is delivered directly to the plant rather than evaporating,” he adds.
Além Risco is “in talks” with potters in the area so that they can deliver some of these jugs. However, since the costs for the dimension of the project would be very high, the development of cardboard boxes with the University of Évora, which have the same effect but are made of biodegradable materials, is also on the table.
The project is financed from the EEA grants and has a duration of two years. However, the aim of the project promoters is to extend it well beyond this period. Of the 60 species to be planted, “around 90% are native to Portugal”, but the intention is to bring in species such as Argania Espinosa, which are very common in North Africa and which Miguel Bastos Araújo describes as “exotic but not too exotic.” “. “These are species that traditionally do not originate from our territory, have the same biogeographical region of Portugal and, with climate change, even have the possibility of being transported naturally to that territory and colonizing space,” he says.
This Sunday, World Forest Day, a protocol will be signed between Além Risco and CIMAC – Intermunicipal Commission of the Municipalities of Central Alentejo for the development of this project. The first trees are planted in an alandroal garden where the shade area grows. Several studies show that the temperature difference between areas exposed to the sun or shade can reach 11 degrees.
Alandroal is currently the only municipality that has already signed a protocol with Além Risco, with “advanced negotiations” with Évora and “preliminary talks” with Borba and Redondo. The other parishes expected at Além Risco are expected to join soon. Miguel Bastos Araújo believes there will even be an opportunity to go beyond the 50,000 trees planted as, in addition to this number acquired through the project, the Institute for Nature and Forest Conservation will offer more – until the 26th, the company is offering citizens and landowners that they would like to plant, after registering with ICNFsomosTODOSnos@icnf.pt also 50,000 native trees that are grown in their tree nurseries. The project is open to other donations.
The project also includes the publication of a manual on how to plant dry gardens and the creation of “living laboratories”, with files containing information for each tree planted.