A forest isn’t created in a day!

Creating a native, mature wood is not something that happens overnight. It is a process that takes decades and all manner of changes and setbacks can arise due to social and environmental factors. Although Mirlo Positive nature carries out its work with maximum guarantee, there is always some uncertainty in some of what we do.

As far as we are concerned, it will only be over when the wood has grown and reached maturity. Depending on its evolution, the type of wood and where we care to set the threshold of maturity, it is a process that may take between 100 and 250 years.

Main risks and our guarantees

Changes in how the land is used: the sites are protected

People’s interest in the land where a wood is growing can change throughout history. Where today we have land that was used years ago for all sorts of purposes (livestock, agriculture, productive forest plantations), long-forgotten interests can rise up once more due to changes in economic and social needs.

The land that we have chosen for this project possesses special qualities which will reinforce its right to become a mature wood in years to come:

  • Most of the land is considered public utility mountains (henceforth “MUP” after its Spanish acronym). This legal figure, which has been in existence in Spain since 1862, provides special protection for those mountains that benefit society, so that such benefits can be maintained.
  • It forms part of the Corona Forestal Natural Park which was established by Law 12/1994 concerning the Natural Areas of the Canary Islands. This law to protect natural areas contemplates eight different figures of protection; that of “Natural Park” provides the highest level of protection.
  • We have also signed an agreement with the Cabildo (Local Government) which guarantees that the zones planted by Mirlo shall remain as forest areas during at least 180 years.
Forest fires: we are creating resilient woods

Forest fires are sadly a regular phenomenon in the woods of the Canary Islands. Some of the species that make up these woods have adapted very well to this phenomenon (the Canarian pine for example) or are able to produce new shoots with relative ease (such as heather, the small-leaved holly and the faya) although there are others too (such as the cedar) which suffer devastating consequences.

Be that as it may: most fires that afflict the Canaries are caused by the hand of man and they are therefore more frequent and intense than would be considered acceptable as far as the proper development of the different types of wood is concerned.

The area that we have chosen for this project is located among areas which have only been moderately affected by fire.

If a fire was to break out in the area of the project, our trees would survive it as best they can, depending on various factors:

  1. Were the fire to be very intense and of great proportions, the damage would be distributed somewhat irregularly. Certain areas would be badly damaged and only the strongest Canary Island pines would resist the flames. Other areas would suffer less damage but numerous trees would be lost, particularly among the less well-adapted species. Those trees that have the capacity to produce new shoots will do so spontaneously and these will grow more quickly than if they had been planted at the outset.
  2. If the fire is low-intensity and only affects the leaves that are lying on the ground, the damage will be much less and most trees will survive. In a few years time the damage that the fire has caused will be scarcely visible. It is in fact quite probable that when you visit the Canaries, you will see pine woods which have been burnt on various occasions.
  3. The moment when the fire breaks out is also a determining factor. If there were to be a fire during the first years of growth, the probability is that given the same conditions, the damage would be much greater. We can only hope that that will not be the case.
If fire is the malady, people are the cure.

Most fires are caused by people. We are following two lines of work to prevent people causing fires:

  1. Yeray, one of the promoters of the project, has been an active participant in PROFOR Canariasfrom 2011. This is a national association of professionals from the forestry sector which works hard to promote the creation of a forestry culture and to provide advice and tips on how to avoid forest fires.
  2. Mirlo Positive Nature, building on its idea of abundance, encourages synergies between the improvement of nature and the improvement of the economy and the conditions of life in rural areas. Our message is quite clear: “caring for nature is good for the community”. There is evidence to suggest that when a wood benefits the local population, fires diminish and even cease altogether.
Climate change: changes are on their way

Currently there are no conclusive studies as to how climate change will affect the Canary Islands. Research teams from the University of La Laguna are working on this issue and we hope that they will shortly provide us with results which we can add to our projects.

Evidence does however exist that changes are taking place in rainfall (less), temperatures (higher) and the frequency of heat waves (more often) which have a close bearing on large forest fires.

There are also models which make it possible to evaluate the displacement that will take place in native woods due to the increase in temperatures. It is expected that the line of transition between the “monteverde” and the pine forests will increase in altitude, compared to where it is at present.

When designing the project we have taken into account this possible upward displacement of the line of transition. We have therefore chosen to plant trees which will easily adapt to these changes, should they ever arise.

Part of our success remains in doubt

The project is located in an area that benefits from the humidity of the trade winds and a climate which has remained quite stable over the years. Even so, the autumn and spring of 2011-2012 was one of the driest periods recorded in recent years (only 104 l/m2 of rainfall). This brusque change - the average measurement is 460 l/m2 is by no means normal, but if it were to happen again in 2013-2014 it would seriously limit the project’s possibilities of success.

If that were to be the case, we would need to replant more than the 10% that we have envisaged. If necessary we would therefore centre this replanting activity on the most affected areas in such a way that we cover the entire area in as uniform a manner as possible.

If serious damage were suffered, we could consider launching a fund-raising campaign to help us carry out the work. If it comes to this, we will consult with all our Mirlo Sponsors so that we can come to the most satisfactory decision.

All the same, we don’t think that this is going to happen. 2012-2013 is turning out to be a very good year once more, with much more rainfall than the average (531 l/m2).