A dense oak woodland

Oak Woodland Restoration

Restoring native oak woodlands in areas prone to wildfires
A dense oak woodland

Oak Woodland Restoration

Restoring native oak woodlands  
TREES PLANTED
9,500
TONNES CO2 SEQUESTERED*
Not yet known
TREES PLANTED
9,500
TONNES CO2 SEQUESTERED*
Not yet known

Project Summary

We launched our partnership with Montis in 2017 to restore native oak woodlands and combat dominant Portuguese Broom and summer wildfires. We planted native tree species and carried out a rewilding impact project; natural re-engineering workshop. This involved constructing 11 palisades and 3 gabions next to the plantation area to slow water run-off and improve soil conditions.

Lush oak trees carpet the hills
Saplings growing at the nursery
Trays of saplings sit on a carpet of ash
A oak sapling glows orange against a backdrop of black ash
Saplings planted in the ground after the controlled burn

Tree species

Twinflower (Linnea borealis), black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos), red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris), Scottish crossbill (Loxia scotica), pine martens (Martes martes) are all present in the area. 

We plant Portuguese oak (Quercus faginea), English oak (Quercus robur), holm oak (Quercus ilex), cork oak (Quercus suber), Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica), European ash (Fraxinus excelsior), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), hazel (Corylus avellana), lourel (Prunus lusitanica), elder Sambucus nigra) and elm (Ulmus minor).

Priority species

Grey wolf (Canis lupus), common genet (Genetta genetta), Bonelli's eagle (Aquila fasciata), and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) are all present in the area.

An oak tree stands alone in a landscape of shrubs

Our vision

Our vision is to have a dense native oak woodland within 15 years, where the canopy shade manages the shrub overgrowth, fuel availability is lower, and biodiversity is higher.

The Ecosystem

A harsh landscape

Surviving wildfires

To reduce the severity of summer wildfires, the team used controlled burns to reduce fuel load. This also serves to accelerate the forest regrowth. In an ecosystem adapted to fires, the root systems of many species can survive and the trees can benefit from the extra nutrients in the soil. Controlled burns also clear the area of overgrown shrubs and vegetation, allowing us to replant native oak trees.

A controlled burn moves across a landscape of shrub

Project Summary

We launched our partnership with Montis in 2017 to restore native oak woodlands and combat dominant Portuguese Broom and summer wildfires. We planted native tree species and carried out a rewilding impact project; natural re-engineering workshop. This involved constructing 11 palisades and 3 gabions next to the plantation area to slow water run-off and improve soil conditions.

Lush oak trees carpet the hills

Tree species

We plant Portuguese oak (Quercus faginea), English oak (Quercus robur), holm oak (Quercus ilex), cork oak (Quercus suber), Pyrenean oak (Quercus pyrenaica), European ash (Fraxinus excelsior), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), hazel (Corylus avellana), lourel (Prunus lusitanica), elder Sambucus nigra) and elm (Ulmus minor).

Saplings planted in the ground after the controlled burn
Saplings growing at the nursery
Trays of saplings sit on a carpet of ash
A oak sapling glows orange against a backdrop of black ash
Saplings planted in the ground after the controlled burn

Priority species

Grey wolf (Canis lupus), common genet (Genetta genetta), xx eagle, and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) are all present in the area.

An oak tree stands alone in a landscape of shrubs

Our Vision

Our vision is to have a dense native oak woodland within 15 years, where the canopy shade manages the shrub overgrowth, fuel availability is lower, and biodiversity is higher.

An oak tree stands alone in a landscape of shrubs

Our Vision

Our vision is to have a dense native oak woodland within 15 years, where the canopy shade manages the shrub overgrowth, fuel availability is lower, and biodiversity is higher.

Silva Caledonia

The Roman naturalist and author, Pliny the Elder, noted that the Roman armies that had invaded much of Britain were never able to travel north into Scotland because of the great forest that covered the landscape at the time. He called it the “silva caledonia”.

The Ecosystem

The Ecosystem

A harsh landscape

Surviving wildfires

To reduce the severity of summer wildfires, the team used controlled burns to reduce fuel load. This also serves to accelerate the forest regrowth. In an ecosystem adapted to fires, the root systems of many species can survive and the trees can benefit from the extra nutrients in the soil. Controlled burns also clear the area of overgrown shrubs and vegetation, allowing us to replant native oak trees.

An oak tree recovers with lush leaves after a fire

The return of biodiversity

New life from the ashes

After the first controlled burn, a few immediate positive impacts were visible. The ashes improved the nutrition of the soil. The few young oaks that dotted the intervention area sprung back to life much faster than other plants. Finally, an increase in young shoots and small flowers has led to an increase in rabbit populations and insect biodiversity.

A butterfly sits on little purple flowers
A grey wolf stares down the lens of the camera
A Bonelli's eagle sits over its kill

The Threats

A sea of combustible shrubs

Farmland abandonment and a lack of native grazers has allowed the Portuguese broom (Cytisus striatus) to take over the mountainside. In the summer, this 3-metre high shrub dries up and becomes the perfect fuel for wildfires. In a landscape that deals with the reality of regular fires, with a natural wildfire expected every 8-12 years, this poses a very real threat to local populations. It also hinders the regeneration of the fire resistant oak woodlands.

The native oak trees are more resistant to these fires, and could ultimately spread across the mountainside, but the process would take too long, around 100 – 150 years. The current shrub vegetation that covers the landscape burns intensely fast, which makes it impossible for firemen to manage. This means wildfires can quickly get out of control and pose a threat to local people.

Fire burns the landscape

A history of deforestation and land clearance

A controlled burn moves across a landscape of shrub

The return of biodiversity

New life from the ashes

After the first controlled burn, a few immediate positive impacts were visible. The ashes improved the nutrition of the soil. The few young oaks that dotted the intervention area sprung back to life much faster than other plants. Finally, an increase in young shoots and small flowers has led to an increase in rabbit populations and insect biodiversity.

A butterfly sits on little purple flowers

The Threats

The Threats

Farmland abandonment and a lack of native grazers has allowed the Portuguese broom (Cytisus striatus) to take over the mountainside. In the summer, this 3-metre high shrub dries up and becomes the perfect fuel for wildfires. In a landscape that deals with the reality of regular fires, with a natural wildfire expected every 8-12 years, this poses a very real threat to local populations. It also hinders the regeneration of the fire resistant oak woodlands. The native oak trees are more resistant to these fires, and could ultimately spread across the mountainside, but the process would take too long, around 100 – 150 years. The current shrub vegetation that covers the landscape burns intensely fast, which makes it impossible for firemen to manage. This means wildfires can quickly get out of control and pose a threat to local people.

Project Map

Project Map

Sources & Further Reading

✅ for peer reviewed research

1. "Are drought and wildfires turning Mediterranean cork oak forests into persistent shrublands?" - V Acácio et al. 2008 - Agroforestry Systems - Vol 76, Issue 2 - Science Direct

2. Plant and bird diversity in natural forests and in native and exotic plantations in NW Portugal" - VM Proença et al. 2010 - Acta Oecologica -Vol 36, Issue 2 - Science Direct

3. "Mapping opportunities and challenges for rewilding in Europe" - S Ceaușu et al. 2015 - Conservation Biology - Vol 29, Issue 4 - conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com

Sources & Further Reading

✅ for peer reviewed research

1. "Are drought and wildfires turning Mediterranean cork oak forests into persistent shrublands?" - V Acácio et al. 2008 - Agroforestry Systems - Vol 76, Issue 2 - Science Direct

2. Plant and bird diversity in natural forests and in native and exotic plantations in NW Portugal" - VM Proença et al. 2010 - Acta Oecologica -Vol 36, Issue 2 - Science Direct

3. "Mapping opportunities and challenges for rewilding in Europe" - S Ceaușu et al. 2015 - Conservation Biology - Vol 29, Issue 4 - conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com