The Eliza Forest
Bringing hope and life to a valley devastated by wildfire
The Summer of Horror
On the 26th and 27th of August a wildfire burned through a large area of the Douro Natural Park. It was one of the many fires that ripped through Portugal in 2017. A summer which not only saw an abnormal 120,000 hectares burn but also the worst loss of life in the country this century, 65 victims in one day.
A Tough Fight
More than 150 firefighters were involved in putting out the Douro Valley fire supported by 51 vehicles, 2 helicopters and 1 airplane. By the afternoon of the 27th the fire was finally under control but not before causing catastrophic economic and ecological damage to the area.

The cause of the fire is thought to be of criminal nature but the perpetrator has not been caught.
Ashes & Cinder
Ribeira do Mosteiro, once one of the most beautiful trails in the natural park, now reduced to a charred, barren and lifeless landscape.

The only areas in the valley that did not burn were the native forests where wild horses graze the land and the dry shrubs were fewer. This showcases that with the correct form of land management this type of disaster is avoidable.

The Goal

Creating a Thriving Nucleus of Life
Our goal is to create a continuous native forest which is fire resistant and a safe-haven for wildlife.

The first species to return will be the vultures who nest in the nearby cliffs. The enormous griffon vulture and the endangered and peculiar egyptian vulture both nest on the crags and cliffs of this valley.

Soon after the first week of good rain the grasses will start growing and, within a few weeks, they will attract insects and small mammals. These will in turn attract larger mammals such as bobcats and also birds of prey such as the golden and bonelli eagles.

Within a few years we will be re-introducing wild horses to graze the land. This together with the mix of tree species will increase the fire-resistance of the forest.
Finding the right partner
A week after the fire, the Mossy Earth team was on the ground to understand and record the extent of the damage. This experience was very emotional. It is hard to understand it until you see it, and when you do, it is deeply shocking.

We reached out to several companies to find the right partnership to help us rebuild the area. We found our ideal partner in Eliza Was Here, a Dutch travel provider with a lot of courage and a big heart. They decided to rise to the occasion and go above and beyond to bring this destroyed area back to life.
Phase 1: The plan
"Where there is life, there is hope."
We are not sure how this tree survived the blaze. Everything in a radius of 5 kilometers is charred and dead. All we know is that where there is life, there is hope! There is a lot of work to be done and we must be quick in our action. Together with our local rewilding partners we set out a 5 stage plan to get started:
  • Mapping and planning the restoration
  • Protecting the soil from erosion
  • The first reforestation action
  • Digging a well & building an irrigation system
  • Tree planting over the rest of the area
Mapping and Planning
To pick the first intervention area several factors were taken into account:
  • Priority to areas with high risk of erosion
  • An area where it is possible to create the largest nucleus of continuous forest
  • An area where a well can be dug and where it would be possible to install a watering system for the first few years
We opted for the area shown in green on the map. It is a south facing slope with high risk of erosion and one of the best places for a well.

In blue is an area earmarked for future rewilding efforts, which contains the creek, the cliffs and the lower slopes of the mountains. This area will be managed by wild horses and taurus in 2-3 years. In red is an area which also burnt in the fire and requires restoration.
Protecting the soil from erosion
The loss of soil is one of the worst consequences of wildfires. To help tackle this issue we will be sowing wild pioneering grasses of various species that will spring to life after the first rain.

This will ensure that there is some vegetation to hold the soil when the heavier rain comes in winter. This will be taking place in October.
Preparing a forest: the first planting action
We are getting everything ready for the initial reforestation work to kick off after the first week of good rain.

Eliza Was Here will be fully sponsoring the first action of X trees / X hectares. We will be planting trees grown from local seeds to ensure they have the best DNA.

The species to be planted on the slopes will be a mix of Arbutus unedo, Philyrea angustifolia, Prunus lusitanica, Quercus faginea, Quercus rotundifolia and Juniperus oxycedrus.

The species planted along the waterlines will be a mix of Celtis australis, Salix atrociner, Fraxinus angustifolia, Viburnum tinus and Frangula alnus.

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... more updates coming soon!