THE ROLE OF THE CHESTNUT IN THE NATIONAL FORESTRY PLAN

M. do Loreto Monteiro
During the 20th century, the Portuguese forestry sector had a surprising performance, as seen in the National Forestry Plan (ENF). An estimate from 2001 showed the total annual economic production related to forestry in the Continental Portugal at 1.3 billion Euros, not including negative externalities (Mendes, 2005). This approach allows for the comparison of equivalent estimates of the value per area unit carried out in other Mediterranean countries in studies coordinated by Merlo and Croituro (2005) and distributed by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). These studies show that the total economic value of the continental forests surpasses in area unit the values found in other Mediterranean countries, in both commercial and environmental products. Portugal extracts more wealth from one hectare of continental forest land (344 Euros/ha/year) than any other Mediterranean country, including countries like France (292 Euros/ha/year) and Spain (90 Euros/ha/year). The conclusion is that the annual contribution of forests to the public well-being is far superior in Portugal in relation to other Mediterranean countries, which reflects an efficient rate of forest land use. This study also shows that this high total economic value of the forest refers not only to its commercial production, but also to the environmental and social services it provides (DGRF, 2007). On the other hand, the forest has been the basis of an economic sector which generates around 113 thousand direct jobs, which represents 2% of the active population. This number stayed constant during the last two decades, which considering the level of production that has been observed, suggests an increase in work productivity in the sector. The sector also represents around 10% of exports and 3% of the gross value added, a number which is only surpassed in the European Union (original 15 members) by Finland and Sweden. Besides the high productivity and vertical integration associated with the forestry sector, it also differs in a positive way from many other countries because of the diversity of economic activities it involves. Besides the wood products based on the two dominant species in timber production, pine and eucalyptus, and the cork production the forestry sector also has other active economic sectors at a local scale. This is the case of the dry nut production which has increased throughout the last two decades, although in regards to the chestnut, the data from INE show a reduction in production in the last four years, which is reflected in the reduction of its economic importance from 35,062 thousand Euros in 2003, to 18,854 thousand Euros in 2005. The structural framework of the forest values represented in the ENF (DGRF, 2007) shows the value of 830 euros/ha associated with the chestnut forest ecosystem, taking into account for this value the production of sawed wood, biomass for energy, chestnut, pasture, mushrooms and aromatic plants as well as its indirect uses (hydro systems, desertification and biodiversity). This value adds risks associated with forest fires, but shows the need to include calculations related to the risks linked to the diseases which have been affecting the chestnut. Therefore, in order to maintain the high economic values associated with the forest and to ensure its competitiveness and sustainability, it is necessary to guarantee that the reduction in risks, be they real or perceived, become an important component in the forestry planning for the next decade. There have always been risks associated with the forestry activity, but the magnitude with which they present themselves today is a new phenomenon, which makes it important to review the factors which have led to this change in context. It is well known that climate changes and the prediction of the impacts of the greenhouse effect at a regional scale, are linked to the projected global warming, adding to the evidence that these effects will be strongly felt. A more regional analysis indicates a special vulnerability for the Mediterranean region where Portugal belongs to, leading consequently to an increase in diseases. As a consequence of climate change, there will be changes related to the dominance of certain species and in the distribution area of several forests, as well as an increase in the risk of desertification, leading to a high mortality rate for certain forest species at the driest limits of their current area of distribution. In order to maximize the total economic value of the forest in a diversified territory, the species and systems with the highest social wealth which can be extracted from a hectare of land must be used. ENF divides the Portuguese continental territory in three types of specialized areas according to the dominant functional concept: timber production area, multifunctional administration area, coastal areas and other classified areas. According to the Regional Reordering Forestry Plan (PROF) developed by the Lei de Bases da Política Florestal (Lei na 33/96), as a result of this specialization of territory and of the re-organization of the forest associated with it, in 2003 the chestnut area was expected to reach 90,000 ha, especially in the area corresponding to the multifunctional systems but also in the Logging area. The IFN data (2005–2006) indicates an area occupation of 28,200 ha for this species. Therefore, a lot of effort will have to go into reaching the goals for 2030, incorporating and expanding the existing scientific knowledge, especially at the level of sustainable management of forest areas occupied by chestnut, whether as tall trees or as underbrush. In order to accomplish this, natural regeneration must be encouraged as well as tested forestry models for the production of small, medium and large dimensions, considering the following: (i) the productive potential of the chestnut (equations for predicting volume, biomass and hypsometric relations and definitions of indexes of season quality); (ii) the characterization, quantification and composition of the biomass, whether through the evaluation of biomass at ground level and the aerial part of the felled trees, whether determining the apparent type and density of the soil, in order to make this system sustainable; and (iii) the application of social-economic indicators of the externalities related to the chestnut ecosystem.
do Loreto Monteiro, M. (2008). THE ROLE OF THE CHESTNUT IN THE NATIONAL FORESTRY PLAN. Acta Hortic. 784, 139-140
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2008.784.20
https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2008.784.20
English

Acta Horticulturae