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Integrating biodiversity conservation in the forest management model
The need for new tools to manage plantations in a diverse landscape
The Portucel Soporcel Group, a major player on the international paper and pulp market and European leader in the production of uncoated woodfree paper, manages 120,000 hectares of forest, comprised not only of eucalyptus plantations (around 73%), but also of cork oak, pines, other conifers and broadleaved species, in addition to several patches of natural and seminatural habitats. Such an important area of estate and multiplicity of natural assets has triggered the need to define new planning and management approaches, based on the systematic assessment of relevant natural values, and to define measures to maintain or enhance their conservation status. The company firmly believes that well-managed plantations can positively contribute to ecosystem integrity at the landscape level.
A tailor-made methodology based on valuation, impact assessment and conservation actions
Portucel Soporcel has consequently developed a specific strategy to preserve ecosystems integrity and has been implementing it through afforestation/reforestation projects and through projects involving specialists and partnerships.
The method first begins with the identification of natural values in the forest, by performing pre-operation assessment of potential impacts and a survey of habitats, flora and fauna using its own biodiversity manuals. The company then produces adequate mapping of zones they are seeking to conserve. Subsequently, with consideration made to the specific habitat and special species conservation status, conservation plans and plantation designs are defined for implementation and monitoring by the forest project team and operational staff. Examples of practical measures include:
The use of selected genotypes based on long term knowledge of their behavior and adaptation to the soil type and climate;
Stakeholder consultation on red listed species;
Identification and preservation of existing valuable habitats and natural/semi-natural vegetation within the plantations;
Creation of protective buffer zones around water courses;
Preservation and enhancement of wildlife corridors and other connectivity features;
Promotion of structural diversity through a mosaic of species, clones, age classes, habitats and naturally or artificially created discontinuity strips; and
Seasoning of operations to preserve the biological cycles of relevant fauna or to avoid negative soil and water impacts and to control pests and diseases.
By end of 2009, biodiversity assessments were completed
in a large part of the estate. The company’s manuals
and conservation action plans were documented for
over 40% of the area managed by the Group and
around 12,000 hectares were classified as zones with
interest for conservation. The conservation action
plans proved to be successful in improving plantation
management as well as biodiversity in the areas
where they were implemented. By involving multiple
stakeholders, these plans also strengthened Portucel
Soporcel’s communication and stakeholder’s consultation
opportunities in the regions where it operates.