The best oportunity in front of our eyes

Spain and the others Mediterranean countries have a huge forestry potential. In Spain exist more than 18 million of hectares of scrub. A forgotten resource that the Life+ Project EnerbioScrub has studied for revalue destining to bioenergy.

This project finishes in December 2017 but a firsts conclusions were published yet obtained until the current moment of project progress:

  • Scrub clearing and clearing of forests generate can generate very abundant biomass resources that are currently little or nothing valued.
  • Is it environmentally sustainable the scrub clearing? Soon to say, but everything indicates that it is positive if done in a well-ordered way and with the adequate machinery.
  • The biomass obtained from the scrub formations has medium-high qualities for energy uses and could compete with wood pellets and wood chips.
  • The mechanized exploitation of the biomass of many shrublands can be profitable in the short-medium term (learning curve still ahead).
  • It is necessary for administrations to take the issue seriously. To help the owners and to invest more in clearings that can be partially self-financing with the biomass, mycological resources, pastures, and the beekeeping.
  • Overcoming inertia. The scrub biomass is not wood. Its treatment is different. Specific guidelines and regulations are required for their management, such as the permit to temporarily store harvested biomass in the cleared areas.
  • How to invest new public funds: more silvicultural treatments and less afforestation are recommended. It is necessary to take care of the forest vegetation we have before creating new forests.

This project has been developed with more than 600 hours of clearing and harvesting simultaneous of scrub for bioenergy. The harvest was done in two different ways that you can see the following videos:


(Author: Luis Saúl Esteban Pascual)

(Author: Luis Saúl Esteban Pascual)

After the sad episodes lived with massive wildfires in the 2017 season with died people in Portugal and Northen Spain the last October and the significative percentage of fires in which human is implied, the strategy may include questions as the rural abandonment because there are a lot of forestry lands with no people to work in.

Another alternative is to bet for valorizing a diversity in the forest products, associative work and an effective implementation of forestry insurances. Here is where EnerbioScrub’s conclusions could be developed.

In my opinion, it is a magnificent opportunity for adapting to the new wildfires dynamics and to reach to the politic class and the rural society who is owner of so many forestry lands, these innovative adaptation ways and prevention against the wildfires and at the same time giving a economic value to resources that hasn’t got any interest until this moment.

READ ALSO: Does the utilization of woody biomass support a rural development?

We need to remember that in the Northwestern of the Iberian Peninsula, wildfires are a ” relatively structural problem” that normally it is connected to the traditional use of the fire in the rural areas, the biomass incrementation and the existence of dry periods as the current drought in Spain.

There is talk of those who abandoned their forest lands, of those who do not clear their ownership, but the wildfire does not distinguish between those who take care of their forests and those who do not; the last wildfires have devasted everything and according to Juan Picos said on October 26 in the School of Forest Engineering of Madrid, ” one of the most difficult jobs now is to restore trust with so many people who have dedicated 20 years of their lives to planting and caring for the forest land”.

Front my point of view, the use of large masses of scrub for bioenergy purposes seems, today, the best strategy to manage these areas of scrub, reducing in turn the availability of material, renewing pasture areas wothout the use of the fire, giving way to forest products without economic interest, but above all, fighting against rural abandonment. The rural society is a key agent and sometimes underestimated, but nevertheless, it should be paramount to manage the vegetation linked to an economic use (in this case the scrubland) that allows, without investing huge amounts of money, to maintain the fuel with a certain control in addition to trying, through education, to prevent the beginning of fires. It is not just a problem of clearing the fuel to reduce the risk of fire; I believe that what must be achieved is that the rural environment and the organization of the territory are healthy and dynamic agents, taking advantage of and encouraging the forest owners to make profitable their mountains.

READ ALSO: How to make better decisions in the forest sector?

Main photo author: Isaac Sanz

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