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Bizkaia follows in the footsteps of Galicia and decrees a moratorium on eucalyptus plantations

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The ban on planting more eucalyptus, with few exceptions, has entered into force in the province of Bizkaia, after the plenary session of the General Assemblies approved in mid-April the modification of the regional regulation of mountains and protected natural spaces, in order to limit the planting of this species until December 31, 2025 and thus stop the expansion of this species in the territory. In this way, Bizkaia follows in the footsteps of Galicia, where the Xunta decreed a moratorium on this same aspect in the middle of last year.

The moratorium went ahead with the votes in favor of the two groups that make up the Foral Government, PNV and PSE-EE, and also of Elkarrekin Bizkaia, after agreeing to the transaction of one of its two amendments with jeltzales and socialists, and the PP. EH Bildu, who had tabled five amendments that have been rejected, abstained.

The text supposes including an additional provision in the current Foral Forest Regulation that contemplates limiting the plantation of eucalyptus until December 31, 2025. The measure is approved in view of the expansion that this species has had in recent years, which in 2020 occupied 15.6% of the forest area of ​​Bizkaiaand the “social debate” that this proliferation has provoked, explained the deputy for Sustainability and the Natural Environment, Amaia Antxustegi.

After the approval of this moratorium, until December 31, 2025, only reforestation with eucalyptus approved before the entry into force of this provision or that were being processed before that moment and were finally approved will be allowed.

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In addition, it establishes that in the same period of time reforestation with eucalyptus will only be allowed when the land has previously been occupied by a forest mass made up mainly of this species (when there is a percentage greater than 50% of the total forest mass of feet larger eucalyptus, that is, with a diameter equal to or greater than 7.5 centimeters).

After recalling the consultation process carried out previously on the relevance of establishing this moratorium, Antxustegi stressed that the work “does not end here”, but rather “has just begun” and work is being done to update the foral regulation as a whole, with the aim of designing a forestry policy for Bizkaia “procuring its adaptation to the new circumstances and future challenges” for the forestry sector and to the emerging demands and trends, in line with the commitments in the environmental field.

The effects of eucalyptus on Basque ecosystems

The increase in eucalyptus plantations in the Basque Country may have “serious environmental effects”, “threaten even more certain animal species” and increase the risk of fires, according to a study commissioned by the Department of the Environment of the Basque Government.

The report, prepared by experts from the University of the Basque Country and the Aranzadi Science Society, is based on the analysis of more than a hundred scientific papers on the environmental effects of this tree species, and was done at the request of the Basque Parliament which in December 2018 debated whether or not eucalyptus should be considered an invasive species.

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This fast-growing tree, native to Australia and Southeast Asia, It has spread throughout Euskadi from the west and the coast of Bizkaia, where it has a greater presence, to areas of Álava and Gipuzkoa.

In the last three decades, the area covered by eucalyptus has multiplied by four in the autonomous community due to its greater profitability and already covers 2.6% of the territory.

The paper industry is the main recipient of its wood. The most abundant variety is eucalyptus globuluswhich occupies approximately 60% of the surface, followed by eucalyptus nitens (37%).

Stops the growth of other plants

According to the study, eucalyptus has “a clear and systematic negative environmental effect”since, on the one hand, the soils occupied by the plantations “tend to be more impermeable” due to eucalyptus litter, which also slows down the growth of other plant species.

In addition, there is a decrease in the diversity of soil invertebrates, terrestrial fungi, lichens and plants, as well as amphibians and birds.

The effects “are less clear on mammals”, but they do negatively affect “most of the variables studied in rivers” due to the poverty of nutrients provided by eucalyptus litter, adds the study.

Regarding forest fires and global warming, he points out that, although both are influenced by both biophysical and socioeconomic factors, the impression is that “Eucalyptus plantations do not reduce, but rather increase risks”compared to other types of forest species.

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Environment section contact: crisisclimatica@prensaiberica.es

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