The story

The restoration plan aims to improve the vegetation and fauna present in the area

El Cortijico, in Chirivel, is a high mountain area, at an altitude of over 1,600 metres, where the vegetation of the supra-Mediterranean bioclimatic floor is represented and where strong winds, high solar radiation and low temperatures prevail, with frequent frosts in winter and high temperatures in summer.

It is also an iconic place in the region and in the province of Almería, as it is home to the millennial Juniper, a specimen of Juniperus thurifera that is over 600 years old and has been recognised by the Andalusian Regional Government as a Natural Monument.

This enclave offers a splendid view of the Chirivel corridor, which connects the Hoya de Baza with the Mediterranean and is surrounded by the Sierra de María and the Sierra de Las Estancias.

The area in which we are operating is in the valleys where there is deeper soil and a greater water and snow collection which we hope will contribute to a greater success of germination.

One area of El Cortijico, which once had an excess of livestock pressure, is now showing signs of natural colonisation of trees like junipers and pines. To complement natural regeneration, seeds of existing species – Juniperus thurifera, Juniperus phoenicea, Crataegus monogyna and Pinus nigra ssp. salzmanii and Quercus rotundifolia – are being sown with direct seeding, acting as nature itself, rather than by exclusively planting nursery trees.

This is a form of reforestation which, according to Fernando Bautista – responsible for natural area restoration at AlVelAl – allows plants to invest all the energy accumulated in the seed in producing roots with a high capacity to penetrate compacted soil.

Objective

The objectives of this initiative are:

To help plant colonization and increase the presence of junipers, in an area where there is no reproduction and we find a female like the Millenary Juniper, thus facilitating the genetic persistence of this iconic individual.

To increase the number of individuals producing acorns, galls and berries, which provide a source of food for numerous birds and insects to enrich the present animal community which today has very significant species such as kestrels, peregrine falcons and golden eagles.

Innovation

The manual sowing of 47,000 seeds and acorn has already begun at El Cortijico. A second phase, which is a pilot project in Andalusia, consists of sowing 40,000 seeds by drone and which will take place in the autumn of this year 2020.

The sowing of seeds is geolocated, which will allow the germination of the seeds and the success of this action to be monitored. “Unlike planting, with this action we will not see the tree, but in the years to come we will be able to see plants with a greater guarantee of survival,” points out Bautista.

This system of sowing previously locates the native bushes that can function as protectors of the sown seeds. After previous experiments, Dronecoria and Jesús Ledesma expect a minimum survival rate of between 5 and 10 percent. So it is expected that there will be 15,000 new trees in the next 20 years.

After this planting, two more actions will be carried out to identify the percentage of survival after a few months, before and after the summer.

Together against climate change

The Restoration Plan of Natural Areas of the AlVelAl Association is the first project which Ecosia is collaborating on in Europe. This forms part of the challenge raised by the German company to plant a billion trees in the whole world until 2020.

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