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Summary

Paul’s permaculture smackdown continues into the second half of chapter 3, despite Paul’s unscheduled surgery, with Mark, Julia, Katie, et.al.

Portugal example: restoring forest fire areas.
“Another area heavily affected by forest fires is southern Europe.  The example of Portugal shows that these disasters are man-made.  Driving on the motorway from Lisbon to Porto, you can see monocultures of eucalyptus and Mediterranean stone pine on both sides of the road, all the way, for about 300 Km.  The whole area has suffered from several forest fires over the years, and subsequently got planted with these monocultures. […] The existing biomass is pushed together and burned as protection against fire, instead of being used as compost.  This just creates new sources for fire.  Nobody even asks why the forest dries out to such a degree that it would catch fire in the first place.  Any sane person can see that these measures are absurd and simply increase the wildfires.  The last few decades have seen many such disasters in Portugal.  In 2009, a forest fire even reached the inner city of Coimbra – one of Portugal’s great university cities.  One would thing that when a large university is damaged by a forest fire the scientists would start investigating why.”  Not only do they log the monocultures, but they take all the trimmings and branches, stack them high, and burn them in the winter.  No wonder the soil has no organic matter left…

“What can be done after a fire has ravaged a whole area?  The root systems have died and dried up – they reach deep into the ground and the water runs along them as through a sieve, and the earth cannot hold the water anymore.  Not all hope is lost – I did a consultation concerning a property of about 500 hectares near Lisbon.  The ground had been sandy and desert-like even before the fire.  The owner had cut down all the burnt remains of vegetation, and had piled them up in order to burn them in a controlled way as a fire precaution, he told me.  After that, they would replant the forest.  Due to this amateur approach to farming, valuable biomass is being burnt, leaving a desert in its wake.  Then, they install an expensive irrigation system and plant new trees at a very high cost.  These plants have virtually no chance of survival.  “What else can I do?” asks the owner.  He had invited 18 experts, biologists, geologists, and someone from Greenpeace.  Nobody could offer advice.  I suggested he dig big trenches in a north-south direction against the prevailing winds, fill these trenches with all the remaining wood and biomass 1-2 meters deep.  I would pile up the leftover sand and soil as walls either side of the trenches as windbreaks about a meter high.  This can be done quite quickly with a digger.  Lastly, I would throw in mixed tree seeds by simply walking behind the digger and scattering the seeds all over the trenches.  The seeds rest on top of the dug biomass, the windbreaks on either side protect them from the wind.  This creates a protective microclimate.”  In short, create a thousand acres of hugelkultur, although Paul would prefer the hugelkultur be tall, rather than close to the ground.

Relevant Threads

Iberia forum (including Portugal)

Earthworks forum
Hugelkultur forum
Soil forum

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This podcast was made possible thanks to:

Dr. Hugh Gill Kultur
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