As part of the project "The Paris Agreement in Action: Scaling Up Forest and Landscape Restoration to Implement Nationally Determined Contributions" funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in collaboration with the International Association of Mediterranean Forests (ISA), organizes exchange visits between the countries of the Mediterranean basin to allow experts to deepen field experiences in forest and landscape restoration.
These visits will pave the way for restoration expansion by creating more favorable conditions and presenting appropriate technologies and methods to achieve national and global restoration goals (NDC, Aichi goals, Bonn challenge, sustainable development goals) and to generate important benefits. not only in terms of carbon but also in other sectors (water, biodiversity, livelihoods, etc.).
The first visit took place in Morocco from 23 to 27 May 2022, the second will be organized in Italy in autumn 2022. Participants representing the Mediterranean Forests Model Network: Dr. Elisabetta Gravano (Tuscany Region - Forestry and Agriculture), Dr. Marcello Miozzo (Dream Italia) and Paolo Mori (Compagnia delle Foreste).
Below you can find an account of the exchange experiences.
Talassemtane Area (23-24 May 2022)
On 23 and 24 May, the MMFN representatives were able to visit the Talassemtane area, where they were welcomed and guided by Koutar Aouane, Director of the Talassemtane National Park (Department of Water and Forests) and Mchich Derak, Regional Directorate for water and forests and the fight against the desertification of the Rif.
Presentation of the Talassemtane National Park (Morocco)
The PNTLS (Talassemtane National Park) covers an area of 58,950 hectares and includes a very original territory which is individualized by its biodiversity, its remarkable landscapes and its cultural richness. PNTLS is part of the Intercontinental Biosphere Reserve of the Mediterranean (RBIM), which was officially declared in 2006 by UNESCO; an ecological, historical and cultural wealth shared between the north of Morocco and Andalusia (about 1 million hectares). Due to the great diversity of its flora and its plant groups developed on the various rocky substrates and in a rainy and mild climate, this space is individualized as the most original entity of the Rif chain, or even of all Morocco. The Abies marocana forests of the Talassemtane National Park are the only populations of this endemic species of Morocco, found only in the Rif (exclusively in the Chefchaouen mountains).
The goal of the creation of the RBIM is to promote a sustainable development model that favors the conservation of the specific and shared natural and cultural resources of the RBIM and the consolidation of the network of protected natural areas of northern Morocco and southern Andalusia. The PTTL contains the only Moroccan fir-wood the last witnesses of a unique ecosystem in the world and now threatened with extinction. These fir-wood form the heart of the central parc area and extend over an area of 3000 hectares.
Goals of the Talassemtane National Park:
- Conservation of ecosystem biodiversity
- Sustainable development of natural resources
- Development of Ecotourism
- Environmental awareness and education
Field visit to an area affected by a fire in 2015 and now undergoing restoration - The RESTOR MED FORESTS Morocco project
An on-site visit to an area of the Talassemtane Park, which was hit by fire in 2015, was carried out on 24 May. The large-scale fire affected more than 1,000 hectares of mixed forest of Moroccan fir and maritime pine.
The Amazzar area, which covers approximately 15 hectares, was chosen as a pilot area to implement the RESTOR'MED FORESTS restoration project. The pilot area was restored by removing the residual wood material, preparing the ground with holes and subsequent planting of the maritime pine. The moroccan fir has not yet been reintroduced due to the lack of adequate reproductive material, as the nurseries are currently not equipped with adequate equipment for the production of this species. The reforestation areas were chosen from plots with the greatest lack of natural regeneration and monitoring is underway to identify the ecological model most favorable to the regeneration of fir trees. During the autumn of 2022, direct sowing of Moroccan fir will take place in the most suitable sites.
Exchange of Italian experience with the reproduction of native fir trees
In Italy, in the last 20 years, two concrete experiments have been carried out to improve Abies populations in two different conservation contexts.
The first case concerned Abies nebrodensis in the Madonie in Sicily. The natural population consists of a few dozen trees. The conservation work consisted in the production of a clone park to conserve the gene pool of the species and the nursery production of seed plants. These were planted in areas ecologically similar to the vegetation areas of the natural population. These activities have yielded positive results even though Abies nebrodensis is very slow growing but has a rooting / settlement rate of less than 60%.
The second case involved the increase of 4 populations of Abies alba Miller in the Tuscan Apennines. Since the natural indigenous populations to be conserved are contiguous to spruce trees of non-native origin, the technique used to reproduce new plants was grafting. The technique was developed by creating small Abies alba reforestation nuclei consisting of grafted plants with mixed genetic characteristics to account for most of the genetic variability of the original population.
This technique is detailed in the LIFE GoProFor project database of good biodiversity conservation practices at the following link: https://www.lifegoprofor-gp.eu/best-practice/25/eng.
Tuscan experience in prescribed burns
In the past, a common practice of shepherds was to set pastures on fire to promote the growth of fresher and more appetizing grass for livestock. This practice, repeated over time, in addition to impoverishing the soil, was often the cause of fires, even large ones. For this reason, the Tuscany Region has created a project in which it uses the prescribed burn technique to obtain the same effect, but in safe conditions and with specialized personnel. In this case, an adequate time window is chosen to carry out the prescribed combustion (which is never in the period of high fire risk) and the combustion of the material takes place in a slow and controlled way, safeguarding the microfauna and the soil. With this type of approach, shepherds obtain pastures with fresh and desirable grass but no longer cause the great fires of the past because it is the public body that helps them to achieve the same effect but with sustainable techniques for the environment and the ecosystem.
Cannabis cultivation and reduction of forest areas in the Rif (Morocco)
Cannabis cultivation is the main economic and agricultural activity, as well as the most profitable, in the Rif area near the Abies marocana forests. Cannabis requires fertile land that growers are gradually removing from the forest. It is estimated that between the early 2000s and today, approximately 3% of the Rif forests have been cleared to make way for cannabis cultivation.
The Talassemtane National Park, also through the participatory approach implemented with the RESTOR'MED FORESTS project, seeks to sensitize the local population on the importance of forests for the territory and for their own well-being. Local associations were involved in reforestation and management of the Amazzar area, with participants receiving compensation for their activities. This activity will always engage the local population to move them away from cannabis cultivation or otherwise reduce their interest.
Rest areas for the development of local tourism in the Park
The Talassemtane National Park has set up three rest areas in as many strategic points along the road that crosses the forests. The aim of the rest areas is to concentrate tourist activities in controllable points and at the same time to offer an infrastructure that can be used by local cooperatives and/or associations. The 3 areas are characterized by an area of about 6,000 square meters, circumscribed by a fence and equipped with a stone and concrete barbecue to better contain and control the fire. Furthermore, these rest areas will be equipped by the local partner selected by the forest administration to take care of the management. Each area can also be used for cultural activities linked to the presence of the Park and to the conservation and enhancement of the Rif forests.