Rewilding Geopark Estrela
Type of protection:Natura2000, RAMSAR, PNSE
The Estrela Geopark possesses an enormous natural heritage, both in terms of flora and fauna. The geographical position, the influence of different bioclimates, and soil conditions favoured the proliferation of several species, both native and introduced, some unique in the world and restricted to this orography. The flora of the Estrela Geopark is composed of about 900 taxa of vascular plants. In addition, there are about 40 species of mammals, 100 species of birds, 30 species of amphibians and reptiles, eight species of fish and a variety of invertebrate fauna. Around 75% of the bat species that exist in Portugal can be observed in Serra da Estrela, as well as about 70% of amphibians. The Rewilding Geopark Estrela project aims to protect, promote and rewild the nature of this area. The EAG currently provides the framework for implementing conservation measures to the other geosites and thus is working closely with the nine municipalities to extend the legal protection framework to the maximum possible number of sites.
- Habitat types: The natural vegetation appears in three separate sectors. Under 900 m, in very clearly defined areas mixed evergreen oak forest. Between 800/900 m and 1600 m is the domain of the black oak. From 1600 m upwards, we find the juniper and the high pastures where the gentian, a plant in danger of extinction, can be found.
- Description: The Serra da Estrela (1,993m) is the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal. Bounded by two main fault scarps, a granite massif occupies the central area forming a summit plateau between ci. 1,500 and 2,000 m. To the north and south, schists and greywackes dominate the landscape, also with granite presence. The project is working to promote, conserve and value the cultural, natural and geological heritage, while at the same time promoting sustainable nature based tourism for the territory of the Estrela Geopark. The natural and the human landscape is involving nine municipalities in the wider Estrela range, whose population bears an Estrelean signature in its roots, traditions, culture and economy.
- Aim: The Estrela Geopark builds on a high value geoheritage closely bonded with biodiversity and the local communities, and its strategy aims at conservation and promoting regional development in an interdisciplinary approach committed UNESCO's principles. The project aims to emphasise on the science-support plan, which includes the implementation of a mountain research centre, a program for the development of the geosciences targeting at key-topics for the Geopark management and at consolidating the new generation of geoscientists. The Geopark science program will bring together scientists, the local communities and stakeholders, aiming at socio-economical development, empowering the local community.
- Vision: To be recognized as an entity of excellence and reference by the local, regional, national and international community as a promoter of the sustainable nature based economic development of the Serra da Estrela region through the management of the UNESCO World Geopark, in strict compliance with the objectives set by the Global and European Geoparks Networks and the United Nations Organization for Science, Culture and Education and rewilding methods.
- Uniqueness: We are inspired by different rewilding initiatives in Europe in which people started bringing back wilderness to abandoned areas. And we think that our project will be an example for other people in Iberia that nature initiatives are possible in our country too.
- Results so far: International, national and regional recognition of the importance of Geopark Estrela Strategy for conservation in Serra da Estrela territory.
- Other characteristics: Community involved, Eco tourism, Education, High-impact communications, Recreational activities, Research, Sale of sustainable products
- Inspirational value: It’s not just the animals that are benefiting, humans are part of this ecosystem too and one of the most important and impactful outcomes has been the further development of a local eco-tourism industry.
- Experience you would like to share: In Portugal, rural areas like the Estrela Geopark area that have been used for agriculture throughout their ancient history, have (relatively recently) been abandoned due to drought and the lure of jobs in the big cities. However, in the case of this region, unlike many others, land owners are more than willing to sell their rocky patches for the purpose of nature conservation and sustainable nature based tourism.
- Experience you would like to gain: The EU Commission’s new biodiversity strategy for Europe and the Natura 2000 Network indicates more favorable policy for wildlife and wilderness in Europe.