When we talk about native species and their natural habitat, what comes to your mind?
We know the importance and urgency of conserving the environment, but what does it mean to ensure the restoration and conservation of these environments and species?
Native species are those that occur naturally in a specific region. They are a result of millions of years of evolutionary processes. Through natural selection, throughout millions of years, those species became best suited for their natural occurring habitats.
Well-preserved natural areas tend to contain higher numbers of native species, making them important conservation areas.
They are essential not only because of the intrinsic value of native species but also because these species contribute to well-established, resilient, and productive ecosystems highly adapted to the geographic and abiotic conditions of the region. Any ecological disruption of those systems will end up harming human health and well-being.
Especially during the last century, with the rise of urbanization, the levels of habitat destruction rose substantially. Many natural areas are losing essential elements that support the balance of the ecosystems.
In the last century, eucalyptus plantations became common in Portugal for their economic opportunities. Because of its rapid growth rate, in around two years, this tree can be taken down and sold for the paper industry. It is an attractive short-term investment for landowners but, of course, comes with its consequences.
With the decline of native trees that have fire-resistant characteristics, wildfires became each decade more common. It is now becoming essential to restore the native ecosystems before we reach a point of no return.
Rewilding, a new approach to conservation
The “rewilding” initiative is about letting nature restore itself and, as the name says, bringing back the wildlife and native species of some regions. According to the “Rewilding Portugal” project, rewilding works to “rebuild important ecological functions and food chains and establish greater ecological connectivity between natural areas”. The project started in 2019 in Riba-Côa and Beira Alta’s regions in the north of the country.
This project is a branch of Rewilding Europe. You can learn more about it on their website.