The landscape will never be the same again. The ashes are now the protagonists of a picture in which, until last Wednesday, the green of the leafy trees reigned. The fire caused in Sierra Bermeja and the Genal Valley has already burned more than 9,670 hectares. After being checked last Tuesday, the question was unavoidable. What has become of its flora and how long will it take for its forests to regenerate?
The answer to this question wanders between ten and tens of years and it can only be solved by differentiating each of the species that have been lost in the flames. Both Sierra Bermeja and Valle del Genal are two of the richest natural sites in Andalusia and both have a quantity of endemic vegetation whose value is incalculable for experts.
Sierra Bermeja and Valle del Genal, two contiguous and twinned places devastated by the voracity of the fire level six triggered last week. The flames destroyed everything in their path and the forest mass that has been lost during these days is enormous. Experts warn that some of the affected species will disappear forever.
Reforestation will be progressive and will begin to occur within the next ten years
“Sierra Bermeja is the second largest concentration area of endemic plants in Andalusia, after Sierra Nevada”, he explains. Andrés Vicente Pérez Latorre, Professor of Plant Biology at the University of Malaga. The conditions of this mountain range make the flora that grows in it totally exceptional. Its location, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, and the conditions of the terrain allow the proliferation of unique species in the world. “Only some plants manage to survive among the rocks that make up this mountain range, the peridotites”, indicates Pérez Latorre, who tells how the adaptation of the species to these characteristics has been the cause of the generation of this large number of new and endemic species.
During the fire, countless entire populations of endemic plants have been eaten by the flames.. Added to them are the hundreds of resin pines that decorated the landscape of this mountain range and that have been razed. This tree, however, has fought an arduous battle against the flames: “The resin pine has a double defense. A trunk without branches that makes it difficult for the fire to advance towards the crown and, if it did, this The tree has pinions with a hard cover that, when the fire passes, becomes charred, the pinion is released and new pines come out. ”
The self-regeneration of this species is far from the nature of Spanish firs. The Spanish fir is an endemic tree of the Serranía de Ronda and the Paseo de los Pinsapos is one of the only three fir trees in the world. “This type of tree is only found in this mountain range. There is a sister species in the north of Morocco but there are no more of this species in the entire planet. If the Sierra Bermeja fir tree had burned it would be something very serious.”
At the moment, it seems that the fire has not affected a large number of Spanish fir and the bulk of the Spanish fir has been saved. This news does not satisfy the experts, who regret that the amount of Spanish firs lost can never be recovered. “The firs have the problem that when they are burned they do not regenerate again and disappear”.
“The forest mass that has been lost in the Genal Valley is of incalculable value. It was a continuous forest of many species. “The reddish chestnut trees that characterized this valley during the autumn months will take years to return to what it was. The fire has destroyed a huge number of the various species that lived in the place.
Cork oaks, gall oaks, chestnuts and pines from Monterrey. All have been affected by the flames, although some have fared worse. The latter, explains Andrés Vicente Pérez Latorre, “have all burned and we do not know if they will come out again.”
Like the pines that cover Sierra Bermeja, the cork oaks “are adapted to regenerate again after fire, with a little luck and rain, they can sprout again,” says this expert. Other species, such as chestnut trees or gall oaks, “depend on how they have been affected by the intensity of the fire.”
In this way, the regeneration of these natural areas will be progressive and gradual. This could begin to occur within the next ten years and not culminate for decades. “Each corner is going to regenerate in a way depending on the species that existed before the fire, it is impossible to generalize. First you have to see what was in each hectare,” says Pérez Latorre.
In the case of Sierra Bermeja, this natural regeneration could begin next year. “With the resin pine it would be a little faster because as soon as it rained the pine nuts would come out the following year, so in ten or fifteen years we could already have small trees.”
On the other hand, in the Genal Valley it could take dozens of years: “In a normal fire, between 50% or 60% of the cork oaks can die. They re-sprout but that happens for a lot of years. Cork oaks would have to be born new ones, becoming adults, that would take dozens of years. ”
Experts defend the importance of it occurring naturally, without human intervention
In any case, experts defend the importance of natural regeneration and non-human intervention. Neither grazing nor any other type of forestry action, “whatever human action is going to do is negatively interfere,” argues Andrés Vicente Pérez Latorre. This professional urges to limit the intervention only in those areas that may generate some type of danger: “In the rest of the territory it is necessary to ensure that nothing is touched because natural regeneration will begin when the first rains of autumn begin and not we can intervene if we want it to be fast. ”
Also, professionals recommend allow a few months to intervene in the areas that have not been affected by the flames: “We will have to let the summer pass to undertake reforestation tasks but in the burned area, if we want there to be a natural regeneration, the less intervention, the better”.
“It is neither opportune nor convenient to stain the mountains with footprints on the ground turned into ashes, to sow what? Nature knows how to act alone”, defends Oscar Gavira, a biologist who subscribes to the words of Andrés Vicente Pérez Latorre.
If there’s one thing that Plant Biology experts agree on, it’s that regeneration should be natural. Gavira maintains that “It is not the time to reforest and, possibly, it will not be later. “This expert points out that reforestation” is already done, in the form of seeds and strains of plants, capable of withstanding fire, which will do their job much better than us. “.
Human action at this time “would only cause problems and spoil everything,” says Gavira. In addition, he denounces that this intervention “would not be more than a submission of the human being to nature.”
For all this, the experts are against reseeding on the ashes that this forest fire has left in its wake and urge that all human efforts be focused on protecting and caring for these natural landscapes. “Nature knows how to act alone, we just have to take care that that happens.”
Experts are against reseeding on the ashes
“It is neither opportune nor convenient to stain the mountains with footprints on the ground turned into ashes, to sow what? Nature knows how to act alone”, defends Oscar Gavira, a biologist who subscribes to the words of Andrés Vicente Pérez Latorre. If there’s one thing that Plant Biology experts agree on, it’s that regeneration should be natural. Gavira maintains that “this is not the time to reforest and, possibly, it will not be later.” This expert points out that reforestation “is already done, in the form of seeds and strains of plants, capable of withstanding fire, which will do their job much better than us.” Human action at this time “would only cause problems and spoil everything,” says Gavira. In addition, it denounces that this intervention “would not be more than a subjection of the human being to nature.” For all this, the experts are against reseeding on the ashes that this forest fire has left in its wake and urge to center all human efforts to protect and take care of these natural places. “Nature knows how to act alone, we just have to take care that this happens.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.