Bio Estrela Project Vision

Restore life on the Serra da Estrela, Portugal’s highest mountain range and largest natural park. An opportunity to fund a European biodiversity pilot under Plan Vivo Nature.

Bio Estrela presents a vision for regenerating two valleys in Portugal’s largest natural park and highest mountain range. We are engaging with the communities in the valleys on the idea of bringing back nature, and creating funding to being new energy to steward the land in a different way. Bio Estrela could be a new model for ecological and cultural regeneration across mountain areas in Portugal.

The need is urgent as land and ecosystems across the Iberian Peninsula are impacted by global warming and fire.  The old infrastructure of ancient terraces and waterways may hold part of the key to restoring life, as might a new collaboration between the elders, who still know how things work on the mountain, and a new generation that sees value in restoring nature.  

At it’s simplest, we are looking to bring new income into the area to enable small holders to remove invasive  monocultures like mimosa and eucalyptus and replant/regenerate the original native trees and plants of the mountain valleys.

The project is ready for bringing onboard a funding partner for the next stage of development.

Plan Vivo Nature – Emerging Global Biodiversity Standard 

This nascent project has been selected as one of a small number of pilot’s for Plan Vivo Nature, a new global biodiversity standard that will unlock substantial new finance to enable nature restoration. Plan Vivo Nature projects will produce high-integrity biodiversity credits that represent real, additional and verifiable benefits for biodiversity, and for people and climate. 

C Level see’s this working in the same way, as with the very long standing Plan Vivo Climate projects in our Carbon Balanced Programme – holistic projects that remove carbon, restore and build community – but in the case of these new projects like Bio Estrela, the focus shifts from carbon removal centre stage to biodiversity restoration centre stage.

So far, the Bio Estrela team, drawn from C Level and the forest association URZE, has been focussed on developing the pilot within the evolving Plan Vivo methodology.  We have created the Project Idea Note (PIN) and have also begun to engage with the local community. Bio Estrela is also developing in alignment with proposed landscape management plans for mountain areas across Portugal.  The two smaller pilot sites for Bio Estrela (Valezim and Furtado) are themselves within two of the large mountain areas proposed for intervention (AIGP’s).  The potential total area for Bio Estrela could therefore be over 3,000 hectares.  

Bio Estrela Background 

Bio Estrela is situated on the West side of the Estrela mountains, a stunningly wild and beautiful area. It is an area at a critical turning point where subsistence smallholder farming and land knowledge remains in an ageing rural population, but is giving way to rural abandonment. The Bio Estrela project aims to build on local knowledge of the land to enhance livelihoods and strengthen biodiversity.

Critically, the project also aims to help reduce the risk of wildfires which are destroying large areas of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park. In the summer of 2022 around 20% of the Serra da Estrela, was lost to a raging wildfire which burnt for several days.

The work of the project is to engage and support the community of small holder land owners, in clearing invasive alien tree species (like mimosa and eucalyptus) and planting indigenous trees. Regeneration of the land will go hand in hand with fire resilience, new enterprises and livelihoods.

Portugal has established 70 large designated areas focused on bringing back nature to protect against wildfires. These are referred to as AIGPs (Areas Integradas de Gestão da Paisagem/Integrated Areas for Landscape Management).

Bio Estrela is centred on two small pilots within two adjacent Estrela AIGPs, Malhao and Sorroco.

Bio Estrela Partners 

It is being coordinated by URZE (Associacao Florestal da Encosta da Serra da Estrela), and supporting by C Level. URZE is a non-profit association that has worked in the Estrela for over 20 years. Practically URZE is an association of members and provides technical advice to enhance forest resources for livelihoods and biodiversity.

C Level has worked solely with Plan Vivo projects for over 20 years and is helping develop Plan Vivo Nature. C Level’s mission is to remove carbon, restore nature and build community.  We achieve this by working with high integrity business partners to connect them with the world’s most holistic and regenerative forest projects. Our Wild Aligned Programme connects businesses with early-stage European ecological and cultural regeneration projects.

After 25 years in the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM), Plan Vivo is using its unique holistic, participatory and equitable approach to help create the world’s first biodiversity standard. The Plan Vivo team are helping guide all of the Plan Vivo Nature pilot projects through their development.

If your organisation is looking to fund the development of biodiversity projects and are interested in taking a lead through this unique European project, please contact [email protected].

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