Bio-Estrela is an ambitious brand new project to build livelihoods and biodiversity in the valleys of the Serra da Estrela – Portugal’s highest mountain range and largest natural park. As one of eight global pilots for Plan Vivo’s new Biodiversity Standard (Plan Vivo Nature), the project will produce high-integrity biodiversity credits that represent real, additional and verifiable benefits for biodiversity, but also for people and climate.

C Level's Wild Aligned programme is about ecological and cultural regeneration. It focuses on biodiversity and rewilding projects.




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URZE (Associacao Florestal da Encosta da Serra da Estrela), C Level.

Biodiversity, Protection & Restoration

Project area (hectares)

Chestnut, Oak, Strawberry Tree, Genet, Peregrine Falcon, Goshawk, White Booted Eagle 


Project Vision

Turning the threat of global warming into an opportunity to restore life on the Serra da Estrela, Portugal’s highest mountain range and largest natural park.

Bio Estrela presents a vision for regenerating two valleys in Portugal’s largest natural park and highest mountain range. If the communities in the valleys are willing to get fully behind the idea of bringing back nature, and new energy can be mobilised to steward the land in a different way, Bio Estrela could be a model for ecological and cultural regeneration.

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.

Plan Vivo Nature – Emerging Global Biodiversity Standard

This nascent project has been selected as one of a small number of pilots 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.

So far, the Bio Estrela team, drawn from C Level and the forest association URZE, has been focused 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 3000 hectares.


C Level has funded the creation of Bio Estrela – Regenerating The Serra da Estrela, a short documentary filmed mainly in the Valezim Valley pilot site. We are launching the film in March 2024 as we reach out to find a suitable funding partner for the next stage of the project.

Project 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 smallholder 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.

Wide-view landscape Bio Estrela Pilot Project Area picture

Project partner

Bio Estrela is being coordinated by URZE (Associacao Florestal da Encosta da Serra da Estrela), and supported 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.

Bio Estrela Project Team
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