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

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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

There is an urgent need to bring back nature and create new livelihoods on the slopes and valleys of the Serra da Estrela. Indigenous forest is inherently far more resilient to fire, a key concern across the Iberian Peninsula. New livelihoods will help bring back stewardship to the land in service of both nature and mountain communities. Right now there is a chance for new stewards to step in. To learn from the remaining elders who know the land, it’s infrastructure of springs and waterways and terraces as well as its micro-climates, flora and fauna.

The government of Portugal has already identified the need to finance the removal of the pine, eucalyptus and mimosa monocultures that dominate land. Much of which used to be covered in oaks, chestnut and rowan. Bioestrela will build on this crucial initial work by looking at the biodiversity and habitat restoration that can follow the clearing. As people all over the world see the need to place nature, biodiversity and rewilding at the heart of our decision making, Bioestrela will orchestrate pilots to provide the models for large scale restoration in the valleys of the Estrela.

Bioregional finance for restoration can come from the value created in Biodiversity Certificates (Credits). Bioestrela is a pilot for the new global biodiversity standard, Plan Vivo Nature, giving it the potential to generate revenue needed for the ecological and cultural regeneration of the Serra.

The scale of the problem of monoculture and abandonment is big, covering thousands of hectares. Equally so is the opportunity for regeneration and new livelihoods based on revaluing nature.


Bioestrela – Regenerating The Serra da Estrela, a short documentary filmed mainly in the Valezim Regeneration Hub, one of three pilot sites for the project.


As one of a small number of pilots for Plan Vivo Nature*, Bioestrela is working through the phases of development required by the standard. URZE and C Level have created the Project Idea Note (PIN) and have engaged with the local community, identified land owners and undertaken initial biodiversity assessments.

In the long term, Bioestrela could develop within 5000 hectares, the area covered by the 3 AIGP’s we are working within.

Our strategy is to run 3 pilots as models for regeneration (regeneration hubs), one in each of the larger AIGPs. These are the Valezim, Furtado and Aljão Regen Hubs from which further momentum will be built. C Level and URZE have developed budgets and a work plan for 2024 /2025 to fully plan for Bioestrela pilot implementation across all three Bio Estrella Hubs.

C Level is currently looking for the right funding partner for this final 12 months of planning.

*A Global Biodiversity Standard that will produce high-integrity biodiversity certificates that represent real, additional and verifiable benefits for biodiversity, and for people and climate.

“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”

Project Team

Daren Howarth profile picture

Daren Howarth


Cristina Talens profile picture

Angela Newton

Strategic project lead

Briony Fitzsimmons profile picture

SUSANA Guimarães

Project Manager

Briony Fitzsimmons profile picture


AIGP Coordinator

Project Background

Bioestrela 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 Bioestrela 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 where land should be managed to reduce fire risk. These are referred to as AIGPs (Areas Integradas de Gestão da Paisagem/Integrated Areas for Landscape Management).

Bioestrela is working in three of the AIGPs on the Serra, called Malhão, Sorroco and Aljão.

Wide-view landscape Bio Estrela Pilot Project Area picture

Project partners

Bioestrela is being coordinated by URZE (Associacao Florestal da Encosta da Serra da Estrela) and 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 25 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 businesses looking to grow their impact through the world’s most holistic and regenerative 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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