Degraded Forest Restoration, Iruelas Valley Nature Reserve

This project is tackling the impacts of climate change at the eastern limit of the Sierra de Gredos mountain range in Spain. Spain faces an increasing risk of extreme weather like droughts and fire, floods and storms. The Iruelas Valley project is also restoring critical habitat for endangered black vulture, as well as engaging and training disadvantaged communities in nature conservation.

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Intervention

Forest Regeneration

Location

Spain

Developer

Bosques Sostenibles

Project information

Tree planting in Spain

With a total area of 8,828 hectares, the Iruelas Valley Nature Reserve was created to protect the rarity, fragility, importance and uniqueness of its nature and communities. The area has a rich and varied landscape due to the unique features of the mountains, and supports diverse communities of plants and animals. In 2019, a fire from outside destroyed the wooded area. Despite emergency measures to prevent erosion, no natural regeneration occurred and regeneration of the habitat was essential. Since the project began in 2020, 120,000 new trees are now growing.

The project is a Nature Reserve on public land protected by the Spanish government, which guarantees the long-term permanence of the project. The forest also has a clear management plan and certificate of sustainable forest management.

Sustainable Goals

  • no poverty
  • zero hunger
  • good health
  • quality education
  • gender equality
  • clean water
  • clean energy
  • economic growth
  • infrastructure
  • reduced inequality
  • sustainable cities
  • responsible consumption
  • climate action
  • life below water
  • life on land
  • peace justice
  • partnerships

Developer Information

Bosques Sostenibles are recovering critical, degraded ecosystems across Spain, with over 30 years of environmental management experience as part of la Encima Group. They combine the safeguarding of biodiversity and development of scientific knowledge with cultural and educational support. The core areas of focus include (1) Social Integration - collaborating with foundations to create opportunities for people with disabilities (2) Information Workshops - training local people in tree growing and (3) Interactive Campaigns - using social media and video to engage wider audiences.

Great for Earth

Forests across Spain are highly vulnerable to ongoing warming due to climate change, including increased risk of droughts and wildfire. It is essential that forests are managed effectively to prevent serious consequences - however over 80% of forests in Spain lack a management plan. As part of regenerating the Iruelas Valley, Bosques Sostenibles have created such a plan and installed special measures to reduce the risks of fire - including access infrastructure, perimeter firewalls and extinguishing solutions.

The site, also known as the Gorge of Iruelas, is a priority action area due to its importance for water, as well as being one of the most important sites in Europe for a black vulture nesting colony. In 2021, 120 couples of black vultures were recorded. Thanks to tree planting and the new protection measures, water resources have been preserved and the ecosystem is more resilient. This means it will be more able to adapt to changing weather conditions.

The trees growing at the site include wild pine and native leafy trees like birch and rowan. The species are distributed in the right places across the site following technical criteria. This will ensure they are able to survive and thrive into the future.

Positive for People

Working with disadvantaged communities is in the DNA of Bosques Sostenibles. The site has wheelchair access and through their strong connections to special education centres and foundations, they create opportunities for disabled and disadvantaged people to volunteer and connect with nature. The project has delivered 6 volunteer workshops in 2021, and alongside volunteer days, the projects runs corporate events so employees can learn about the project.

Bosques Sostenibles prioritise local people, coming from areas at risk of depopulation, to carry out the regeneration in the Iruelas Valley. To support them, they provide training in the most advanced techniques for planting and maintaining the forest. To date, the project has generated 1,800 local work days so far, sustaining economic activity which is essential for the rural area. A wider audience also has access to the project for recreation thanks to strong tourist infrastructure, as well as the project's successful campaigns. For example, “The Truth of the Trees” short film has raised awareness about how people can contribute to forest recovery across Spain.