Wednesday, 21 March 2012

SPEA receives 3 new trainees in São Miguel

Since Monday that SPEA can rely on three new trainees. Pep Gallen, Silvia Catalá and Pablo Vivanco will be cooperating with Sustainable Laurel Life Project’s and Priolo’s Environmental Center in the coming months.

Pep Gallen

Pep studied Forest Engineering and came to S.Miguel throught the Eurodyssée program and will be staying until August. Pablo is on a professional course in Forest Services and his coming to SPEA is due to a professional internship that will last until June. Both will be part of the Sustainable Laurel Life Project’s mainly as support in peatland conservation actions and in the greenhouse of endemic plants.

Pablo Vivanco

Silvia Catalá studied Byologie, has been in Azores participating of a study developed by University of the Azores and nowadays collaborates with SPEA has a Eurodyssée trainee in Priolo’s Environmental Center, until August.

Silvia Catalá

SPEA welcomes these new trainees and hopes that their stay in São Miguel and in SPEA contributes to an extremely positive experience to their formation.

Nordeste and Povoação visited by EUROPARC representative

Within the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism application, Nordeste and Povoação where visited, on the 12th and 13th of March, the EUROPARC verifier that accompanies the process, Fernando Correia. With the project’s partners representatives, he visited the “Lands of Priolo”, gathering with the representatives of the different public entities and many business man that have been involved in the application.

The verification started with a meeting in Furnas Monitoring and Investigation Center (CMIF) with the local technician team, in which it was reviewed application process delivered to EUROPARC in January 2012 and some of the doubts were clarified. It was also possible to reunite with the responsible persons of the different partners entities in the process.

After lunch, they visited Faial da Terra (Sanguinho’s village) and Água Retorta, where it was given some information about the actions that are to take place in these villages and are included in the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism Action Plan.

On the second day, the visit began with a meeting in Nordeste’s Town Hall and continued with a tour to this Municipality, with the opportunity to know better the handicraft of the “Folha de Milho” in Salga and Ribeira dos Caldeirões park in Achada. The lunch in Nordeste had the presence of different business man from Nordeste, also involved in the process. After this, they visited the nursery of the Nordeste Forest Service Division. The visit ended with a meeting with the President of Povoação Town Hall and a final gathering with the local technician team to do a final balance of this visit.

The Verifier will elaborate a report to deliver to the EUROPARC panel responsible for the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism accolade attribution. The panel decision will be known in September.

The European Charter for Sustainable Tourism to the “Lands of Priolo” is an application engadged by the Regional Secretariat for the Environment and the Sea, to the São Miguel Natural Island Park in the municipalities of Nordeste and povoação, within the Sustainable Laurel Life Project’s, in a partnership between SPEA, DRRF, DRT, Nordeste Municipality and ASDERPR.

Field Trip to the Sustainable Laurel Life Project with good adherence

On the 10th of March, SPEA organized a field trip to the Sustainable Laurel Life Project’s actions; with the purpose of divulge to all the participants the conservation work carried out by this project.

This activity had 19 participants which had the opportunity of spending their morning in contact with nature. The meeting point was in Povoação’s Municipal Garden and at 10am. With a sunny day, the participants started their field trip with a visit to the project’s greenhouse in Lomba do Loução.

In the greenhouse, the project team technician, Filipe Figueiredo, explained all the work that has been developed for the native plants production and the most relevant methodologies applied, from the seeds collection until the germination, and also the plants acclimatization by transferring them to the nursing beds outside of the greenhouse.

The next stop was in Labaçal, in Serra da Tronqueira, where the participants saw the work done on what concerns to the Laurel Forest recovery. Since this was one of the first areas to be intervened during this project, it’s possible to have an idea about the state before and after the intervention.

After this, the participants went to the viewpoint of Serra da Tronqueira where they were given some explanations about the native vegetation that can be seen from that viewpoint and about the invasive plants expansion in the central area of Serra da Tronqueira.

The field trip ended at Priolo’s Environmental Center (PEC), where SPEA’s technician Azucena de la Cruz gave an explanation about the flora and fauna that can be observed in the SPA Pico da Vara/Ribeira do Guilherme, as well as different aspects about Priolo and importance of these endangered habitats.

At the end, remained the promise to participate in more activities and the will of getting to know better the work developed by SPEA in Azores.

The Project’s greenhouse reaches 36 000 plants

For the first time since the construction of the Sustainable Laurel Life Project’s greenhouse, we exceeded the barrier of the 35 000 native plants production.

The production of native plants in the greenhouse, in the previous years, reached 27 000 plants. With this milestone, we increased the number of plants available to plant in the project’s intervention areas.

As usual, the Azorian Heather is the plant with the highest success rate, about 22 000 plants, the Heather follows with 3 710 plants. In adittion, there was an increased success in the germination of other plants, such as the Laurel, the Buckthorn, the Picconia and the Azorean Blueberry, among others.

Unfortunately, we also verified some decrease in the germination of some plants, such as the Faya Tree that has very low germination records.

After two years, since it started at 100%, the Sustainable Laurel Life Project’s greenhouse has been filled with plants that will be replanted in the Natural Forest areas were the project’s intervention takes place.

Life sustainable Laurel gathers executive comission

On the 27th of february, in the Life Sustainable Laurel headquarters, in Lomba do Carro, Povoação, the executive commission of this project gathered once again.. This commission integrates all the Life project partners and meets quarterly to discuss and plan the actions that are being developed. With the project getting to an end by the end of the year, the next few months represent a lot of work and new developments.

Besides the technicians from the different partners of the project, the Regional Director for the Environment, João Bettencourt and the São Miguel Natural Island Park’s Director, Hélia Palha, were also present.

During this meeting, the project team showed the progress accomplished on the last months, highlighting the work done for the recovery of the Peatbogs of the Planalto dos Graminhais and the application to the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism. At discussion were also the activities planned to 2012, the last year of the project. During this year, there is a lot of work yet to be done and new updates will certainly arise, in terms of the work done to the conservation of the habitats and on the awareness and support actions for sustainable tourism.

On the next day, the Sustainable Laurel Project team had a meeting with Raquel Ferreira, from the Regional Secretariat for the Environment and the Sea, and together they defined some actions to be included on the São Miguel Natural Island Park’s Management Plan, concerning the SPA Pico da Vara/Ribeira do Guilherme.

This collaboration is possible due to the fact that the Life Sustainable Laurel Project takes place in this SPA. These circumstances enable the SPEA technicians’ team with a deep knowledge about the Special Protected Area and can contribute in a more accurate way to her maintenance. The proliferation of the invasive flora species is the greatest threat to the conservation of the important natural habitats on this area of the São Miguel Natural Island Park.

You can learn more about this project and actions by visiting

Peatbogs in Planalto dos Graminhais were visited by scottish specialists

During the last week of February, the Sustainable Laurel Project received Norman Russell, manager at Forsinard Flows nature reserve in Scotland that is part of RSPB in the United Kingdom, and Alexander Payne, who is part of the British Bryological Society, a specialist in Bryophytes. They visited all the conservation actions accomplished in the Planalto dos Graminhais since 2011.

This trip had the purpose of visiting the work developed on the recovery of the Peatbogs area in Planalto dos Graminhais. During this week in the island of São Miguel, Norman and Alexander got to know the different intervention areas of the project and other natural areas of the island and spent most of the time with the project team discussing the progress made in the Graminhais area.

Norman Russell has given an important support to the planning of actions that have been carried out, following at close the project since 2010. Norman has a lot of experience in the area andis responsible for the managing og 20.000 ha of peatbog area in Scotland, being an excellent addition to the ongoing work of the Sustainable Laurel Project. In this visit, it was possible to see the results of the work done during the 2011 spring and revaluate and plan new actions for 2012. Alexander Payne also nelped the project, by sharing its knowledge about this kind of habitats. And was an excellent contribution to an adequate development of the work that is yet to come.

Throughout these days, 20 Bryophytes species were identified, of these 4 are Sphagnum sp. and 3 of these species have an important role on the vegetation recovery of Graminhais.

It’s worth noticing that Norman Russell visited São Miguel for the first time in 2010 to help coordinate the initial work of recovery of the Peatbogs. And has already visited the project three times since then and is very pleased by the progress done on the project. In turn Alexander Payne was on his first visit to the archipelago and was delighted with Graminhais and the island of São Miguel and promised to come back again.

Endemic plantation on the islet of Vila Franca

The Sustainable Laurel Project supported, once more, the Safe Islands for Seabirds Project, during the endemic plantation work in the islet of Vila Franca do Campo. This work main objective was to test new methodologies for the recovery of the natural vegetation of that place which is so important for the seabirds nesting there, such as the Cory’s Shearwater.

The Sustainable Laurel Project team collaborated on the removal of the exotic invasive vegetation on the intervention areas, namely the cane grass, and on the recovery of that area.This time, 300 Azorina Vidalii and 1600 azorian heathers were planted.

It was also possible to verify the development of the azorian heathers and azorian fire trees planted throughout the last two years. Most of them survived and now they’re adapting amazingly well. Even the azorian heathers and the azorian fire trees that were still on the intervention spots are now on full recovery, presenting an excellent development. This way, we hope to reduce the cane grass invasion.

The cane grass roots do not allow the development of any other vegetation, degrade the soil that is already fragile and block the seabird’s access to their nests. With these azorian heathers and the azorian fire trees, we hope to reduce the soil degradation, making it more stable and safe for the various seabirds that pass by the islet of Vila Franca and that can now safely build their nests.

You can know more about this project on

Azorean Blueberry orchard installed in Furnas

We concluded on the last few days the installment of an Azorean Blueberry orchard on the fields provided by the Furnas Monitoring and Investigation Center (CMIF), by the Furnas Lake margins. This orchard is part of one of the Life Laurel Project actions and will be a test area to verify the evolution and possible profitability of the biological production of this endemic specie’s fruits.

This action aims to develop an economic agricultural production alternative for the archipelago, promoting the production diversification and the endemic species valorization, contributing to their conservation.

To complete this action, it 500 plants were used, all produced from Azorean blueberry seeds, selected in the wild. In a second area, more than 700 cuttings were planted and collected in 2009 also on the natural vegetation areas of Serra da Tronqueira.

We will wait eagerly for results of this work and hope that these plants follow-up brings good news…and good fruits!!

SPEA celebrates World Wetlands Day with a field trip to Planalto dos Graminhais

The Society for the Study of birds (SPEA), within the Sustainable Laurel Project, celebrated the World Wetlands Day on the last Saturday, February 4th, with a field trip to Planalto dos Graminhais, to divulge this important natural area.

The central area in Planalto dos Graminhais is one of the interventioned areas of the Sustainable Laurel Project. This project is a result of the partnership between SPEA, the Azorian Government and the Povoação Municipality, that aims to recover the peatgod areas existing on that area, among other objectives.

The peatbogs are wetlands essential to the water cycle regulation and to ensure the clean water supply and in enough quantities to the local population. The Planalto dos Graminhais is one of the biggest peatbog areas of Azores and is in an advanced degradation state due to the human action.

The meeting point was on Ribeira dos Caldeirões car park, in Achada, Nordeste, and counted with 15 participants. The field trip began on the old path entrance to Pico da Vara that crosses the intervention zone. Despite the fog and wind, it was possible for all the participants get to know the unique characteristics of this area better and understand more about the work that has been done for its recovery. It was also possible to see the areas where drain ditches where made, the paths recovery and erosion zones, among others.

In some places, the results of the implemented actions can already be observed and the musk is recovering in some of the most degraded areas, a good sign and an incentive to the future. In the end remained the desire of a new visit (preferably in a sunnier and warmer day).