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Five Years Planting the Future

Lately we have been preparing the 1000 trees for this edition. We take this opportunity to reveal some of the initiatives we have planned for the 5th Anniversary of "Plantar o Futuro".

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes and 37 seconds

© Helder Berenguer

It may seem hard to believe, but the truth is, we're now entering the 5th edition of "Plantar o Futuro" (Planting the Future). This significant milestone calls for something special, which is why this year we've prepared an extensive lineup of activities and initiatives across Aveiro and Estarreja. This growth has also led us to expand our team of partners. Once again, the project is a collaborative effort with the Municipality of Estarreja and the University of Aveiro. We're excited to work alongside the Biology Students Association, the Faina Académica, the University of Aveiro Biology Department, the Exodus Aveiro Fest and, this year, the Comissão de Faina de Biologia. Agora Aveiro's strategy is renewed, bringing together several associations, companies and other organizations under one initiative, complementing knowledge and adding value in order to organize a project with a real, measurable and significant impact on the environment, community and participants.

The Story of “Plantar o Futuro”

The project was born in 2014 as “Biologia a Plantar o Futuro” (Biology Planting the Future), by the Comissão de Faina de Biologia, an informal group responsible for organizing integration activities for the Biology Students of the University of Aveiro. The project's main aim was to foster a sense of belonging among new students and channel their enthusiasm towards community betterment, with a specific focus on restoring and promoting the native forests.

In 2017, the project's management transitioned to Agora Aveiro, marking the end of "Biologia a Plantar o Futuro" with its final edition at Mata de Vilar in the Lousada Municipality. In 2018, after the devastating fires that plagued Portugal in the preceding years, "Plantar o Futuro" was born. It expanded to encompass the entire University of Aveiro, involving students, faculty, and staff, with reforestation activities now centered in the Estarreja Municipality. Since 2014, when combining the results of "Biologia a Plantar o Futuro" and "Plantar o Futuro," almost 4000 people have participated as "adopters," planting over 6000 trees with the help of around 700 volunteers in places like the Bussaco National Forest and in the Municipalities of Albergaria-a-Velha, Lousada and Estarreja.

The Driving Force Behind Our Project

Forest fires have unfortunately become an annual reality in Portugal's summers. According to the national Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF), most of these fires are due to negligence stemming from improper fire use for activities such as pastoralism, agriculture, and hunting. Others are the result of deliberate actions with criminal intent, often involving vandalism, fire-fighting means provocation, conflicts with neighbors and revenge. The combination of rural abandonment, poor forest planning, and rising temperatures creates ideal conditions for these fires to spread uncontrollably.

Instead of just organizing a short-lived reforestation event, "Plantar o Futuro" aims to build a comprehensive platform. Starting with the simple act of planting a tree, it evolves into an exploration of various sustainability-related topics, with a strong emphasis on native forest preservation. Participants take on the role of tree adopters, supported by a dedicated helpline and the "Plantar o Futuro" Guidebook. Their journey includes engagement in the Forum for Sharing Good Practices and culminates in Reforestation Actions that extend beyond mere planting to include Interpretive Visits and Invasive Plant Control Activities. This mosaic of experiences aims to shape "Plantar o Futuro" into an holistic project, weaving together different moments of learning and growth.

The Inner Workings of the Project

Over the past few months, we've been busy in the greenhouses of Quinta do Marinheiro, in Estarreja. As in previous editions, we sourced small native trees - english oak (Quercus robur), cork oak (Quercus suber), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) and laurel (Laurus nobilis) - from a local certified producer. Our volunteers then thoroughly transplanted these saplings into pots, adding substrate from our partners at SIRO, before placing them in the greenhouses. Tiring and laborious work, but important to allow the growth and development of these young trees. Since then, they have remained in the greenhouses under the care and attention of the Municipality technicians, ensuring their watering and weed removal.

When October arrives and the new academic year begins, the trees will be transported to the University of Aveiro. We will then challenge the academic community to adopt a tree and take care of it until it's ready to be planted in Estarreja the following year. Once the trees are adopted, participants ("adopters") gain access to the "Plantar o Futuro" Guide - an instruction manual covering tree care, details about the Portuguese forest, information about common exotic and invasive species, and guidelines for proper tree planting, among other interesting tidbits. The Support Line is also there to provide assistance, allowing participants to seek guidance from our volunteers, backed by the technical and scientific expertise of the Biology Department.

Marking the occasion of Native Forest Day (November 23), we're organizing a Forum for the Sharing of Good Practices in Estarreja. The focus will be on the "Native Forest of the Future", in a context of climate change, with an environmental perspective, but also economic, political and social. In December, a Field Workshop is on the agenda, exclusively designed for our team members, to ensure they're well-prepared for the subsequent reforestation activities.

As we move into the rainy season of February and March, the stage will be set for Reforestation Actions, Interpretive Visits, and Invasive Plant Control Activities. These activities seek to offer participants a more complete understanding of the importance of the trees they're planting for the ecosystem and environment, but also for the community, with all the ecosystem services that trees provide us.

Join Us on This Journey!

We warmly invite those who are interested to follow our progress through our social media channels on Instagram and Facebook. And we extend a spirited invitation to the entire academic community: as October arrives, consider adopting a native tree and nurture this idea!

Plantar o Futuro is organized by Agora Aveiro in collaboration with the University of Aveiro and the Municipality of Estarreja. It has Glicínias Plaza as its "Main Partner", RODI Industries, MacroMakers and Caetano Auto as "Golden Partners" and SIRO - Substratos Profissionals as "Silver Partner". Colaboration extends to our “Partners” Comissão de Faina de Biologia, the Department of Biology of the University of Aveiro, the Biology Students Association, Faina Académica and Exodus Aveiro Fest. It also has the support of the Municipality of Aveiro, the "Voluntariado Jovem para a Natureza e Florestas" Program and the Portuguese Institute for Sports and Youth - IPD, I.P...

Helder Berenguer