According to an apocryphal quote, formerly the Iberian Peninsula was so populated with trees that a squirrel could move from Cádiz to the Pyrenees without going down to the ground. Inspired by this event, the +Árboles Foundation presented to the whole of European society the project “The Way of the Squirrels”, consisting of establishing an environmental corridor through the “backbone” of the Iberian Peninsula (from Tarifa south of the Penibética mountain range, to MasD’Orcières, in the French Massif central) that separates the Mediterranean, Cantabrian and Atlantic slopes of the Iberian rivers.
This corridor aims to recover part of the lost forest heritage, end the fragmentation of our forests and allow greater mobility of wild animal populations.
The way of the squirrels
The environmental corridor will provide value to mountain areas, enhance their culture and heritage, generating ecotourism and rural development. To create this corridor, an extensive network of trails will be signposted, taking advantage of old livestock roads, forest tracks or simple neighborhood roads, which will allow the transit of hiking enthusiasts and plant-tree volunteers to recover their vegetation cover.
This green corridor was born with an Iberian vocation, crossing in this first phase around 425 Spanish municipalities, Andorra and about 100 French municipalities, acting in the headwaters of the peninsular rivers.
The + Trees Foundation counts for the realization of “The Way of the Squirrels” with a large and consistent group of volunteers, as well as professionals who work on the knowledge of the terrain so that the reforestation can be carried out with the greatest possible success. Farmers and owners of pasture areas also have an important role, whose mission is to implement forms of cultivation and livestock compatible with tree cover.
How is reforestation organized?
The +Trees Foundation has for this project a large group of professionals and volunteers who work on the development of a database and a Geographic Information System (GIS), bringing together information on land uses, potential vegetation, socioeconomics, town halls, critical points, etc.
With these first data, an inaugural march is coordinated that will allow to compare the geographical information gathered and will serve to publicly publicize the project and get in touch with local authorities and associations interested in “the Way of the Squirrels”. All these studies are necessary to agree on the best land to start working, and what plants need to be introduced, always with the support of the people of the regions and places where you want to start the reforestation work.
For these purposes, it is considered especially important to involve farmers and owners of pasture areas to implement forms of cultivation and livestock compatible with tree cover, with systems such as Analog Forestry.
Finally, days of planting and improvement of deforested lands, or places where the forest mass is degraded and in critical condition, will be organized on a regular basis; to achieve, in the long term, the objective of establishing an environmental corridor and the growing attraction of reforestation hikers.
Thanks to this pilot project and the pilgrimage of volunteers, it is intended to promote sustainable forest management systems, organic agriculture, permaculture, analog forestry, ecotourism and other environmentally responsible rural development plans.
The Nendo Dango method
The +Trees Foundation makes available to the cultural and environmental entities of regions and municipalities near “The Way of the Squirrels” several interesting activities such as the exhibition “100 Forests”, the work of the photographer Kaiko, and the workshops “Nendo Dango to green the Earth”, which makes available to children and adults the possibility of learning the technique of Masanobu Fukuoka.
This activity is ideal for cultural spaces and educational centers and has a great advantage: it is very cheap and does a lot of good to our environment. In this way, the involvement of a large number of people is achieved.
But what is the Nendo Dango method?
This curious name activity means “clay balls” in Japanese. This method of reforestation, which allows millions of seeds to be sown at low cost, was devised by Masanobu Fukuoka in the 60s, with the idea of “improving nature and turning deserts into forests”.
This technique is also known as pildorization. Nendo Dango consists of making small balls of clay inside which seeds of different species of trees and shrubs are put, and then spread them on the ground. The clay layer, once dry, protects the seeds, preventing birds, rodents and other animals from eating them. The seeds will be released from their clay frame when it starts to rain and it softens. In this way, the clay fulfills a double function: it protects the fruits and offers a wet bed rich in minerals once it receives rain, facilitating germination.
It is proven that Nendo Dango is a very effective method of reforestation, much more than other more traditional techniques. While with other systems only 0.2% of geminen seeds are achieved, with Nendo Dango 2% is achieved. And if that were not enough, it is cheaper than planting trees raised in nurseries (which is still a good way to reforest).
Nendo Dango is therefore a method of planting. In addition to clay and seeds, it is also useful to use fertilizer and some natural repellent in the mixture to seek the greatest possible success and to take granivorous animals from our mud balls. Herbaceous plants sprout more easily (first legumes, then grasses) and begin to create the humus that fertilizes the first layer of soil. They make the task easier for the slowest plants- shrubs and trees.
It is very important that there is a lot of variety of seeds and that we have previously observed on the ground and studied which are the native plants of the place, to avoid planting “foreign” plants that will hardly adapt well to a land that is not their own. In addition to planting seeds of native vegetables, we also have to ensure that the land we use is typical of the region, and if possible, we can always mix our clay with some soil of the place.
Why is it necessary to reforest?
Currently, one of the main threats to biodiversity is habitat fragmentation. Not only are our forests significantly smaller than they were a few centuries ago, but they are also isolated from each other, making it difficult for many species to survive. This problem is compounded by climate change, as those species that are not able to migrate north are likely to become extinct. S
it is therefore essential to recover the connectivity of the forests that remain in the Iberian Peninsula, facilitating the migration of their emblematic species, even beyond the Pyrenees and thus connecting with other corridors proposed by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and European forest spaces to the Ural Mountains and asian plateaus. In this way, future secondary biological corridors can be established, in an east-west direction, both for mountain ranges and for river courses or other forest ecosystems of great value.
In addition to “the Way of the Squirrels”, the Foundation has other planting projects such as “Bosque Lebana TAU Grupo”, “Arboretum Marbella”, “Bosque de Nechi Group”, and “El Bosque del Corazón”.