Portugal’s forests cover around 3.4 million hectares, around 38 per cent of mainland territory. After maritime pine and cork oak, non-native eucalyptus is the third most common species, accounting for around a fifth of the total forest area. Portugal’s eucalyptus plantations date back to the government’s strategic afforestation projects in the early 20th century. More recently, eucalyptus has been widely cultivated by private landowners on non-cultivated, abandoned or degraded agricultural land; conversion of native forest is illegal.
Portucel manages around 123,000 hectares of forest and plantations in scattered locations throughout the country, of which 72 per cent are eucalyptus plantations. The company has built biodiversity conservation into its forest management framework, helping to protect a range of valuable habitats. The main aim of Portucel’s management activities is to maintain existing biodiversity values, but some initiatives go further by aiming to enhance biodiversity. These include projects to replant riparian galleries in degraded areas to restore ecosystem services such as soil stability and water quality.