Oberan and Artikutza: two reforestation projects in the Basque Country by Urban Klima 2050


Spring started on 21 March, which is also the International Day of Forests (IDF), an occasion intended to raise awareness of the importance of caring for and conserving the world’s forests to safeguard the survival of all species.
The theme chosen this year by the United Nations General Assembly is ‘Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being’, a crucial topic bearing in mind that every year, ten million hectares of the world’s forest are destroyed, an area similar to the size of Iceland.

Two of the actions put in motion by LIFE IP Urban Klima 2050 set out to restore two natural spaces in Gipuzkoa. The first is an area of the Oberan forest which has been prepared for reforestation, and the other involves the Artikutza dam area which has been restored to its natural state.

In the case of Artikutza, these indigenous forests evolved and matured for more than 100 years with virtually no intervention, and the magnificent state of conservation of the water network make this one of the best preserved and most unique enclaves in Europe. The work done by Donostia City Council as part of the Urban Klima 2050 project will restore river connectivity and riverside vegetation, and protect an alder forest around the end of the old reservoir.

Reforestation is the key to recovering the forests of the Basque Country

Forests have an important role in the Basque Country, with wooded forest areas accounting for 55% of the territory. A quarter of this is protected by the Natura 2000 network of protected areas (covering Europe’s natural habitats).

Due to the expansion of tree plantations and building developments, oak forests, which once blanketed extensive zones of the Basque Country, are now relegated to scattered enclaves, now representing just 10% the area’s forests. These days, the Radiata or Monterey pine dominates the forests, accounting for 30% of all trees. The main natural forests are made up of beech trees (30%), mixed Atlantic forest (20%), and oak (14%) as well as quercus (14%) and melojo oak (7%).

The Basque Region’s natural forests are under pressure and threatened by forestry, agriculture and livestock, changes in water systems, the expansion of housing development and invasive and problematic species, which damage their state of conservation.

Just like all forests everywhere, climate change is endangering the Basque forests. Expected temperature rises and rainfall changes can be extremely damaging and even cause the destruction of beech and oak groves, will gradually become rare outside northern Europe. Expected changes in rainfall patterns and rising temperatures may force the forest ecosystems in the Basque Country to adapt to Mediterranean conditions, which will mean changes in their specific composition.

Keeping our forests healthy through reforestation and sustainable management will help to mitigate this climate and biodiversity crisis. What’s more, these activities also generate goods and services necessary for sustainable development.