Signs of Life from Millenary Olive Tree Burned in Sardinian Wildfires

Volunteers and researchers responsible for restoring the tree warn that more needs to be done to prevent future wildfires.

Pietro Paolo Arca and Giovanni Galistu (Photo: Franco Spanedda)
By Ylenia Granitto
Jul. 13, 2022 15:02 UTC
Pietro Paolo Arca and Giovanni Galistu (Photo: Franco Spanedda)

The thou­sand-year-old wild olive tree of Sa Tanca Manna in Cuglieri, which was affected by last summer’s fires in west Sardinia, is reviv­ing: three vig­or­ous shoots have sprung out from its stump.

After the gen­eral dis­may caused by the dam­age done to the mil­lenary olive tree, which stood 16.5 meters tall with a cir­cum­fer­ence of 10 meters before the dis­as­ter, this event gave every­one new hope.

We think that most of the time, these dis­as­ters can be avoided.- Pietro Paolo Arca, pres­i­dent, Montiferru Association

The new sprouts are a sign that the plant is not dead, and we can look for­ward con­fi­dently to a full recov­ery,” Pietro Paolo Arca, the pres­i­dent of the Montiferru Association, told Olive Oil Times.

The ancient tree’s resur­gence was made pos­si­ble by the work of the association’s vol­un­teers and botanists from the University of Cagliari and the University of Sassari.

See Also:Flames Engulf the Ancient Olive Grove of Amfissa

In the after­math of the fire, we decided to team up to sup­port farm­ers and insti­tu­tions,” Arca said. We aimed to regen­er­ate the ter­ri­tory, recover the destroyed olive trees and raise pub­lic aware­ness of the impor­tance of imme­di­ately tak­ing action to quickly restore the pro­duc­tion fab­ric of the area, to pre­vent the loss of years of pro­duc­tiv­ity and jobs.”

The group of vol­un­teers called upon other asso­ci­a­tions and pri­vate com­pa­nies, which responded warmly and made a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to sup­ply­ing seedlings to bring the olive and for­est resources of the affected area back to life.

After send­ing a for­mal request to the munic­i­pal­ity of Cuglieri, the Montiferru Association obtained per­mis­sion to help the local insti­tu­tions man­age the site of the mil­lenary oleaster. Then, fol­low­ing the experts’ rec­om­men­da­tions, they started imple­ment­ing a series of mea­sures to restore the plan­t’s vital­ity.

Upon the rem­nants of the tree, we placed a sun-shad­ing cloth, namely a cov­er­ing struc­ture built from scaf­fold­ing tubes aim­ing at replac­ing the foliage that was destroyed,” Arca said.

This arrange­ment, in con­junc­tion with a layer of straw mulch, allowed them to lower the tem­per­a­tures of the soil and the stump, which had reached 90 °C, and bring them back to nor­mal. They also set up a drip irri­ga­tion sys­tem.

The researchers from the University of Cagliari found that pho­to­syn­thetic activ­ity was still tak­ing place in some por­tions of the stump,” Arca said. This meant that the plant was not dead. It was a true relief.”

Therefore, we planned the irri­ga­tion every one or two days in those points where the plant was still vital,” he added. And finally, one day of April, dur­ing the Easter hol­i­days, we found the shoots just sprouted from the base.”

They waited some time to com­mu­ni­cate the news until the twigs had suf­fi­ciently strength­ened.

The mil­len­nial struc­ture has obvi­ously been lost,” Arca said. Yet it is being reborn, and it is a source of real pride for us to have con­tributed to the recov­ery of this liv­ing mon­u­ment.”

The credit goes to the many vol­un­teers who col­lab­o­rated with the 84 mem­bers of our asso­ci­a­tion,” he added. Still, we can say that the force of nature won over the fool­ish­ness of humankind.”

Although it is impos­si­ble to irri­gate the entire area affected, the asso­ci­a­tion is work­ing to recover all the olive trees impacted by the fire.

Between 60 and 70 per­cent of the sec­u­lar plants have responded well and have new sprouts on the trunk or stump. The hope is that a large num­ber of them will recover within three to four years.

In this case, the risk is the aban­don­ment of the land affected, which is a threat not only for the local econ­omy but also for the pro­tec­tion of the land­scape,” Arca said. Instead, this recov­ery gives us all renewed con­fi­dence.”

On July 23, one year after the wild­fire, the Montiferru Association will hold a pub­lic event to dis­cuss the restora­tion of the mil­lenary tree and urge local stake­hold­ers to take the nec­es­sary actions to pre­vent future wild­fires, which are fore­cast to become more severe as a result of cli­mate change.

We think that most of the time, these dis­as­ters can be avoided,” Arca said. There is a gen­eral ten­dency, in all sec­tors, to make sav­ings in safety. Instead, it costs much less to invest in pre­ven­tion than to repair the dam­age and imple­ment reme­dial actions after­ward. All this should be a warn­ing and a les­son for today’s and tomorrow’s gen­er­a­tions.”

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