`Millenary Olive Tree Destroyed in Sardinian Wildfires - Olive Oil Times

Millenary Olive Tree Destroyed in Sardinian Wildfires

Jul. 29, 2021
Ylenia Granitto

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On July 24, a wild­fire broke out in the vil­lage of Santu Lussurgiu, in the west­ern Sardinian province of Oristano.

For three days, the flames, dri­ven by a strong Scirocco wind (blow­ing from the south­east), spread through a vast zone in the cen­tral-west­ern part of the island. The blaze reached the area of Montiferru and Planargia, envelop­ing 14 munic­i­pal­i­ties and dam­ag­ing olive groves across two regions.

If it were pos­si­ble to sum­ma­rize the cat­a­stro­phe that affected this ter­ri­tory, I think it could be well rep­re­sented by the mar­tyr­dom of the olive tree of Sa Tanca Manna.- Maria Giovanna Campus, for­mer coor­di­na­tor, local land­scape pro­tec­tion office

The fire has been put out thanks to a large deploy­ment of forces: 7,500 mem­bers of the forestry corps, fire­fight­ers, civil pro­tec­tion, Carabinieri, state police, the Italian Red Cross, the regional agency Forestas and vol­un­teers were sup­ported by a fleet of 24 air­craft, includ­ing 13 heli­copters and 11 Canadair.

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The valley of olive trees in Cuglieri before the fire. Photo: Maria Giovanna Campus

About 20,000 hectares of land includ­ing houses, farms and woods were dev­as­tated by fire. While an incal­cu­la­ble wealth of wildlife, live­stock, Mediterranean bush and cul­ti­vated fields went up in smoke, almost 1,500 peo­ple were tem­porar­ily evac­u­ated.

See Also: Olive Oil One Factor in Extraordinary Longevity of Some Sardinian Residents

The Oristano pros­e­cu­tor opened a case against unknown per­sons for aggra­vated arson.

In the munic­i­pal­ity of Cuglieri, at least 90 per­cent of the olive groves has been destroyed,” the Council of the National Order of Agronomists and Doctors of Forestry (Conaf) said in a press release: In the Municipality of Sennariolo, 95 per­cents of the sur­faces are burnt.”

Among the many plants affected is the thou­sand-year-old mon­u­men­tal wild olive tree (Olea europaea oleaster) of Sa Tanca Manna, an area near Cuglieri. Registered in the list of mon­u­men­tal trees of the Ministery of Agriculture, before the dis­as­ter it was 16.5 meters tall and had a cir­cum­fer­ence of 10 meters.

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Olive tree of Sa Tanca Manna before the fire. Photo: Barbara Alfei

If it were pos­si­ble to sum­ma­rize the cat­a­stro­phe that affected this ter­ri­tory, I think it could be well rep­re­sented by the mar­tyr­dom of the olive tree of Sa Tanca Manna,” Maria Giovanna Campus, an archae­ol­o­gist and for­mer coor­di­na­tor of the regional land­scape pro­tec­tion office, told Olive Oil Times.

We had rec­og­nized its value and beauty declar­ing it a nat­ural mon­u­ment and, there­fore, we worked for its val­oriza­tion and proudly sig­naled its pres­ence to the numer­ous vis­i­tors. Sadly, it ended up in smoke and ashes,” she added.

It will take sev­eral decades to restore the con­di­tions and fer­til­ity of the soil and to recover the ecosys­tem bal­ance and the com­plex­ity of the Mediterranean scrub, accord­ing to Conaf.

Fire pre­ven­tion plans coor­di­nated with the cor­rect ter­ri­to­r­ial plan­ning of Mediterranean scrub wooded areas are urgently needed,” said Sabrina Diamanti, the organization’s pres­i­dent. It is nec­es­sary to encour­age the pro­tec­tion of the ter­ri­tory and dis­cour­age the aban­don­ment of the for­est, remind­ing farm­ers of their role as sen­tinels, allow­ing them to carry out rural and live­stock activ­i­ties peace­fully, includ­ing graz­ing in the woods.”

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Photo: Maria Giovanna Campus

These are inter­ven­tions that can be done with rea­son­ing and sci­en­tific knowl­edge,” she added. Therefore, we make avail­able our skills and in-depth knowl­edge of the ter­ri­tory to pre­vent these dis­as­ters.”

As soon as the sit­u­a­tion allowed, botanist Ignazio Camarda led the oper­a­tions to save the patri­arch of Sa Tanca Manna.

A small por­tion of the basal part of the trunk seems less impaired… We asked for the inter­ven­tion of the fire­fight­ers, who directed a jet of water on the part that we think (we hope) is still vital,” he wrote on Facebook.

The Casteddu online news­pa­per reported that, accord­ing to botanist Gianluigi Bacchetta, the patri­arch tree may be able to sur­vive.

It will remain muti­lated and reduced to a min­i­mum,” he said. But the left side still seems vital, also thanks to the prov­i­den­tial inter­ven­tion of the fire­fight­ers.”

The Sardinian farm­ers say they are ready and com­mit­ted to restore their land and replant the trees.

They have not lost heart,” Campus told Olive Oil Times after vis­it­ing some olive grow­ers in Cuglieri. These dili­gent, hard-work­ing men and women will make every effort to repair the dam­age, and we are all con­fi­dent that the insti­tu­tions too will be quick to respond and do their part.”

In the mean­time, we need to under­stand the impor­tance of good agri­cul­tural prac­tices as key ele­ment in pro­tect­ing and pre­serv­ing these liv­ing mon­u­ments,” he added.





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