Biodiversity Program Succeeds in Restoring Species to Olive Groves

Olive farms following the Olivares Vivos program recorded a 30-percent increase in flora and fauna. The value of their EVOOs is expected to rise too.

By Paolo DeAndreis
Apr. 2, 2021 07:48 UTC

The most exten­sive study ever con­ducted on olive grove bio­di­ver­sity has pro­vided promis­ing results in Andalusia.

Scientists from the University of Jaén and Spain’s Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) said that olive farms fol­low­ing the Olivares Vivos pro­gram have recorded a 30-per­cent increase in flora and fauna col­lected in the groves.

These results endorse that the incor­po­ra­tion of bio­di­ver­sity in agri­cul­ture is an asset that improves the prof­itabil­ity of farm­ers through their entre­pre­neur­ship and the search for added value.- Asunción Ruiz, exec­u­tive direc­tor, SEO/Birdlife

The LIFE Olivares Vivos pro­gram, coor­di­nated by SEO/BirdLife, has shown that this olive grow­ing model works,” the researchers wrote. It gen­er­ates a recov­ery of species and a very sig­nif­i­cant increase in the abun­dance of flora and fauna in just three years.”

See Also:Europe Plans to Triple Agricultural Land Dedicated to Organic Farming by 2030

Furthermore, it is prof­itable: it does not reduce pro­duc­tiv­ity, it saves on fer­til­iz­ers and phy­tosan­i­tary prod­ucts and pro­vides added value to your prod­ucts,” they added.

In 2016, 40 olive farms in the region were selected, with 20 con­verted to the Olivares Vivos model and 20 oper­at­ing nor­mally and serv­ing as a con­trol group.

Native species of trees and other woody plants were planted in the 20 groves that adopted the Olivares Vivo model. The herba­ceous cover in the groves was also main­tained and unpro­duc­tive areas of the groves, includ­ing gul­lies, streams and road­sides, were restored.

The researchers also added sup­port­ing infra­struc­ture to the plan­ta­tions, includ­ing ponds, drink­ing troughs, nest boxes and insect nests to facil­i­tate the tran­si­tion of the groves to a more nat­ural state.

Once the con­ver­sion of these 20 olive groves to the Olivares Vivos model has been com­pleted, an aver­age of about 30 species per olive grove has been incor­po­rated, con­sid­er­ing all the groups stud­ied,” said Pedro Rey, a pro­fes­sor of ecol­ogy at the University of Jaén and head of the research team work­ing with Olivares Vivos.

In these olive groves, with­out con­sid­er­ing the woody species intro­duced by refor­esta­tion, the recov­ery of species exceeded 12 per­cent and the abun­dance increased by 70 per­cent,” he added.

The num­ber of bee, bird and plant species observed in the groves increased between seven and 12 per­cent, with a 40 per­cent increase in abun­dance com­pared to the groves of the con­trol group. The abun­dance of pre-exist­ing ant species increased too.

According to the researchers, bio­di­ver­sity will likely con­tinue to rise in the groves as the native trees and woody plants con­tinue to thrive, cre­at­ing new habi­tats.

Along with increas­ing bio­di­ver­sity, the value of olive oil pro­duced in the groves con­verted to the Olivares Vivos model might also see a boost.

Extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duced in these live olive groves rep­re­sents a cer­ti­fied con­tri­bu­tion to the con­ser­va­tion of bio­di­ver­sity,” said José Eugenio Gutiérrez, the SEO/BirdLife del­e­gate in Andalusia and coor­di­na­tor of the project.

To trans­fer the added value of bio­di­ver­sity to extra vir­gin olive oils, the Olivares Vivos seal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion scheme is being fine-tuned,” he added. It will guar­an­tee the con­sumer that the extra vir­gin olive oil bear­ing this seal has been pro­duced in olive groves in which species of flora and fauna have been recov­ered.”

At the moment, only extra vir­gin olive oils pro­duced in the 20 exper­i­men­tal groves will be able to use the seal on their prod­ucts. However, Gutiérrez said that more than 600 grow­ers have expressed inter­est in adopt­ing the model.

These results endorse that the incor­po­ra­tion of bio­di­ver­sity in agri­cul­ture is an asset that improves the prof­itabil­ity of farm­ers through their entre­pre­neur­ship and the search for added value, but also a bench­mark to improve the imple­men­ta­tion of the envi­ron­men­tal com­po­nent of the new agri­cul­tural and envi­ron­men­tal poli­cies,” SEO/Birdlife exec­u­tive direc­tor Asunción Ruiz con­cluded.

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