The wildfire in Portugal that killed 61 people earlier this month were caused by eucalyptus tree plantations according to critics like Catarina Martins the leader of the  Left Bloc, a progressive political party in Portugal.

“After what happened, things have to change. We need to analyse, take the necessary lessons and do better”, Martins told Esquarda, “Beyond the enormous loss in Pedrógão Grande, there’s a tragedy which afflicts Portugal every year, with unimaginable proportions, a tragedy in which a country afflicted by fire does not know how to manage it’s own forests”.

From the Esquerda article:

Eucalyptus Globulus is the variant species of this tree one can find almost anywhere in the country, and it’s also the most prone to fire. It’s rapid and aggressive growth means that it does not allow other species to take place, killing more fire resilient and autochthonous species.

It’s growth has been staggering in the last twenty years, mainly due to liberalising policies driven by the paper industry, which we’re not accompanied by any short or longterm strategy to manage the forests, ending up in a monoculture of eucalyptus which, when fire hits, it actually spreads it even further.

The Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees warns that a new threat is emerging from genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus plantations. GE eucalyptus are being developed to grow faster, resist toxic herbicides and/or tolerate freezing temperatures. These traits would exacerbate the impacts of eucalyptus plantations and spread them to new regions currently too cold for eucalyptus to grow.

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