Enigma of the trees that resist wildfires

Enigma of the trees that resist wildfires

By Alejandra Martins BBC Mundo

  • 1 September 2015

Scientists are investigating whether the trees could provide a buffer zone to hinder the spread of wildfires

Spanish scientists Bernabé and José Moya couldn’t believe their eyes.

More than 20,000 hectares of forest were charred. But in the middle of the devastation, a group of cypresses was still standing tall and green.

When a fire swept through an experimental plot in Andilla, in the Spanish province of Valencia in 2012, it gave researchers the perfect opportunity.

The plot, which was part of CypFire, a project financed by the European Union, was established during the 1980s to test the resistance of more than 50 varieties of Mediterranean cypress to a pathogenic fungus.

After the fire event of 2012, it also provided further anecdotal evidence of the peculiar resilience of the species in the face of fire.

Botanist Bernabé Moya and his brother, environmental engineer José Moya, both from the department of monumental trees in Valencia, had been involved in the project for several years.

“On our way to what we knew would be a Dante-esque scene during that tragic summer, we felt deep sadness at the thought of losing a plot of such value to the conservation of biodiversity,” Bernabé Moya told BBC Mundo.

“But we had hope that perhaps some of the cypresses had survived.”

“When we got there we saw that all the common oaks, holm oaks, pines and junipers had completely burnt. But only 1.27% of the Mediterranean cypresses had ignited.” Read more.