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COORDINATION: Instituto Superior de Agronomia (CEABN, CEF, LEAF). Conceição Colaço (E-mail: ccolaco@isa.ulisboa.pt)

CEABN InBIO TEAM: Conceição Colaço (coord.), Inês Duarte, Iryna Skulska

OTHER INSTITUTIONS: Centro de Biotecnologia de Plantas da Beira Interior (CBP-BI)

URL: https://www.acacia4fireprev.com/

In recent decades, fire regimes have been affected by changes in land use, increased fuel load and continuity, global warming and an increase in invasive alien plant species.

Acacia species are among the most widespread invasive plants in Europe and have become an environmental issue in South-western Europe and in Portugal, where Acacia-dominated woodlands and were estimated to cover over 18 500 ha. Climatic conditions, abandonment of rural areas and fuel accumulation due to the lack of forest management promote Acacia invasion pattern. Taking advantage of higher temperatures and longer droughts, fire adapted species such as Acacias will prevail and increase dominance after each fire. Currently, no specific use as been found for this biomass, allied to the cost of their removal and eradication, larger terrain portions will be infested by this species leading to higher occurrence probability and intensity of wildfires in invaded ranges.

Our project intends on searching for possible end uses of different fractions of Acacia biomass and their residues encouraging a more active management and combat, by giving some value to the wastes. Therefore leading to cost reduction and even possible economic benefits for land owners with Acacia infested terrains. The idea is, by creating higher added-value products, to enhance the value of Acacia biomass residues, promoting fuel management, mitigating Acacia invasion and reducing fire risk. In the bioeconomy strategy framework, the use of Acacia residues can be included into the “Green Economy Concept”.

The main objectives of the project are: i) Valorisation of the Acacia biomass, promoting producers' incomes; ii) Prevention of forest fires by promoting fuel management; iii) Promote a better use for the landscape management residues; iv) Raise public awareness of the role of Acacias in climate change mitigation and fire prevention.

The specific objectives are to: evaluate the viability of acacia’s biomass to produce high quality particle boards and briquettes; evaluate acacia bioactive potential of extractives as finechemicals or biocides for human pathogenic microbes ; increase interest of industries for innovative and added value products of acacia biomass; increase awareness of scholars and forest owners associations among others, on the urgent need for Acacia population control in order to protect our habitats and at the same time reduce wildfire risk.

The project is divided in four Tasks providing a logical and coherent path from biomass residues towards final products and public awareness: Task 1 - Acacia’s biomass evaluation and harvesting; Task 2- Biomass and added-value products characterization; Task 3- Added-value products development & testing; Task 4- Social engagement: stakeholders and citizen science.