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Team:NOVA LxPortugal/Human Practices

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Human Practices

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The demand for wood in the world has been increasing and it is expected to increase even more in the future (OCDE, 2018). Nowadays, markets are increasingly global, and wood and resin are no exceptions.

Projections indicate that, in the future, wood will be a scarce resource in the world due to the productive cycle of the maritime pine (pine wood is harvested after at least 10 years, with the wood value increasing as the trees age). The growing trend of using forest-based products is associated with several factors, including growth in the world population and urbanization (with the incorporation of wood products as building materials, since pine is one of the more extensively exploited types of wood used as lumber); public policies that encourage a circular economy; the reduction of the use of plastics and non-renewable materials; an increase in e-commerce, which depends on cardboard packaging produced with long fibre species (such as the maritime pine) and the development of new products from wood and resin.

In Portugal, forest fires and infections like Pine Wilt Disease lead to enormous stress in the pine trees, which threatens biodiversity, sustainability, employability, businesses, both local and global economies and even natural carbon capture.

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23% of the Portuguese forest is occupied by Pinus pinaster (the maritime pine), which corresponds to an area of around 605,000 ha (the equivalent to more than 850 000 soccer fields), and has both historical and economic value to the Portuguese society. As an important source of pinewood, the maritime pine has a unique role in our country’s forest valorization, as well as in the creation of forest-related jobs and in the development of a profitable forest industry capable of generating wealth for our country. Its wood is widely used for several purposes, including construction and high-value carpentry items, furniture and its resin is an important source of turpentine and rosin. Pinus pinaster is one of the species in Portugal with the highest industrial and business dynamics of forest-based products.1.

The industrial consumption of pine wood in Portugal in 2019 was 4.5 Mm3, which translated to 3.1% of Portuguese exports - around 1,876 million euros, and the creation of 57,843 positions, mainly in the interior region of the country, corresponding to 81% of all forest industry jobs1. These values are expected to persist or even increase in the future as there are 8,516 companies that profit from pine trees, which represents around 88% of all forest industries1. Although the main revenue comes from the final cutting down of the tree, a well-managed pine forest allows the achievement of yearly revenues through resin tapping, which in 2015 represented an explored area of 24,100 ha1, seems to be increasing in demand and may represent for the producer an additional annual income of 50 to 500 euros per hectare.

Besides being economically relevant, pine trees play a role in coastal protection associated with dunes and are the largest carbon reservoir in the Portuguese national forest, absorbing 90.3 Gg of CO2e1. Moreover, as an endogenous species to Portugal and several other Mediterranean countries, pine trees are also the habitat of several species of both fauna and flora and crucial to the maintenance of the Mediterranean forest ecosystem, which adds to the fact that their preservation is an environmental concern.

Unfortunately, nowadays, more and more maritime pine trees are affected by pine wilt disease. The disease is widely spread in Portugal, and although it is very difficult to accurately monitor, based on the 2009-2018 infection rate, ICNF (Conservation of Nature and Forests Institute) roughly estimates there might be around 10.97 million infected maritime pine trees.

On a global scale, this pest affected the Far East (Japan, China and Korea) first, and its appearance in Portugal in 1999 announced its entry in European forests. The global impact of its spread through forested areas in different parts of the world is of increasing economic concern, made worse by climate change, which makes some pine forests and some countries more vulnerable to this disease, especially the ones in southern Europe, warmer coastal Asian countries, and in Australia and New Zealand, where plantations of susceptible pine have been established over the years. These two southern hemisphere countries are on especially high alert and strictly monitor all ports of entry for wood products2.

The globalization witnessed in the last decades demanded cheaper solutions for packaging imported goods, which contributed to the spread of this disease since the low-grade lumber used for crating and packaging purposes is oftentimes unprocessed or inadequately processed. That results in B. xylophilus and/or its insect vector infested materials being detected increasingly at ports worldwide, despite stricter monitoring of all ports of entry for wood products. This is exacerbated by the fact that some of the countries that have the most expanding economy (countries in southeast Asia) also have significant areas of forestland infested with B. xylophilus 2.

In Canada and the USA, and despite the fact that both the pathogen and one or more suitable vectors are present, pine wilt disease is rare. This has been proposed to be due to most indigenous North American conifers being resistant to the disease and the high summer temperatures being of too short a duration to favor the pathogen and pine wilt development3.

As mentioned, the threat of global warming may significantly influence the impact of PWD, not only by affecting directly the behavior and aggressiveness of the PWN and its vectors but also by increasing stress in pine trees, especially those growing in warmer and drier areas, which is correlated with more aggressive infestation and killing of trees by the PWN2. Overall, several countries are perceived as having pine forests vulnerable to PWD and are thus impacted by the economic cost that results from the loss of healthy profitable trees. Our project and the solution designed can then be advantageous to a large scale implementation not only in Portugal but in several other countries all over the world, especially those mentioned as having well-established infestations (such as Japan) and/or large areas of vulnerable pine forests, where hefty costs would incur by an unrestrained spread of this disease.


  1. Centro Pinus. A Fileira do Pinho em 2019: Indicadores da Fileira do Pinho. http://centropinus.org/files/2020/08/INDICADORES-CENTRO-PINUS-2020-1.pdf
  2. Mota, M. M. & Vieira, P. Pine wilt disease: A worldwide threat to forest ecosystems. Pine Wilt Disease: A Worldwide Threat to Forest Ecosystems (2008). doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-8455-3.
  3. Zhang, B. G., Futai, K., Sutherland, J. R. & Takeuchi, Y. Pine Wilt Disease. (Springer Japan, 2008). doi:10.1007/978-4-431-75655-2