A work in progress developed during the 2016/2017 Independent Air residency in Portugal

A study of the introduction of Eucalyptus tree in Portugal

In 1768 James Cook took captainship of the Endeavour setting sail to his first great voyage. The three years journey was commissioned by the Royal Navy and the Royal Society to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun as a way to solve the Longitude problem and with the secret agenda to seek an unknown southern continent Terra Australis.
It was the secondary mission of the expedition that held Banks’ interest; Banks was the son of a wealthy Lincolnshire landowner, a botanist and naturalist driven by a thirst for knowledge and fame. Joseph Banks, at the age of 25, supplied an estimated £10,000 (over one million pounds today) of his own money to equip the expedition that would lead him to introduce the first specimens of Eucalyptus in Europe.
By the 19th century there was almost no native woodland left in Portugal and, in 1866, some 35,000 eucalyptus were planted around Coimbra in an effort to control devastating erosion. Furthermore it was thought that the trees would help to drain swamplands and reduce the incidence of malaria.
The exotic blue gum is the most abundant tree in Portugal, covering about 7% of the land.
Almost a century later, Scandinavian timber companies began buying up vast parcels of Portuguese land to grow Eucalyptus Globulus, or blue gums, to pulp for paper. The vast plantations crippled village economies, many of which still relied on communal farming, by usurping land, lowering the water table and multiplying numbers of forest fires, among others.