Olive trees can live for between 300 to 400 years and ancient olive groves contribute considerably to the ecosystems and to the aesthetics of the agricultural landscapes in which they are located, particularly in Spain, Greece and Northern Portugal. However, in some places, the old olive groves are being destroyed. There seem to be two reasons for this. One is that European Union agricultural policies favour more intensively farmed olives in higher density, younger plantations. The expense of harvesting olives is much reduced in younger trees as the slender trunks can be shaken and the olives collected in this way. Another pressure is growing demand for ancient trees in the gardens of the wealthy, especially in the Algarve of Portugal.
This photograph shows a number of old olive trees in a garden centre near to Faro, Portugal. Large trees, complete with their root and earth base, can weigh up to 20 tonnes and there is variable success in transplantation. Some estimates consider that the supply of old trees will last just a couple of years.