Serra da Gardunha's pre-Roman landscape featured a terrain punctuated by walled villages, whose economy was fundamentally based on farming. The villagers took advantage of their geographical position in the highlands to wield power and control the few roads that intersected the primitive forests. These roads were essentially cattle trails used to move the animals seasonally from the mountains to the flat fields further south.

Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the highland ecosystems were characterised by dense and varied vegetation of deciduous species (oak and chestnut), now immortalised only in the place names of the region. The chestnut tree has since become the symbol of the Gardunha mountain and city of Fundão.

From the mid-19th century onwards, there was a major shift in the economic ethos and way of life of the inhabitants. Many small farms and hamlets in the area were abandoned due to migration (much of the younger generation moved to neighbouring cities or further afield), the forests were badly neglected, towards the end of the 20th century and early 21st large swathes of the chestnut, oak and pine populations were ravaged by forest fires. The Gardunha never recovered from the devastation, despite the valiant efforts of a few local people.