Clearing shrubland as a strategy to encourage extensive livestock farming in the Mediterranean mountains

T. Lasanta, E. Nadal-Romero, J.M. García-Ruiz

Abstract


The European Mediterranean highlands have undergone a sharp economic decline from the mid-20th century, causing heavy environmental impacts and loss of ecosystem services. These mountain areas have limited opportunities to integrate into in the current financial system, which demands high productivity from workers and a very competitive product. Extensive livestock farming is one of the few activities able to survive in this context, as it needs little labour and can make use of poor grazing resources.

In the north-west Iberian Range, northern Spain, the Leza valley (La Rioja) is showing a growing interest in developing extensive livestock farming. To this end, the regional Government is implementing a pasture regeneration plan for clearing shrubland. Since 1986, almost 30% of the shrubs have been cleared, mainly abandoned fields recolonized by Genista scorpius on lime substrate, and Cistus laurifolius on siliceous substrate. This has increased the available pasture, as the average production in G. scorpius areas has risen from 4566 Mj ha-1 yr-1 (δ ± 1271) to 10,167.3 Mj ha-1 yr-1 (δ ± 2850.3), and on C. laurifolius areas from 2435 Mj ha-1 yr-1 (δ ± 492) to 7628.6 Mj ha-1 yr-1 (δ ± 1428.2). The livestock numbers show an upward trend, going from 1833.9 LU in 1972 to 7207.8 LU in 2017, with a simultaneous increase in the size of farms (27.6 LU in 1972 and 115.2 LU in 2017). In addition, new livestock farms established by people from outside the study area (41.7% in 2017). Finally, there is a discussion on the environmental benefits provided by extensive livestock farming.


Keywords


land abandonment; shrub clearance; pasture production; livestock farms; Iberian Range; Spain

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18172/cig.3616

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