Active management against shrubland expansion: seeking a balance between conservation and exploitation in the mountains

T. Lasanta


The mountains of Europe, especially in the Mediterranean, have undergone a significant process of revegetation since the mid-20th century with the spread of shrublands and forests in succession stages. This leads to negative effects (degradation of pasture, accumulation of biomass with the subsequent increase in fire risk, loss or trivialized of cultural landscapes, etc.) and other positive ones (greater rewilding of landscapes, recovery of forest life, more CO2 fixation, less soil erosion, etc.). Thus, two alternatives must be put forward: either allow the rewilding process to continue, or intervene in the region to reduce the negative effects of revegetation.

In this paper, the literature forms the base for a discussion on the main interventions in the territory: extensive livestock grazing, combined with prescribed fires and shrub clearing. Prescribed fires are found to be insufficient to control the spread of shrublands, and in some cases promotes its regrowth (Echinospartum horridum), as well as degrading the pasture land and increasing soil erosion. On the other hand, clearing shrubland has positive effects: a reduction in wildfires, increased livestock numbers, and improved indicators of heterogeneity and fragmentation of the landscape.


land abandonment; rewilding; prescribed fires; shrub clearing; Mediterranean mountains

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