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Rural abandonment in the Iberian Highlands and the potential for rewilding

By 9 de October de 2023October 11th, 2023No Comments1 min read

From Parque Natural del Alto Tajo, we’ve heard how a rewilding approach can bring socio-economic potential to the local communities of a highly depopulated region. Ángel Vela, from PN Alto Tajo, travelled back in time to show us the importance – and distribution – of wild herbivores in Iberia before domesticated grazers replaced them. Iberian landscapes were shaped by domestic herbivores for millennia, performing their role as landscape architects, opening clearings and shaping a mosaic landscape.

Rural abandonment in the last decades led to a decrease in domestic grazers. With the absence of wild species, which were extinct or confined to remote areas, the most depopulated areas are now more vulnerable to large wildfires and climate change’s effects. Pablo Schapira from Fundación Renaturalización Iberia / Rewilding Spain told us how they restore ecological processes by bringing back semiwild herbivores like horses. Together with many local partners, including PN Alto Tajo, they are working on a long-term scale to restore pasture lands and clearings, benefit all biodiversity associated with these ecosystems, promote landscape heterogeneity to prevent wildfires and promote wildlife-based touristic experiences.