The expansion of eucalyptus farming in the Iberian Peninsula began some 40 years ago, sold as a profitable panacea, a fast- growing tree species producing abundant pulp in comparison with slow-growing oaks. Today there are more than 760,000 hectares of the tree planted in Spain and 646,000 in Portugal. Don’t be fooled by the fires that rage each year in the their plantations. They are not forests, but rather green deserts with a huge environmental and landscape cost. Every years hundreds of thousands of new trees are planted: some 30 million will be planted in Galicia alone. Crónica Verde More stats from El País
I wrote this on iberianature a couple of years back in relation to a bout of eucalyptus fires:
Yes, this is bad news for the owners and the people who live in the area. One might call it an industrial disaster, but hardly bad news ecologically. If there was anything more than token policy for reintroducing autochthonous species, one might even say it was a good thing, but as it is, reforestation in this damp corner of Spain will be swift. Eucalyptus is highly combustible but also regenerates incredibly quickly afterwards. There are hundreds of fires along Galicia ‘s coast of year, yet all along the Rias Bajas and Altas there is an almost continuous mono-crop swathe of these Australian trees. This birdless green desert is the true disaster of Galicia ‘s coast.
A Spanish researcher has shown that wolves in the Macizo Central Orensano, Galicia prefer roe deer, deer and wild boar, rather than sheep, goats, cows and horses. The researcher, who identified the food type of wolves through their faeces, found “in 87.1% of cases the carcasses of wild hoofed animals appeared, while domestic animals were only found in 11.3%. Lower amounts of remains of carnivorous animals, such as badgers, dogs, cats and rabbits were also found”.
The study, recently published in Wildlife Biology, shows that roe deer are the main prey, and were eaten all seasons of the year though particularly during the summer (52%) and spring (26.2%). 62.8% of prey were roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), 12.6% deer (Cervus elaphus) and 10% wild boar (Sus scrofa). The consumption of domestic sheep and goats only represented 7.7% and 2.9%, respectively.
The fact that livestock remains are present in excrement samples of wolves is explained by their scavenging habits in the area. No attacks on livestock were reported during the study. One of the most important points in the study that the consumption of wild and domestic animals does not depend on their availability. Wolves preferred roe deer, deer and wild boar ahead of livestock, “in spite of the fact that both food types can be found in large quantities”, Barja adds.
“In areas with a low density and diversity of wild hoofed animals where wolves feed on domestic animals, an increase in the number of wild prey, livestock vigilance and limited access to carcasses could force wolves to specialise in the consumption of wild prey and transmit this behaviour to their offspring. Without doubt, this would help to minimise conflict between humans and wolves, and would support the conservation of canidae”, the researcher concludes.
I liked this photo report of the fishing industry in Vigo by Ian Berry of Magnum Photos. The above image “ Gulls follow the trawler in the hope of picking up any fish left uncovered. 2008″ All photos here
Interesting Galician short news item about a farm which is using donkeys to protect its flock of sheep from wolves, an idea taken from the use of donkeys to protect livestock from leopards in Namibia. Donkeys it seems, unlike most breeds of cows, will face up to wolves rather than run away.
Interesting news from Galicia. An environmental collective, Fegama, are calling for a more positive and effective management of the Iberian wolf (Canis lupus signatus) in their region by encouraging man’s coexistence with the species rather than continuing with the age-old battle against it. They suggest that instead of the present, negative method of paying farmers compensation for damages to livestock caused by wolves (often a long, drawn-out affair), that a system of subsidising farmers in areas shared by the wolves would be more beneficial to both. Subsidies would be used to pay for preventative measures such as livestock guardian dogs and fencing to protect flocks from the Galician wolf population of some 70 family packs. They are going to start a campaign of education to dispel the fear caused by myths surrounding the animal and to promote awareness of the important role that wolves play in the region’s biodiversity by keeping down numbers of their natural prey, for example Wild boar and Roe deer, two species that are potentially destructive. As always, prevention is better than cure.
Fapas have started a new campaign with the slogan Más osos menos CO2 (More bears less co2) to give local businesses an opportunity to neutralise their carbon emissions by planting fruit trees. The idea is for any interested companies to (simply) calculate their co2 emissions and Fapas then work out how many trees would need to be planted in bear habitat in the north of Spain. The companies will benefit by being presented with “green” certificates and the bears will profit by having more, for example, chestnut, apple and cherry trees from which to feed.
The latest figures for female Cantabrian brown bears with cubs of the year (COY’s) have just been released giving 21 for 2007. This number has tripled since 1989. The 21 females have 39 cubs between them, growth being more obvious in the western population with 18 females having 34 cubs while in the east, 5 cubs were born to 3 females. Litter-size average has also increased, now standing at 2 cubs per female in the west and 1.8 in the east. According to José Félix García Gaona, the head of the Asturian Countryside and Biodiversity governmental department, these figures call for moderate optimism and he stresses the importance of the continued collaboration of the separate autonomous communities involved in the Plan for the Recuperation of the Cantabrian brown bear. Representing the Cantabrian government, Antonio Lucio said that the eastern population is still fragile although the presence of bears in out of the ordinary areas (such as the valleys of Liébana) is a clear indicator that the population’s decline has been stopped. The president of the Fundación Oso Pardo, Guillermo Palomero, urges caution however because even though the census is the highest for two decades, the Cantabrian brown bear is still a species threatened with extinction yet to overcome obstacles such as poison, traps and infant mortality.
The Spanish Brown bear foundation, Fundación Oso Pardo, has released figures of the illegal snare traps its patrols have removed in the Cantabrian mountains. Although the numbers have declined since they started their patrols, the figures are still alarming and continue to be a threat to the bears’ survival. These lethal wire traps are set mostly to trap wild boar and deer that cause damage to crops, though some are laid just for trophies and meat. Of the 1,155 snares discovered, most were found in Asturias. In 2004 the total found amounted to 225 but 2007 saw the figure drop to 67. However, in the area of Ancares, on the borders of Lugo (Galicia), Asturias and León, 130 have been removed in the last 5 years by one of the foundation’s patrols and, in the same area, 63 snares were found in the days between Feb. 27th and the 1st of March this year. These figures are without taking into account the snares removed by Fapas who are also working in this conservation area. It is hoped that continued education and intensive searches will see figures drop further. Sadly, due to the obstacle of not being able to provide proof, most cases go unprosecuted.
According to the newspaper, La Voz de Galicia, there is hope among conservationists (and conservation-minded locals) that the bears will begin to recolonise parts of Galicia.
It’s a worldwide phenomenon – whether bears investigating trash cans in the US, coyotes roaming New York, or boars exploring Barcelona – wildlife and human territories are increasingly overlapping. Near Vallvidrera railway station, on the outskirts of Barcelona, a mother boar availed herself of the contents of a litter bin in broad daylight. While two […]