Biological fire prevention method: Evaluating the effects of goat grazing on the fire-prone mediterranean scrub

J. M. Mancilla Leytón, Á. Martín Vicente


The effect of goat grazing on the shrubby understory of a pine forest in Doñana Natural Park was evaluated using non-destructive measures of vegetation volume over a period of twenty-four months. After establishing grazing exclusion fenced plots 350 adult Payoyas goats were introduced. Vegetation was sampled before the introduction of goats and afterwards twice a year, using the point intercept method and thereby obtaining data of height, frequency, cover and biovolume of species. After two years the total biovolume of the vegetation of the ungrazed area had increased significantly by 32.9%, while at grazed area, vegetation biovolume decreased significantly by 23.1%, leading to a significant decrease in mean height of the species. Although the number of species remained unchanged throughout the study, significant changes in their relative abundance were found in grazed area. The different responses of scrub species to grazing can be used as a tool to control species sensitive to grazing in shrubby forested areas. Significant reduction of total biovolume due to a reduction in vegetation height will help to reduce fire risk, thus contributing to the conservation of Mediterranean woodlands and forests while also fulfilling an important role in the economic and social lives of the rural population of Mediterranean countries.

Full Text:



Alados C, Pueyo Y, Giner M, Navarro T, Escos J, Barroso F, Cabezudo B, Emlen J, et al. 2003. Quantitative characterization of the regressive ecological succession by fractal analysis of plant spatial patterns. Ecol Model 163, 1-17.

Celaya R, Martnez A, Osoro K, et al. 2007. Vegetation dynamics in Cantabrian heathlands associated with improved pasture areas under single or mixed grazing by sheep and goats. Small Ruminant Res 72, 165-177.

Concepcin ED, Daz M, Baquero RA, et al. 2008. Effects of landscape complexity on the ecological effectiveness of agri-environment schemes. Landscape Ecol 23, 135-148.

Emanuelsson, U. 2009. The rural landscapes of Europe: how man has shaped European nature. Swedish Research Council Formas. 383 pp.

Green L R, Newell LA. 1982. Using goats to control brush regrowth on fuelbreaks. Pac. Southwest For. and Range Exp. Sta. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-59. 13 pp.

Guilln M D, Cabo N. 1996. Characterization of the essential oils of some cultivated aromatic plants of industrial interest. J Sci Food and Agri, 70, 359-363.;2-0

Juregui B, Celaya R, Garcia U, Osoro K, et al. 2007. Vegetation dynamics in burnt heather-gorse shrublands under different grazing management with sheep and goats. Agroforestry Syst 70, 103-111.

Mancilla-Leytn JM, Martin Vicente A. 2009. Anlisis de la Apetencia del Ganado Caprino Por las Especies de Matorral en el Espacio Natural de Doana. In La Multifuncionalidad de los Pastos: Produccin Ganadera Sostenible y Gestin de los Ecosistema (Reine R, Barrantes O, Broca A, Ferrer C, eds). Huesca. Sociedad Espaola para el Estudio de los Pastos. pp. 643-648.

Martn A, Mancilla-Leytn JM, Parejo C, Fernndez-Als R, Leiva MJ, et al. 2011. The function of goat grazing in Doana Natural Park. Options Mditerranennes 100, 173-178. McNaughton S. 1983. Compensatory plant growth as a response to herbivory. Oikos 40, 329-336.

Pausas JG. 2004. Changes in fire and climate in the eastern Iberian Peninsula (Mediterranean basin). Climatic Change 63, 337-350.

Rder A, Hill J, Duguy B, Alloza JA, Vallejo R, et al. 2008. Using long time series of Landsat data to monitor fire events and post-fire dynamics and identify driving factors. A case study in the Ayora region (eastern Spain). Remote Sens of Environ 112, 259-273.

Roy J, Soni L. 1992. Germination and population dynamics of Cistus species in relation to fire in Journal. App Ecol 29, 647-655.

Tsiouvaras CN, Havlik NA, Bartolome JW, et al. 1989. Effects of Goats on Understory Vegetation and Fire Hazard Reduction in a Coastal Forest in California. Forest Sci 35, 1125-1131.

Valette, J.C. 1997. Inflammabilities of Mediterranean species. In Forest fire risk and management Porto Carras (Balabanis P, Eftichidis G, Fantechi R. eds.). Chalkidiki, Greece. pp. 51-64.

DOI: 10.5424/fs/2012212-02289