Mediterranean wood-pasture for people and nature

Lead Author: Instituto Superior Técnico (IST)
Contributors: Vânia Proença (IST), Tiago Domingos (IST), Cristina Marta-Pedroso (IST), Miguel Alves (IST)

 

Montados are High Natural Value wood-pasture systems characteristic of the Mediterranean Basin (Pinto-Correia et al. 2011, Bugalho et al. 2011, Plieninger et al. 2015). Cork oaks (Quercus suber) and holm oaks (Q. rotundifolia) are the dominant trees, forming pure or mix stands with a savanna type structure. Montados are listed under the EU Habitats Directive (habitat 6310), and are key habitats of the Natura 2000 in the Alentejo region, Portugal (Fig.1). Their multifunctional management promotes structural diversity at the stand and landscape level, which combined to a large area of distribution and spatial continuity results in high-levels of biodiversity. The long-term sustainability of Montado is currently threatened by declining trends in stand density caused by adult tree mortality and deficient tree recruitment (Almeida et al. 2015). Soil degradation, changes in rainfall patterns, pests, diseases, and fire are the main underlying pressures, with interacting effects (Fig.2).

Cork is an important and iconic forest product from Mediterranean systems; Portugal alone produces 54% of the world cork (Pinto-Correia et al. 2011). In addition to cork (harvested every 9-12 years), pasture for animal production and agriculture also provide a source of income (Bugalho et al. 2011). Water cycling, nutrient cycling and control of soil erosion are important ecosystem functions affecting Montados’ sustainability (Pinto-Correia & Mascarenhas 1999). From a cultural and recreational perspective, Montados are valued for the landscape aesthetics, natural values and cultural heritage (Pinto-Correia et al. 2011).

Montados are traditional socio-ecological systems requiring human intervention to maintain the structural features that promote habitat diversity and biotic community richness (Pinto-Correia et al. 2011, Bugalho et al. 2011). However, the same activities that enable multifunctional use and biodiversity conservation (e.g., livestock grazing) can become a threat if poorly managed (Pinto-Correia & Mascarenhas 1999, Almeida et al. 2015). Responses to threats mostly rely on best practices of ecosystem management, namely the management of soil, grazing and ecosystem structure.

 

Fig.1 a) Alentejo region in Portugal; b) Natura 2000 in Alentejo: Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA); c) Montado systems in Alentejo by dominant tree cover (COS 2007 land cover classes: pure and mixed agro-forestry systems (2.4.4), pure and mixed broadleaf forests (3.1.1) and oak-dominated mixed forests (3.1.3)).

 

Fig.2 a) Direct effect of pressures and their interactions on Montado systems; b) biotic and abiotic control factors affecting ecosystem characteristics, also showing the effect of pressures mediated by control factors.

 

References

Almeida, M., Azeda, C., Guiomar, N., & Pinto-Correia, T. (2015). The effects of grazing management in montado fragmentation and heterogeneity. Agroforestry Systems, 1-17.

Bugalho, M. N., Caldeira, M. C., Pereira, J. S., Aronson, J., & Pausas, J. G. (2011). Mediterranean cork oak savannas require human use to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 9(5), 278-286.

Pinto-Correia, T., & Mascarenhas, J. (1999). Contribution to the extensification/intensification debate: new trends in the Portuguese montado. Landscape and Urban Planning, 46(1), 125-131.

Pinto-Correia, T., Ribeiro, N., & Sá-Sousa, P. (2011). Introducing the montado, the cork and holm oak agroforestry system of Southern Portugal. Agroforestry Systems, 82(2), 99-104.

Plieninger, T., Hartel, T., Martín-López, B., Beaufoy, G., Bergmeier, E., Kirby, K., ... & Van Uytvanck, J. (2015). Wood-pastures of Europe: Geographic coverage, social–ecological values, conservation management, and policy implications. Biological Conservation, 190, 70-79.

 

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