Skip to content Skip to navigation
López-Sánchez A. 2015. Balancing management and preservation of Mediterranean scattered oak woodlands (Dehesas) in human-dominated landscapes. PhD Dissertation, Universidad Polytechnica de Madrid.
Year Published: 2015

Mediterranean scattered oak woodlands have great ecological and socio-economic importance, supporting high environmental and amenity values, and relatively rich biological diversity while producing important ecosystem services. They have been witnesses of different and fast changes developed in the last century. Most of the research developed in this dissertation has conducted within dehesas. This thesis provides: i) the global change evidence of the tree layer and grazing management experienced in the land-use range of a Mediterranean scattered oak woodland (dehesa) over the last 60 years; ii) the important role of scattered trees and adequate management grazing in the improvement of grassland yield, quality and diversity - which it is important, in turn, for the system profitability - under different climate scenarios and site quality; and iii) the lack of oak regeneration evidence under some given representative management regimes and how is the growth development of these plants to assure the viability and persistence of Mediterranean scattered oak woodlands. Tree layer experienced a significant reduction in dehesas during 1950-1980 period where the highest human impacts took place. Sheep herd decreased drastically during the 1970s and, in contrast, cattle have been increasing gradually since then. On the other hand, same livestock grazing management (especially cattle) during long time (minimum 30 years) within Mediterranean scattered oak woodlands reduced strongly the density of young oak plants and showed high probability of herbivory occurrence and intensity. Young plant growth pattern was greatly modified by livestock. Cattle grazing generated stunted plants and sheep grazing generated slender plants favoring the height growth. Microsites created by large trees modified the herbaceous yield according the water availability of the year and generated high plant diversity within herbaceous communities. Especially, ecotone microsite supported high values of herbaceous diversity. The presence of livestock species increased the herbaceous yield and maintained a more diverse community under continuous grazing at both moderate and high intensities; especially cattle. Thus, around the influence of scattered trees there is a high amount of different interactions among livestock, trees and grasslands maintaining and enhancing the quality of whole dehesa system. The results of this thesis highlight how important is balancing management and preservation of Mediterranean scattered oak woodlands to obtain the optimum ecosystem services while the system conservation is assured for a long-term. It is crucial to design management plans with conservation goals that include appropriate silvopastoral practices in Mediterranean scattered oak woodlands. link to publication