Adaptation measures: Forest management for fire risk prevention in Requesens, Catalonia

One of the main objectives of the LIFE MIDMACC project is the implementation and testing of different landscape management measures to meet climate change related challenges and to improve socioeconomic development in mid-mountain areas of Spain. One of these adaptation measures is the application of forest management for fire risk prevention and its maintenance with extensive livestock farming, which are carried out in two study regions, in Aragon and Catalonia.

In Catalonia, this pilot experience is being carried out in a Holm oak forest in the Albera Natural Area of ​​National Interest, on the Requesens estate, La Junquera (Girona). This location has been chosen for several reasons: the Holm oak is one of the most representative species of the Mediterranean coastal mountain; the area is highly vulnerable to fires and in the Alt Empordà fire occurred in 2012 the areas was fortunately not burnt to a sudden change of wind direction; forest management has hardly been carried out in the last 50 years; and the ease of access and interest and availability of the property.

The pilot experience has been carried out on a one hectare holm oak plot. The management has followed the criteria of the Technical Plan for Forest Management and Improvement (PTGMF), the density of holm oaks has been reduced, leaving the largest, straightest and most dominant specimens, opening the canopy cover by approximately 50%. The scrubland has been cleared, the trunks and branches have been extracted and the logging residues have been removed. Subsequently, a mixture pasture seeds has been randomly sowed to recover pastures under the forest area.

In addition to the action of forest management, and with the aim of improving the economic performance of the estate and its future sustainability, an old pasture field (about 3 hectares) has been recovered. In this field, scrubland and some isolated trees have been clear, the terraces have been recovered, a shallow soil plough has been carried out and a mechanical direct seed has been sowed  with a mixture type P3 (dactyl, English ryegrass, Italian ryegrass, white clover) together with high fescue. In addition, a terrace area of ​​approximately two hectares has been recovered, in a strategic management point (PEG) within the priority action zone (ZAP). In this area, a random manual seed sowing has been performed with a mixture of ryegrass, dactyl and alfalfa.

The following images have been taken in February 2020, and the current situation of the three plots can be observed. Once the pasture is established and ready for the entrance of the livestock, these plots will be divided into different sub-plots where different assays will be carried out based on the number of cows and the days that they remain in the sub-plot, monitoring a series of indicators and variables over 4 years. This monitoring will allow us to evaluate, on the one hand, in the future, whether the actions carried out reduce the vulnerability of the forest to the impacts of climate change. On the other hand, it will allow us to evaluate what types of actions and livestock management help to improve the profitability and sustainability of the state in the short and medium term.