Bringing back the herds: Life Cañadas, an ecological restoration project to recover the drove roads network of Madrid.

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Paula Solascasas, Francisco M. Azcárate , Violeta Hevia

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Drove roads (DRs) are the traditional routes used by herders and livestock for their seasonal movements in search of the most productive pastures. Spanish DRs have suffered a progressive abandonment and ecological degradation, threatening the relevant role of DRs as ecological corridors. LIFE CAÑADAS project aims to restore and recover the functionality of some DRs to enhance their role as providers of connectivity between Natura 2000 sites, within a predominantly agricultural matrix. Our study area comprises the DRs network of Madrid, which is mostly characterized by the lack of use by transhumant livestock and the subsequent deterioration. Prior to the development of the restoration actions, we performed an initial diagnosis and sampling. Three categories of DRs were established according to their ecological state: (i) reference (assumed to be adequately grazed and maintained) (ii) abandoned (no livestock use, with biomass accumulation) and (iii) eroded drove roads. DRs were sampled during 2020, to determine plants and arthropods diversity, but also soil physico-chemical characteristics, litter decomposition rate and enzyme activity. Furthermore, social perception surveys were developed in the vicinities of the selected drove roads, to gather information on local knowledge regarding these green infrastructures. The main actions to restore those drove roads categorized either as abandoned or eroded involve ploughing, limiting access, as well as the use of local sheep and goat herds to graze and defecate in both degraded plots. Several stone walls were also installed to promote habitat heterogeneity, and native species seeds were sown.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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