European Rewilding Network

La Maleza

Natural grazing in Albarracín mountains

Due to land abandonment, Albarracín mountains, and all the Iberian Chain, in Spain, has seen the disappearance of the livestock that grazed the landscape for centuries.
Mario Modesto Mata
Natural grazing site in the Spanish Albarracín mountains.
A herd of Tauros has been brought to 1,000 hectares of communal land in the municipality of Frías de Albarracín.
A wilder Europe really needs herds of fully self-sufficient, wild bovines to prevent further loss of the biodiversity of the open areas.
Jeroen Helmer / ARK Nature
Grazing the landscapes of Europe, the auroch – Europe’s original wild bovine species – once played a vital role in maintaining biodiversity.

Natural grazing was for centuries a key process in shaping European landscapes. Historical aggregation levels of herbivores are currently missing due to land use changes and exploitation (such as hunting) resulting in some species reaching the brink of extinction. With free ranging herbivores disappearing from Europe’s natural landscapes and replaced by growing levels of livestock farming, areas changed both in appearance and natural dynamics and processes. However,  the ongoing trend of land abandonment in many regions of Europe is growing interest to bring back free roaming and wild-living large herbivores to natural European landscapes.

Due to land abandonment, Albarracín mountains, and all the Iberian Chain, in Spain, has seen the disappearance of the livestock that grazed the landscape for centuries. The recent absence of large grazers is transforming the region; open areas slowly disappear and the risk of big wildfires increases.

In this context, a group of entities and local authorities has partnered to start natural grazing and the recovery of the large herbivores. In the first phase, a herd of Tauros has been brought to 1,000 hectares of communal land in the municipality of Frías de Albarracín, a Natura 2000 site.  The plan is to continue with the enlargement of the grazing area and the transport of horses, in order to diversify grazing. Free-roaming grazers can enhance biodiversity by opening up landscapes and preventing encroachment by shrubs. They can act as natural “fire brigades” by removing vegetation that fuels wildfires. These animals will play a vital natural grazing role in rewilding of this area. Furthermore, natural grazing can also have a positive impact on carbon storage and climate change resilience.

Project: La Maleza
Region: Sierra de Albarracín
Type of project: Creating space for wilder nature, Increasing interest in the wild through communications
Aim and vision: Use of large herbivores, starting with Tauros, to keep open areas and decrease the risk of wildfires.
Promote a new grazing system for abandoned areas and use Tauros as a flagship to promote nature tourism in the region.
Uniqueness of the project: The project has brought the first herd of Tauros to Spain, with the aim to bringing back the aurochs, following a rewilding strategy.
Other activities: Eco tourism, Education, Recreational activities
Results you aim to accomplish in 10 years from now on: Large herbivores (Tauros and horses) are common in the open areas of the region and constitute an attraction boosting nature-based tourism in the area.
Results so far: Successful agreements with stakeholders on the local and national level.
Secured 500 hectares of the municipalities of Frías de Albarracín and Calomarde, and the Comarca de Albarracín for natural grazing pilot site.
Signed contract with Stichting Taurus Foundation from Netherlands.
Establishment of the first grazing herd with twenty individuals.
Nature based tourism offers developed including guided tours.
Inspirational value: This is a first natural grazing pilot site with a herd of Tauros in Spain.
Experience you would like to share: How to start up a natural grazing project and how to identify the need for reintroduction.
The effects of large grazers on landscapes and biodiversity.
Preparation of sites and site sustainability, organizing transport and how tor cope with all necessary logistics in Spain.
Educational practices.

Experience you would like to gain: How to select animals possessing characteristics that are key to survival in natural environments with public access.<br /> Best practices from natural grazing pilot sites, e.g. sedation practices, use of mobile corals, animal monitoring, risks of overgrazing and handling of radio collars.<br /> Effective communications on natural grazing projects, how to reach a wider audience to gain support.<br /> Development of nature based tourism connected to natural grazing.
Map
Country
Spain
Start year
2020
Size (ha)
1000
Area type
Forest-grassland mosaic, Mediterranean vegetation
Natural process
Natural grazing
Flagship species
Fallow deer, Ibex, Red deer, Roe deer, Vulture
La Maleza
La Maleza
Due to land abandonment, Albarracín mountains, and all the Iberian Chain, in Spain, has seen the disappearance of the livestock that grazed the landscape for centuries.
Mario Modesto Mata
Natural grazing site in the Spanish Albarracín mountains.
A herd of Tauros has been brought to 1,000 hectares of communal land in the municipality of Frías de Albarracín.
A wilder Europe really needs herds of fully self-sufficient, wild bovines to prevent further loss of the biodiversity of the open areas.
Jeroen Helmer / ARK Nature
Grazing the landscapes of Europe, the auroch – Europe’s original wild bovine species – once played a vital role in maintaining biodiversity.

Natural grazing was for centuries a key process in shaping European landscapes. Historical aggregation levels of herbivores are currently missing due to land use changes and exploitation (such as hunting) resulting in some species reaching the brink of extinction. With free ranging herbivores disappearing from Europe’s natural landscapes and replaced by growing levels of livestock farming, areas changed both in appearance and natural dynamics and processes. However,  the ongoing trend of land abandonment in many regions of Europe is growing interest to bring back free roaming and wild-living large herbivores to natural European landscapes.

Due to land abandonment, Albarracín mountains, and all the Iberian Chain, in Spain, has seen the disappearance of the livestock that grazed the landscape for centuries. The recent absence of large grazers is transforming the region; open areas slowly disappear and the risk of big wildfires increases.

In this context, a group of entities and local authorities has partnered to start natural grazing and the recovery of the large herbivores. In the first phase, a herd of Tauros has been brought to 1,000 hectares of communal land in the municipality of Frías de Albarracín, a Natura 2000 site.  The plan is to continue with the enlargement of the grazing area and the transport of horses, in order to diversify grazing. Free-roaming grazers can enhance biodiversity by opening up landscapes and preventing encroachment by shrubs. They can act as natural “fire brigades” by removing vegetation that fuels wildfires. These animals will play a vital natural grazing role in rewilding of this area. Furthermore, natural grazing can also have a positive impact on carbon storage and climate change resilience.

Map
Country
Spain
Start year
2020
Size (ha)
1000
Area type
Forest-grassland mosaic, Mediterranean vegetation
Natural process
Natural grazing
Flagship species
Fallow deer, Ibex, Red deer, Roe deer, Vulture
Specification
Project: La Maleza
Region: Sierra de Albarracín
Description
Type of project: Creating space for wilder nature, Increasing interest in the wild through communications
Aim and vision: Use of large herbivores, starting with Tauros, to keep open areas and decrease the risk of wildfires.
Promote a new grazing system for abandoned areas and use Tauros as a flagship to promote nature tourism in the region.
Uniqueness of the project: The project has brought the first herd of Tauros to Spain, with the aim to bringing back the aurochs, following a rewilding strategy.
Other activities: Eco tourism, Education, Recreational activities
Achievements
Results you aim to accomplish in 10 years from now on: Large herbivores (Tauros and horses) are common in the open areas of the region and constitute an attraction boosting nature-based tourism in the area.
Results so far: Successful agreements with stakeholders on the local and national level.
Secured 500 hectares of the municipalities of Frías de Albarracín and Calomarde, and the Comarca de Albarracín for natural grazing pilot site.
Signed contract with Stichting Taurus Foundation from Netherlands.
Establishment of the first grazing herd with twenty individuals.
Nature based tourism offers developed including guided tours.
Exchange
Inspirational value: This is a first natural grazing pilot site with a herd of Tauros in Spain.
Experience you would like to share: How to start up a natural grazing project and how to identify the need for reintroduction.<br /> The effects of large grazers on landscapes and biodiversity.<br /> Preparation of sites and site sustainability, organizing transport and how tor cope with all necessary logistics in Spain. <br /> Educational practices.<br /> <br />
Experience you would like to gain: How to select animals possessing characteristics that are key to survival in natural environments with public access.<br /> Best practices from natural grazing pilot sites, e.g. sedation practices, use of mobile corals, animal monitoring, risks of overgrazing and handling of radio collars.<br /> Effective communications on natural grazing projects, how to reach a wider audience to gain support.<br /> Development of nature based tourism connected to natural grazing.
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