Parklands and Wood pastures in Andalusia (Dehesas)

The natural and cultural identity mark of the middle mountains framing Southwest Iberian.

Dehesa (wood pasture) is a Mediterranean is a forest ecosystem close to parkland or wood pasture. It is even the traditional Iberian ecosystem par excellence, typical of the southwestern part of the peninsula and whose extension covers up to four million hectares (40,000 km2, the area of ​​Extremadura), mainly in Salamanca, Extremadura, Andalusia (Sierra Morena) and Alentejo in Portugal.

It is primarily an agro-silvo-pastoral exploitation system developed in forests of the Quercus genus, especially holm oaks (Quercus ilex = Quercus rotundifolia = Quercus ballota), the most abundant and generalist species in the Iberian Peninsula, or other species such as cork oak (Quercus suber). In summary, wood pasture is an open forest thanks to the presence of breed (mostly Iberian pig that consumes the acorn or merino sheep) and in some cases planted with forage crops or cereals, not forgetting the use of forest products, mainly firewood and cork. Those lands can be private or communal (Dehesa Boyal).

Dehesas are very varied depending on the characteristics of the management of the forests, in particular the density of trees and the main uses. The concept can also be considered in a broader sense, with other essences, for example tamarisk pastures, while holm oaks pastures are the most representative. In other areas of Europe, similar ecosystems exist, although of lesser extent, for example, apple orchards from western France, Änge in Sweden, parklnds, etc.

Wood pastures in Andalusia

Wood pastures in Andalusia, the most iconic Spanish ecosystem.

The dehesa tree par excellence is the holm oak (Quercus ilex). A curiosity to be tasted in moderation: the acorn-based liqueur distilled in Extrémadoure.

Common cranes (Grus grus) gathering at Sierra Boyera

Common cranes (Grus grus) are large consumers of acorns during their Iberian winter.

Depending on the degree of intensity of the farm, the diversity of plants of herbaceous species can be important.

In winter, cranes (Grus grus) that reproduce mainly in Scandinavia migrate to spend the season and consume acorns.

In spring and summer, the tree canopy provides shade for the animals and delays water stress of herbaceous plants that grow around it.

Wood pastures resemble, in their physiognomy, the disappeared forests of the plains where the large herds of wild herbivorous mammals grazed and that our ancestors witnessed.

Common cranes counts at Sierra Boyera in the middle of winters… and the surprise of photographing Aino, a telemarked crane, the first known individual to descend through eastern Europe and ascend through Spain.

Florent Prunier