Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Transhumance Helps Vulture Conservation

Date:
September 23, 2009
Source:
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology
Summary:
Researchers in Spain have shown for the first time the close space-time relationship between the presence of the griffon vulture and transhumant sheep farming in mountain passes. Transhumance -- the seasonal movement of people with their livestock -- has fallen in some parts of Spain by up to 80 percent over the past four years. The scientists say that traditional livestock farming practices are crucial for the preservation of mountain ecosystems.

This is a flock of transhumant merino sheep from Extremadura grazing in a mountain pass in the Cantabrian mountains.
Credit: Pedro P. Olea / SINC

Researchers from the University of Segovia and the University of León have shown for the first time the close space-time relationship between the presence of the griffon vulture and transhumant sheep farming in mountain passes. Transhumance -- the seasonal movement of people with their livestock -- has fallen in some parts of Spain by up to 80% over the past four years. The scientists say that traditional livestock farming practices are crucial for the preservation of mountain ecosystems.

European health regulations designed to control Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or Mad Cow Disease, requires all cattle carcasses to be removed from fields, which has led to a significant scarcity of food for carrion birds in Spain, with various impacts on their conservation.

"However, in mountain areas with widespread livestock, it is impracticable to remove cattle carcasses. This is the case with transhumant farms during the periods that flocks spend in summer fields, a traditional practice that also provides an important trophic resource for vultures in the modern world", Pedro P. Olea, a researcher at the Business Institute of the University of Segovia, and Patricia Mateo-Tomás, a researcher at the University of León, tell SINC. This is the conclusion of a study they have recently had published in the journal Biological Conservation.

"Food resulting from transhumant farming activities in the Cantabrian mountain range could maintain up to 750 vultures over the period of almost six months that transhumant livestock graze the mountain passes", say the scientists.

The scientists focused on the upper part of the trophic chain, and linked transhumance to presence of the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), "a relationship that had not previously been studied in depth", they say.

The Cantabrian mountain chain, an exceptional case

The study, which includes data from 1989 up until the present day, contains 85 interviews with shepherds, and describes griffon vulture behaviour as follows: "They choose summer resting places in mountain passes most used by sheep, and respond quickly to any changes in the use of these passes by livestock". However, the biologists report that the number of vultures is more dependent on the number of head of cattle, given the large amount of food that each dead cow provides.

The presence of these summer resting spots, sometimes more than 12 km from the places where the vultures raise their young, is linked "to the presence of a predictable source of food because, despite the health regulations requiring dead cattle to be removed from fields, the terrain in these mountain passes means that 90% are left to the vultures", explain the researchers.

According to the scientists, the presence of transhumant cattle in the Cantabrian mountain range gives them between 1.5 and six times more food than that available to them from local livestock. "This livestock farming practice not only constitutes an important trophic resource for the griffon vulture, but possibly also for other occasional scavengers, such as the brown bear and the wolf", say Olea and Mateo-Tomás.

Transhumance was the foundation of the wool-based Spanish economy for centuries. The Cantabrian mountain range is one of its final strongholds. Up to 80% of the mountain passes traditionally occupied by transhumant livestock during the summer are now no longer in use. In addition, "there has been an 80% decline in the number of head of sheep over the past four years", say the biologists.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Olea, Pedro P.; Mateo-Tomás, Patricia. The role of traditional farming practices in ecosystem conservation: The case of transhumance and vultures. Biological Conservation, 2009; 142 (8): 1844 DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2009.03.024

Cite This Page:

FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. "Transhumance Helps Vulture Conservation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090922095810.htm>.
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. (2009, September 23). Transhumance Helps Vulture Conservation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090922095810.htm
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology. "Transhumance Helps Vulture Conservation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090922095810.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) — An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Adorable Video of Baby Rhino and Lamb Friend Playing

Adorable Video of Baby Rhino and Lamb Friend Playing

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) — Gertjie the Rhino and Lammie the Lamb are teaching the world about animal conservation and friendship. TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) has the adorable video! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins