Transhumance 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.References:
SINC | EurekAlert!
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences