The region of Galicia in northwestern Spain has been hit by frequent wildfires. The area is very dry and is known as the worst place in Europe for having its forests go ablaze.
In recent years, farmers were devastated as flames roared through villages in Galicia, destroying forests, farmland, and homes.
In response, some farmers are employing a new secret weapon: sheep. And it seems to be working.
No, the sheep are not wearing firefighters’ uniforms or manning the hose. Rather, they are doing what they do best – eating. Specifically, they are eating dry brush and vegetation found throughout the area. By removing such material that serves as payload for spreading flames, this means that fires either don’t occur at all, or if they do at least they burn far less intensely.
As reported in Mongabay:
- A form of agroforestry where livestock are grazed among trees offers a solution, though: sheep and cattle graze the brush that often ignites during dry times, in an agricultural method called silvopasture.
- Not only do the trees provide food and cover for livestock, they also sequester carbon and provide habitat for wildlife while boosting farmers’ incomes.
- Farms that implement silvopasture have not burned during recent fires, as one researcher tells Mongabay: “Adequate management of the mountains with shepherding could be part of the solution to preventing fires.”
The combination of sheep folds in dry fire-prone areas could prove a win-win to local shepherds and the environment.
Will it be enough to stem the tide of fires? Only time will tell. You can read the full story in Mongabay here.
August 5, 2021