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Dehesa, Spain: blending grassland, crops, and forests

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Chapter Summary

Dehesas stand out among the grassland systems in Europe. Dehesa as an agrosilvopastoral land use system comprises extensive livestock raising, crop cultivation, and forest management that is confined to the Iberian Peninsula. The heartland of the dehesas is the plains of Extremadura region in Spain. The distribution of dehesas is determined by climatic, edaphic, and topographic factors: they are restricted to environments with a dry Mediterranean climate, although there may be some Atlantic and continental influences. The development of agriculture and livestock husbandry in Extremadura followed distinct historical landmarks. The traditional dehesa land use system has evolved and been refined over hundreds of years, although the final systematic use pattern is an invention made in the 18th century. Starting in the 1960s, a crisis ruptured traditional dehesa management and provoked fundamental changes in land use in Spain. The majority of dehesas are composed of Holm oak and Cork oak.

Keywords: agriculture development; crop cultivation; dehesa; Europe grassland systems; forest management; livestock husbandry development; Spain Extremadura region



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