At Pirilana we have been wanting to share with you a topic that we are passionate about; La Dehesa, not only as the cradle of the merino sheep, but as an example that by caring for and respecting nature, it can be maintained in a sustainable balance while also being a source of wealth; both economically and in biodiversity. Do you want to know how man has managed to combine exploitation of resources and respect and care for the environment? he keeps reading… THE DEHESA The word “dehesa” derives from the medieval Castilian defesa, that is to say “defense”, referring to a bounded (defended) piece of land for raising cattle. The first written reference to this word appears in the year 924, although about 4,600 years ago changes in the vegetation due to human intervention were already referenced. The Iberian dehesa has been, for millennia, a model of coexistence between agricultural production and nature conservation, between human interests and wildlife. This territory is made up of forests of oaks, cork oaks and other species; subject to a system of land use and management based mainly on extensive livestock that takes advantage of pastures, fruits and fallen branches, as well as other forestry, hunting or agricultural uses. As an example; The acorns produced by these forests feed the Iberian pigs, so well known for being unique in the world. THE TERRITORY Interestingly, the type of vegetation in La Dehesa is of Mediterranean origin; however, its extension that covers about 4 million hectares, mainly occupies the territories of the southwest and west of the Peninsula; province of Extremadura, Salamanca, province of Córdoba, Huelva, Jaén, Sierra Norte de Sevilla, and 1 million hectares in Portugal in the Alentejo and Algarve area. La Dehesa is an unbeatable natural space that also works in constant balance, do you want to know how? SUSTAINABLE La Dehesa is balance; women, men and nature share territory and enjoy mutual benefit. As Fedehesa (Spanish Dehesa Federation) explains: “In these territories we find a floristic diversity almost insurmountable on the planet” Barley and oats, sunflowers, beekeeping, mushrooms, firewood, cattle… variety nourishes biodiversity. There are many resources that La Dehesa provides and that coexist in balance creating a sustainable cycle. However, we must not forget that the dehesa is not a natural system that maintains itself, but rather a productive system that is managed and exploited. It means that; to conserve this ecosystem created by man and to continue being economically profitable for its populations; Continuous improvement in production is necessary, but also respect for the natural values of the environment. THE IMPORTANCE The Dehesa is of great economic and social importance in the Iberian Peninsula, both because of its surface extension and because of its function as a fixation for the rural population in its nuclei. It is also considered as a System of High Natural Value by the European Union; both for the maintenance of these rural populations and for the management of traditional agricultural practices that respect the environment. The enormous Biodiversity; With more than 60 species of birds, 25 mammals, a multitude of reptiles and invertebrates and hundreds of species of flora, it is a by-product of high ecological value. THE MERINO SHEEP Why is the merino sheep important in La Dehesa? Merino sheep have a great capacity to adapt to the environment and their nutritional needs are minimal; especially because being native to these territories is fully adapted to the environment. All this, added to their habits such as walking a lot, not always fleecing the same area, and in turn fertilizing large areas and spreading large amounts of seeds over large areas, makes the sheep the most suitable species to improve the dehesa and maintain its ecological balance. From these sheep they will take advantage of their meat, their milk but above all their valuable merino wool with such varied and wonderful properties that make it one of the most valuable natural fibers. La Dehesa has one of the best preserved ecosystems in Europe and is a paradise for the species that inhabit it. Livestock species (Iberian pig, Merino sheep, Retinto cattle…) and wild fauna (golden eagle, imperial eagle, otter, wild boar, deer,…) and flora of incalculable value; find here a true natural refuge that has not changed over the centuries. An agroforestry system, which allows a balanced and non-abusive exploitation of natural resources. If after reading this post you are interested in knowing more about La Dehesa and the projects and associations that fight for its conservation; don’t miss our next 2 posts. And if you want to get away and visit La Dehesa; You will find rural tourism establishments in the different areas with activities to get to know and enjoy their surroundings. Sources: Observatorio Dehesa Montado, Fedehesa, Wikipedia, Crónicas de Fauna, Junta de Extremadura.