The dehesa is defined as an agroforestry system that is characteristic of the southwestern Iberian Peninsula, where grassland is combined with evergreen species of the genus Quercus. Those systems have been gradually transformed from the Mediterranean forest into a unique kind of pastoral woodland by means of an agricultural use. Dehesas occupy more than 6 million ha, and the livestock systems that are based in them are of vital importance for their sustainability. The present work classifies, describes, and evaluates the sustainability of these systems in the Spanish region of Extremadura (southwestern Spain). To this end, we apply a methodological adaptation of the Framework for the Evaluation of Management Systems incorporating Sustainability Index (MESMIS). MESMIS is based on the evaluation of basic attributes of sustainability from indicators that allow one to make a simultaneous and comparative analysis of different types of farms. For the study, 69 farms were selected at random, and were classified using multivariate techniques into four types according to their level of intensification and productive orientation. The results were used to obtain an overall value of sustainability from a technical economic perspective for each farm type present in the dehesa. The mixed systems (beef cattle–sheep–Iberian pigs) have been found to be the most sustainable in general terms. The high–stocking rate sheep dehesas are the least sustainable, although at present, they are the most profitable. The other two groups analyzed, “low–stocking rate sheep farms” and “beef cattle farms,” had intermediate and similar scores. Mixed livestock dehesa farms are the closest to the traditional systems with a highly diverse production, an optimal use of the system's resources, and little dependence on external subsidies. In the present context, with uncertainties about European Union subsidies, this type of farm should be a goal for dehesa farmers.
Rangeland Ecology and Management
Vol. 62 • No. 2
Vol. 62 • No. 2