Preference by Donkeys and Goats among Five Mediterranean Forest Species: Implications for Reducing Fire Hazard

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Abstract

Simple Summary Donkeys and goats are animals adapted to graze in understories, and thus contribute to the prevention of forest fires. In this work, the preferences of donkeys and goats have been determined for five key plant species of the Mediterranean forest, where large forest fires have increased as a result of global change. Using a multiple selection test, it has been observed that both species can complement each other, since donkeys consume more fine fuel, such asBrachypodium retusum, and goats, highly flammable woody species, such asPinus halepensis. In this way, browsing becomes an ecosystem service, which, in the case of donkeys, can even help prevent their extinction. During the second half of the 20th century, European countries experienced an increase in their forest area due to the global change. Consequently, there has been an increase in large forest fires, mainly in the Mediterranean basin, and this has forced the development of several types of prevention programs. One of them is the control of the understory by livestock. In this sense, browsing with a combination of donkeys and goats could be a good option, as both animals usually feed on forest species. However, little is known about their preferences for the key species of the Mediterranean forest. Using a cafeteria test, the preferences and consumption of both animals have been determined for five typical species of the Mediterranean forest, such asQuercus ilex,Pinus halepensis,Phillyrea latifolia,Rubus ulmifolius,andBrachypodium retusum.Results showed that donkeys and goats could act complementarily in the reduction of the fuel biomass of forests. Donkeys appear to act more on fine fuel, such asB. retusum, and goats on the more pyrophyte species, in this caseP. halepensis. In addition, given that donkeys are at severe risk of extinction in Europe, this role of providing ecosystem services could contribute to their conservation. Despite this study only showing that goats and donkeys would consume all five presented plant species and that there are some differences in consumption during a short-term test, it constitutes a useful first step for conservation and fire prevention in the Mediterranean forests.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1302
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalAnimals
Volume10
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020

Keywords

  • BEHAVIOR
  • Brachypodium retusum
  • DROUGHT
  • FARMS
  • MANAGEMENT
  • PINUS-HALEPENSIS
  • Phillyrea latifolia
  • Pinus halepensis
  • Quercus ilex
  • RESOURCES
  • Rubus ulmifolius
  • SELECTION
  • SHEEP
  • SHRUB
  • WILDFIRE PREVENTION
  • cafeteria test

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