Are goats the answer to Portugal's wildfires?

 

Portugal has suffered repeated wildfires over the past few years, with huge damage in the south, and huge allocations of resources bulldozers, aircraft, military personnel and firefighters have had trouble stemming the fires.

With global temperatures rising, the problem could become worse, so Portugal is investing heavily in fire prevention, including 50 percent of its fire-fighting budget—and one of the projects covered is bringing back the herds of goats that used to live in the most endangered areas.

Over the years, the difficult terrain in the south and rising job opportunities in cities and along the coastal resorts has led to depopulation of many villages, and with them the population of goats and sheep that used to graze the area. Many rural areas have become overgrown, and dry.

So, the government is subsidizing the return of grazing to the area, with 11,000 goats in selected areas totalling 6,700 acres. The government hopes to add more, but the shepherds and goatherds are complaining that the government doesn't pay enough, and doesn't allow them to graze other areas.

Image: Glen Bowman/Wikimedia

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I can see benefits in this, provided regulation is encouraged to retain deeper rooted vegetation that stabilises slopes.  Continuous grazing to maximise food would be a longer term disaster, giving rise to soil erosion at high rates and inability of reforestation to redress because only subsoil survives. 

Everything has a place, in moderation. 

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