Seminar on: "The Future of Pastoralism and the Steppes in Aragon, Spain"

A Seminar on “The Future of Pastoralism and the Steppes in Aragon, Spain” will be held in October 2011, at UNED, Calatayud. It will be organized by the Commission on Ecosystem Management of IUCN, and SEO/BirdLife in Aragon, Spain.

Muelas del Jiloca en primavera Photo: Muelas del Jiloca en primavera


The focus of the seminar will be the role of pastoralism in the conservation of the steppes, and the social-economic situation of extensive livestock keeping in Aragon. This will be studied in the context of threats like the abandonment of pastoralism, deterioration of steppe vegetation, habitat loss of steppe birds, and increased frequency of steppe fires. The aim of the conference is to promote the conservation of the biodiversity of the steppes, and to improve the livelihoods of the herdsmen who are dependent of these ecosystems.

General goal

The general goal of the seminar is to promote the conservation of the steppes in Aragon, and to improve the livelihoods of the herdsmen who are dependent on these ecosystems.

Inmediate objetives

  • raising awareness of the high nature value of the steppes in Aragon and the importance of pastoralism for the conservation of the ecosystem
  • exchange of the scientific knowledge of the ecology of the steppes with the traditional knowledge of the herdsmen
  • discussion on the socio-economic situation of the extensive livestock breeding and perspectives for improvement
  • reflection on the conservation potential of management plans for protected areas (SPA, SAC
  • exchange of experiences of the use of pastoralism in nature conservation as applied in other areas and countries (Granada, Netherlands)

Target groups

  • Stakeholders: herdsmen, associations of producers and syndicates
  • Nature conservation organizations (NGO’s)
  • Policymakers and decision makers: regional government and local authorities
  • Scientists: biological researchers from universities and research institutes


The steppes of Aragon are of great European importance with many bird and plant species included in the Habitat Directive. These steppes are primary grasslands typical of areas in North Africa and the steppes of Central Asia. In Aragon the steppes can count for the largest steppe bird communities of Spain with highly endangered species. Among the plant species there is a high level of endemism (42%).
On these steppes there is a long history of extensive grazing by sheep, which maintains a rather open vegetation with many typical plants and birds. In recent years however, this system has changed dramatically due to the abandonment of grazing, resulting in a denser and higher vegetation, and an accumulation of dead plant material.

Problems to be addressed

Nowadays there live about 4000 herdsmen in the rural areas of Aragon with a total of about 1,650,000 sheep. However, during the last decade there has been a drastic reduction in the number of herdsmen, because of the bad socio-economic situation of the extensive livestock breeding. Without adequate measures, it is foreseen that this negative trend will continue and the employment of 4000 people will disappear in the rural area. In addition, this will lead to a loss of employment related to pastoralism.
It is expected that on the steppe the abandonment will lead to a denser vegetation and a loss of habitats of protected plants and steppe birds.

Related events

The seminar is a follow up of the International Conference on “Eurasian Steppes: Status, Threats and Adaptation to Climate Change” which was hold in Mongolia, September 2010., and organized by the CEM of IUCN and Hustai National Park Trust.

Seminar themes

  • Theme 1): Effects of abandonment of grazing on the biodiversity and functioning of the steppe ecosystem
  • Theme 2): Consequences of the social-economic situation of the herdsmen for the continuation of pastoralism
  • Theme 3): Future perspectives and strategies for an Ecosystem Based Adaptation to the abandonment of pastoralism

Organization and registration

More information will be available in May.

Coordinator seminar:
Dr. Maria van Staalduinen

In cooperation with: UNED-Calatayud, Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología (IPE, CSIC), Casa de Ganaderos, Gobierno de Aragón, Ayuntamiento de Miedes de Aragón and Comarca de Calatayud.

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