HNV Farming & Biodiversity

Liébana (Spain)

Liébana (Spain)

Natura site name: Liébana (Spain)
Natura Code: ES1300001

The Liebana valley, with an important area included in the National Park "Picos de Europa", has one of the most important limestone formations of Atlantic Europe. The climate is predominantly temperate climate, characterized by forests of beech (Fagus sylvatica) and oak (Quercus robur and Q. petraea), but also with noticeable mediterranean introgressions, such as holm oak (Quercus ilex) and cork oak (Quercus suber). Extensive livestock farming is one of the main economic activities modelling this mountain landscape. As a result, large areas of semi-natural grassland of high biodiversity can be found.
However, the hay meadows are threatened by changing agricultural practices like increased use of slurry or changing patterns of grazing in the higher altitude meadows. (Prince et al. 2012).

Text: I. Vázquez & J. Busqué
© Photos: I. Vázquez; T. Farino; M. A. Suárez (SEO); J.C. González (FCQ).

Back to High Nature Value Farming and Biodiversity

Communal summer grazing

Communal summer grazing

During the summer, livestock (cattle, sheep, horses and goats) graze in common pastures as a part of a local transhumance at the valley scale, making use of private and common lands.

Livestock farming that combines trees with grasslands in an integrated system

Livestock farming that combines trees with grasslands in an integrated system

Ash trees (Fraxinus excelsior) planted around the meadows are pruned to obtain nutritive forage for livestock in autumn. Quercus petraea forests are partially cleared to create wooded pasture "dehesas".

Hay making in mountain meadows

Hay making in mountain meadows

Hay is made between June and August, allowing most grassland species to seed. Solid manure from the barn is applied at the end of winter.

Hay storage

Hay storage

During the winter, usually between December and March, cows are housed in barns and fed on stored hay.

Traditional production

Traditional production

A variety of cheeses (with PDO labels) are produced from milk from cows, sheep and goats. Some are matured in natural caves.

Semi-natural dry grasslands

Semi-natural dry grasslands

Semi-natural dry grasslands on calcareous substrates (6210) are important orchid sites. These communities offer an excellent combination of high environmental and forage value.

Mountain hay meadows

Mountain hay meadows

Mountain hay meadows rich in forbs (Arrhenatherion bulbosi, 6520) and of high biodiversity, are regionally becoming rarer due to land use changes (intensification through silage making and slurry fertilisation, or abandonment).

Species-rich Nardus grasslands

Species-rich Nardus grasslands

On alpine pastures of glacier origin, species-rich Nardus grasslands (6230*) are maintained by cattle and horse grazing during summer. These landscapes combine mosaics of grassland and shrub communities of high nature value.

Spiny genista (G. occidentalis and G. legionensis) shrub (4090)

Spiny genista

This shrub community is abundant on common grazing land, and has spread due to a strong decline in livestock numbers, especially sheep and goats.

Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)

Bearded vulture

Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) is protected by the Birds Directive (Annex I) and is currently under a recovery programme in the National Park. The decline of extensive livestock farming has reduced one of its main food resources, the carcasses of sheep and goats. (Photo: José Carlos Glez -FCQ)

Cantabrian capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus cantabricus)

Cantabrian capercaillie

Probably the most endangered animal species in the Cantabrian range. Cantabrian capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus cantabricus) is protected by the Birds Directive (Annex I) and is currently under a national recovery programme. Pasture and shrub mosaics generated by grazing are important elements of its habitat. (Photo: Manuel Ángel Suárez -SEO)

Marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia)

Marsh fritillary

Marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia, Annex II) on Fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea). This butterfly is threatened at european level, but is widespread in the mountain hay meadows of Liébana. (Photo: Teresa Farino)

Miniature daffodil (Narcissus asturiensis)

Miniature daffodil

Miniature daffodil (Narcissus asturiensis, Annex II) is endemic to the Cantabrian mountains. Its main habitat is the alpine summer grasslands. (Photo: Teresa Farino)

Pasque flower (Pulsatilla rubra)

Pasque flower

Pasque flower (Pulsatilla rubra) is an endangered species of summer pastures. In this area it usually appears in species-rich Nardus grasslands. (Photo: Teresa Farino)


European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism
Online: http://www.hnv-farming.eu/panorama/liebana/
Date: 2016/07/28
© 2016 EFNCP – All rights reserved.