Herdade da Contenda - Portugal
Herdade da Contenda
Parent Site Name
Herdade da Contenda is one of the six research and monitoring stations of LTER-Montado, an umbrella site located in the Alentejo province in south Portugal (southwestern Iberia). The "Montado" represents an unique agro-silvo-pastoral ecosystem (named "dehesa" in Spain) found only in the Mediterranean basin. These savannah-like landscapes are dominated by evergreen cork and/or holm oaks and were shaped over millennia of traditional land use practices. These multi-use forests are two-layered systems that combine, in a single space, forest harvesting, extensive livestock husbandry, pastures and/or cereal cultivation (the most evident economical revenues), with other traditional uses (hunting, beekeeping and mushroom picking). Recently, increasing awareness arose on their benefits as biodiversity reservoirs, recreation grounds, and other ecosystem services providers, but these non-productive functions are not equally perceived and valued by users, as they tend to be conflicting with productive ones. Herdade da Contenda is a state property located on the far western limit of the Sierra Morena, in the transition to the lowlands of Baixo Alentejo province (Moura Council). The area is limited to the east and the south by the Portuguese – Spanish border and to the north and west by several streams (Arroio, Murtigão and Pais Joanes) tributaries of the Guadiana River (38º 01’ N – 7° 13’W). On Northern Contenda, with relatively flat ground and moderate slopes and climate conditions closest to the semi-arid, the predominant and typical vegetation is the open holm-oak woodlands, with under-cover of pastures and cultivations used for grazing. On Central Contenda with steeper relief and slopes the soil is covered by rock-rose and/or heather maquis, arboraceous maquis with cork-oak or holm-oak and also by young stone and maritime pine forest stands. In Southern Contenda, where the highest altitudes can be found and topography and slopes are less pronounced, the climate is sub-humid; this is the most afforested area, dominantly covered by stone pine, maritime pine and cork oak stands. Managed as a multiple use system, where forestry, hunting silvopastoral and protection/conservation of natural habitats / flora & fauna communities are maintained roughly in the same fashion since the 1960s. The main economic outputs are cattle and hunting. Cork was never harvested on the dominant areas of Contenda. Holm-oak tree decline is observed on silvopastoral areas. The natural regeneration of the tree stand is not uniform, and is lacking in some places because of grazing and shrub clearing. Conflicting interests arise from the livestock and game grazing component that affects the natural regeneration of holm and cork oak trees. Interventions and adjustments to promote natural regeneration and active afforestation of oaks have been included in management plans over the last 50 years. An Integral Protected Area where natural regeneration of holm and cork oaks between the natural woods and maquis is promoted was created on Central Contenda in 1963.
General Characteristics, Purpose, History
The main core research encompasses the classical LTER objectives and goes further, aiming to understand how montado functioning and ability to provide ecosystem services respond to land-use changes under a desertification scenario predicted by global climate change models.
Affiliation and Network Specific Information