Eat, roam, repeat: Can the bison’s big appetite stop Spain’s forest fires?

Eat, roam, repeat: Can the bison’s big appetite stop Spain’s forest fires?

As the temperatures begin to rise, Spain is braced for another summer of the forest fires that over the past 10 years have destroyed about 741,000 hectares (1.8m acres) of forest. Last year, fires consumed 45,000 hectares according to government estimates, the year before 60,000 hectares , and there are signs that, as in California and Australia, the fires are becoming more frequent and more intense. Climate change and rural depopulation are among the factors driving an increase in Spain’s forest fires, says Mónica Parrilla, who is responsible for Greenpeace’s forest fire campaign. At the same time, a decline in sheep herding is leaving Spain without a large herbivore to clear the undergrowth that fuels the fires. Step forward the European bison, driven to extinction in Spain 10,000 years ago, but now growing in numbers due to a programme to reintroduce the species. Fernando Morán, a veterinarian who is director of the European Bison Conservation Center of Spain, describes the bison as “a living strimmer”. The animals, which weigh up to 1,000kg, eat around 30kg of vegetation a day made up of about 30% wood fibre and 70% shoots and leaves. “The European bison delivers immediate biodiversity,” Morán says. […]

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