• TRADITIONAL LAND USE

    Wild ponies are a key element of open ecosystems in Galicia's mountain ranges, specifically in Serra do Xistral, as well as vital for the conservation of heathland habitats.

TRADITIONAL LAND USE

La The mountain range of O Xistral is characterised by extensive livestock grazing, which coexists with wild ponies, commonly denominated bestas (“beasts”, in Galician). Giving continuance to the traditional ways of exploitation of these animals will favour habitat conservation, whilst simultaneously preserving a pony population endemic to the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula.

The mountain range of O Xistral is characterised by extensive livestock grazing, which coexists with wild horses, commonly denominated "bestas" (beasts, in Galician). Giving continuance to the traditional ways of exploitation of these animals will favour habitat conservation, whilst simultaneously preserving a horse population endemic to the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula

The LIFE IN COMMON LAND project will assess the baseline scenario for the wild ponies population through an analysis of the spatial distribution of their bands, their social structure, behaviour and population dynamics, as well as of their use of Atlantic wet heath and bog communities for each common land area. Additionally, the current management of these animals will also be subject to analysis. Lastly, the various issues arising from the presence of wild ponies will be studied, such as the areas with the highest risk of accidents caused by these ponies on roads, the presence of physical barriers or an estimate of their losses by wolf predation.

The LIFE IN COMMON LAND project will assess the baseline scenario for the wild pony population through an analysis of the spatial distribution of their bands, their social structure, behaviour and population dynamics, as well as of their use of Atlantic wet heath and bog communities for each communal property.

Wild ponies are instrumental key element of open ecosystems in Galicia's mountain ranges, specifically in Serra do Xistral, as well as essential for the conservation of the target priority habitats. The various communal lands to be acted upon may present different situations regarding the influence of wild pony bands on wet heath and bog communities.

The population of Galician wild horses has decreased in recent years owing to motives such as the abandonment of the traditional uses of wild horses, the low prices of meat and various conflicts deriving from the application of new legislations, but also due to the lack of knowledge on the species as a whole and hence to a low appreciation of it. Traffic accidents due to animal invasion of roads, both from horses and cows, are an important problem in the mountains in the area. In order to avoid them, it would be beneficial to reduce as much as possible animal access to the main roads, as well as to make their users wary of the potential presence of animals on the secondary roads crossing the mountains.

The abandonment of the traditional exploitation of wild horses in Serra do Xistral is resulting in the degradation of heathlands and the succession towards other plant communities.The threats looming over this activity make it necessary to design and set in motion innovative solutions in order to ensure its persistence. The use of wild ponies to preserve wet heath habitats is new in Galicia, but it has been successfully employed in habitat conservation and restoration projects, mainly in the United Kingdom, using other horse breeds such as the Exmoor.

Wild ponies or bestas are an instrumental element of open ecosystems in Galicia's mountain ranges, specifically in Serra do Xistral, as well as essential to the conservation of the selected priority habitats.