Authors: Andrea Colantoni, Gianluca Egidi, Giovanni Quaranta, Roberto D’Alessandro, Sabato Vinci, Rosario Turco and Luca Salvati.
Abstract: Mediterranean regions are likely to be the most vulnerable areas to wildfires in Europe. In this context, land-use change has promoted land abandonment and the consequent accumulation of biomass (fuel) in (progressively less managed) forests and (non-forest) natural land, causing higher fire density and severity, economic damage, and land degradation. The expansion of Wildland-Urban Interfaces (WUIs) further affects fire density by negatively impacting peri-urban farming and livestock density. Assuming the role of grazing in controlling fuel accumulation in forests and non-forest natural land as an indirect measure of wildfire containment around large Mediterranean cities, our work focuses on the role of nomadic livestock, i.e., sheep and goats—the most abundant and traditional farm species in the area. The present study (i) investigates the relationship between fire frequency/extent and livestock decline at the regional level in Greece, (ii) explores changes over time in regional wildfire regimes, comparing Attica, a particularly vulnerable peri-urban region which includes Athens (the Greek capital city), with the rest of the country, and (iii) quantifies trends over time in livestock characteristics (population structure and dynamics) over a sufficiently long time interval (1961–2017) at the same spatial scale, with the aim to document the progressive reduction of nomadic livestock in peri-urban districts. A comprehensive analysis of statistical data, corroborated with a literature review, outlined the relationship between livestock decline over time and changes in specific wildfire characteristics at the regional scale, evidencing peculiar environmental conditions in Attica. In this region, a rapid decline of nomadic livestock was observed compared to in the rest of Greece, leading to a higher wildfire risk. The results of this study suggest that nomadic livestock contributes to sustainable management of peri-urban land, stimulating grazing that may prevent fuel accumulation in fringe woodlands.Keywords: wildfires; peri-urban area; sheep; goats; Mediterranean landscape
Citation: Colantoni, A.; Egidi, G.; Quaranta, G.; D’Alessandro, R.; Vinci, S.; Turco, R.; Salvati, L. Sustainable Land Management, Wildfire Risk and the Role of Grazing in Mediterranean Urban-Rural Interfaces: A Regional Approach from Greece. Land 2020, 9, 21.