Rangelands and grasslands occupy now more than 3 million ha in the Iberian Peninsula representing one of the most valuable ecosystems. They are particularly interesting due to their great geographical spread and heterogeneity in land management. Significant changes have been undergone in the last 60 years affecting vegetation. The main goal in this study was to compile existing information about the changes in the Iberian rangelands and grasslands, their geographical distribution, typologies, main characteristics as well as past and recent land management based on a thorough bibliographical review and serious research. This has been subdivided into five large groups according to climate and human drivers: (1) Mediterranean rangelands and steppes, (2) oceanic grasslands, (3) mountainous meadows, (4) semi-arid steppes and (5) Portuguese rangelands and grasslands. Two milestones over the past 60 years were remarkable as main driving forces: rural exodus in the 1960s and 1970s and Spain and Portugal joining the European Union in 1986. They have provoked both processes of intensification and extensification at the same time on different scales. Many farms have been progressively fragmented using wire fences, and the numbers of livestock have been significantly increased. Land abandonment and grazing exclusion have provoked a large shrub encroachment of species such as Retama sphaerocarpa or Cistus ladanifer.
Part of the book: Vegetation