Impacts of Extensive Sheep Grazing on Soil Physical and Chemical Quality in Open Mountain Forests, NE Portugal uri icon


  • Grazing and mechanical clearing are common techniques for vegetation management in open Mediterranean forests. Despite its recognized benefits in the prevention of high-intensity and severity forest fires, it is essential to consider its impacts on the physical and chemical soil properties. In an open mountain forest located in the NE of Portugal, soil samples were analyzed at depths 0–5, 5–10, and 10–20 cm collected at two moments: before mechanical clearing, (Control) and after 18 months of extensive sheep grazing, in areas without grazing, only mechanical clearing (MC) and in areas with both mechanical clearing and grazing (MCG). The results indicate that vegetation cutting has induced a significant decrease in extractable potassium, and an increase in the soil organic matter and total nitrogen. The exchangeable bases and the exchangeable acidity did not undergo expressive changes, as indicated by the pH values and the cation exchangeable capacity. After grazing, extractable phosphorus and potassium, organic matter, total nitrogen, exchangeable bases, and cation exchangeable capacity have increased significantly in the topsoil (0–5 cm), reducing soil acidity. Regarding physical properties, only soil permeability has been negatively affected by grazing. Mediterranean mountain open forests management with the combination of vegetation clearing and extensive sheep grazing proved to be effective in reducing vegetable fuel availability and improving soil quality.
  • The present work was supported by EU SUDOE, grant number SOE2/P5E0804, project entitled “OPEN2PRESERVE (SOE 2/P5/ E0804)—Modelo de gestión sostenible para la preservación de espácios abiertos de montaña de alto valor ambiental.”

publication date

  • August 2023