Mountain livestock grazing plays an important role in preserving the landscape and its biodiversity and reducing carbon emissions and forest fires. Despite this, it is one of the most threatened economic activities in the Picos de Europa, a National Park located in the north of Spain. The reasons for this decline in mountain livestock grazing practices are varied: competition with the intensive sector, the fragility of the market, the limited support from the Common Agricultural Policy for sheep and goat herds in mountain areas, loss of young workers, and conflicts with wild predators. This loss of mountain livestock grazing has socioeconomics and environmental consequences.
The aim of the new Pro-Biodiversidad Brand is to recover this production system in Natura 2000 mountain areas and to promote a direct marketing model for their local products. This, in turn, will also improve profitability.
Promotion of extensive livestock in Picos de Europa through the Pro-Biodiversidad scheme improves breeders’ business position in the food sector, in return for certain practices that support populations of bearded vultures and other scavengers. Breeders follow a code of conduct focused on the protection of biodiversity. This means managing their herds following their natural cycle, fed on mountain pastures, and respecting the coexistence with wildlife.
The scheme has already resulted in several benefits. Livestock breeders have seen an increase in economic benefits by 40%, mainly due to involving local commercial platforms that have engaged with producers. Furthermore, a waiting list for breeders interested in joining the Brand has been created. In addition to economic increases, producers obtain social recognition for their work. The promotion of their lamb meat linked to the conservation of biodiversity allows them to differentiate from other producers in the market and reach a growing target group, that of responsible consumers.
The Pro-Biodiversidad model allows the capitalization of the rural environment while at the same time favoring the conservation of mountain pastures and local biodiversity. Livestock residues or by-products are used as a trophic resource, in a clear environmental return of the productive activity, which will be used by scavengers (griffon vultures and bearded vultures).
The brand was designed and registered by the Fundación para la Conservación del Quebrantahuesos, a non-profit organization that works to recover the bearded vulture in the Spanish mountains. The bearded vulture is a species declared in danger of extinction. It relies on the bones of wild and domestic ungulates as a food resource. The work of revitalising the cattle sector in extensive sheep and goat herding is thus directly related to the provision of food resources for the bearded vulture, a species which has been reintroduced in the Picos de Europa National Park since 2002.