Goats are part of the new fire brigade in Barcelona, Source: Unsplash

Barcelona: part of a growing club that employs livestock as fire preventers

Barcelona: part of a growing club that employs livestock as fire preventers

The name of the tactic is ‘targeted grazing’ – it feeds the animals and starves the wildfires

The City of Barcelona has recently wrapped up a pilot project, which saw the introduction of goat and sheep herds grazing on the slopes of the Collserola park as a way to prevent wildfires from happening or spreading. The animals boosted the firefighting team by doing their prophylactic work and getting nicely fed in the meantime.

The project was launched in April after seeing that it has been applied with success in other parts of Spain and the world. The methodology is in fact as simple as it gets, and probably because of that – fairly effective.

The flocks graze and stomp on the grassy meadows of the park as part of what is called ‘targeted grazing’. The result is that it leaves open spaces and gaps in the vegetation mass, which prevent fires from spreading and taking over large territories. That makes them more manageable if they arise, and easier to put out.

Ancient, and yet sustainable method

The animal fire brigade consists of 290 sheep and goats. Their job was to eat their way through about 70 hectares of the Collserola park – the entire surface of the park is 8,000 hectares making the small mountain one of the largest urban parks in the world.

The idea of course was never to cover the entire area of the park but to just strategically graze down enough spots to create barriers for the fires. This method is simple, ancient and very organic in its approach. It is also cheap.

According to The Guardian, the Andalusian government had also implemented a program where they paid shepherds to target graze their flocks in certain areas, which resulted in 75% savings on the costs of having the land cleared mechanically. The same approach has also been used in other parts of Europe and in places as distant as California.

As for Barcelona, plans are now underway to expand the project to as many as three flocks and potentially cover more of the city’s green spaces.



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