The Iberian lynx, at risk of extinction, may be reintroduced into the wild on low-production olive groves soon.
A study by Spanish scientists says this may be the most appropriate place for the cat.
Currently, the Iberian lynx only lives in the Natural Park of the Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro and in Doñana.
Olive groves near the Natural Park of the Sierra de Cardeña y Montoro, in Córdoba, are at risk of being abandoned due to socioeconomic and environmental reasons. In particular, much of the population there is leaving, and erosion and forest fire risks are high.
Manuel Arriaza, director of the study and a researcher at the Institute for Agricultural and Fishing Research and Training (IFAPA), says: “Although the olive groves have low production levels and high production costs, they are areas with great environmental value.” The authors of the study (published in Spanish Journal of Agricultural Research) believe that these lands may be restored to Mediterranean forest. This is the habitat of the Iberian lynx.
Through interviews with experts and 480 people from the surrounding area, as well as analysis of the geographical features of the area, scientists’ final proposal was that “36% of the land should be planted to conventional olive groves, 23% should be reconverted to Mediterranean forest, 22% should be mixed olives and forest, and 19% organic olive groves.”
Once the best areas for restoring Mediterranean forests are identified, the researchers say that additional issues need to be examined — the size of the rabbit population in the area and the fragmentation of habitats where the lynx might be reintroduced. After that, one of the world’s most endangered species may be reintroduced into the wild.
For more on the Iberian lynx and other endangered species, read:
10 Animals on the Brink of Extinction
Image Credit: Nutxlago via flickr under a Creative Commons license