Iberianature Forum

Iberian geography, history, geology, environment and climate => Geography and geology => Topic started by: nick on January 06, 2008, 18:22 PM

Title: The European Desert
Post by: nick on January 06, 2008, 18:22 PM
I've just come across this article. Not read it properly yet but it seems fascinating.

You need to click through loads of pages to read it all:

Until the end of the fifteenth century, Almeria was part of the Kingdom of Granada, the last Islamic state in Spain. In 1494, two years after the Castilian conquest, the traveler J. Winzer, who came from the Tyrol in the Austrian Alps, crossed the country and wrote in his diary: "There are so many bears, deer, roe deer and wild boars in the mountains that it seems incredible," and "the land is cultivated only where it is possible to irrigate."

man-made desert: Effects of economic and demographic growth on the ecosystems of arid southeastern Spain,
Title: Re: The European Desert
Post by: John C on January 06, 2008, 23:16 PM
Thanks for highlighting this article - it made very interesting reading.  How much, I wonder, are other desert like areas in Spain due to human intervention in the relatively recent past.  In turn what might this mean regarding the historic distribution of birds like the two sandgrouse and, particularly, Dupont's Lark.  Presumably the recent colonisation of Trumpeter Finch is part of the same process - and what else might become a regular feature of the Iberian avifauna if this continues?

Title: Re: The European Desert
Post by: Clive on January 07, 2008, 20:26 PM
Thanks for the links Nick, utterly fascinating....

The first references to the landscapes of southeastern Spain were written in the Roman era. Strabo, in his Geography, described the mountains of southeastern Spain as "covered with thick woods and gigantic trees" and Avienus, in the fourth century, was the first to report the destruction of forests, specifically pinewoods, on the coast of Almeria.7 He even mentions an old Greek place-name on this desert coast: Cape Pityusas, or Pines Cape.' Pollen research carried out close to this cape has confirmed the presence of pinewoods (Pines sp.) at an early date.) These ancient observations are tantalizingly brief.

During the Roman era, the Mediterranean ecosystems suffered an unprecedented assault.'" The expansion of the cities and dry farming crops such as cereals, vines, and olive trees, together with a significant demographic upswing, were the principal causes. It is possible that some areas of the current province of Almeria then reached population densities that were again unknown until the eighteenth century." In addition, the southeast had a leading role as an exporter of minerals such as lead and silver. Between the Punic and Roman periods the first episode of economic specialization and a link with international commercial networks occurred. These episodes have been repeated in various occasions throughout history, and they have frequently led to sudden demographic "booms" and acute environmental disturbances.

I think those pinewoods must have stretched all the way to the Algarve....

I read a while ago (but can't find it now) about a huge forest fire that burned somewhere in the South of the Iberian peninsula...The writer said that the fire burned for many weeks, cutting off routes and making it impossible to even land a ship. When the fire had died down and people walked onto the still hot ground there were patches where silver had bubbled up out of the ground molten and set on the surface... This must have been pre Roman era and I guess must have been one of the reasons why Iberia was so fought over back then. Full of silver and copper......A veritable Eldorado/Eden

But imagine the size of a forest that could burn for that many weeks....
Title: Re: The European Desert
Post by: steveT on January 08, 2008, 00:51 AM

Absolutely fascinating .......it answered questions I'd been pondering for ages ...... supported  ideas ..... got me thinking of new questions ......and loads of new information too!!!!

eg there's a Fuente del Oso ....a tiny place in the very south of Cazorla (only a few 10's of km from the areas dicussed) .....I'd been wondering as its in Castillano it must have got its name post conquest of the area ..... ie around the dates  the article mentioned( it talks of Catillian new names ).......and was this proof of bears in the area so late on and this far south ........the article clearly supports this idea.

Thanks again Nick !!!!


Title: Re: The European Desert
Post by: lisa on January 08, 2008, 15:47 PM
Well, we all know what bears do in woods....In the 16th century there were bears in the north of Andalucia (Sierra Morena). Have a look at this history of the bear in Spain from the MMA. (http://www.mma.es/secciones/biodiversidad/especies_amenazadas/vertebrados/mamiferos/pdf/CAP01_OSOPARDO.pdf)
Title: Re: The European Desert
Post by: Clive on January 08, 2008, 18:14 PM
Well, we all know what bears do in woods.

Picnic? or scats and scratch tree trunks...... ???
Title: Re: The European Desert
Post by: Technopat on January 09, 2008, 15:11 PM
Great link, Nick! Thanx.
Very interesting.
Title: Re: The European Desert
Post by: SueMac on January 09, 2008, 19:04 PM
Hi Lisa and Nick and everyone
 Ive just picked up on this thread - realise now the importance of the Sierra Maria statement on bears and other animals present in the XVIth century now .........My Sunday entry
Title: Re: The European Desert
Post by: elperronegro on January 10, 2008, 06:16 AM
Fascinating! Thanks for the link. As has been said, it does take a bit of reading, but opens ones eyes :o