What processes happen in the soil and plants during a shift?
Authors: Ángeles G. Mayor, V Ramón Vallejo, Susana Bautista with Peter de Ruiter, Lia Hemerik, Violette Geissen, Jaap Bloem, Jacob Kéizer, Óscar González-Pelayo, Ana Isabel Machado, Sílvia Faria, Ana Vasques, Luna Morcillo, Rosario López-Poma, Azucena Camacho, Anna Urgeghe, Diana Turrión, Christel van Eck, Martinho Martins, Paula Maia, Alejandro Valdecantos, Jaime Baeza, Joan Llovet, David Fuentes, Giovanni Quaranta, Rosanna Salvia, Velia De Paola, Ioannis N. Daliakopoulos, Ioanna Panagea, Ioannis K. Tsanis, Michalakis Christoforou, Christiana Papoutsa, Dimitris Tsaltas, Kostas Andreou, Kyriakos Themistokleous, Giorgos Papadavid and Diofantos Hatzimitsis.
Editor: Jane Brandt
Source document: Mayor et al. (2017) Identification of critical changes preceding catastrophic shifts: ecosystems affeced by increasing grazing intensity and severe drought. CASCADE Project Deliverable 3.1b


1. Study sites

The observational and manipulative experiments were conducted in the six CASCADE study sites, which are all located in southern Europe. Two are stressed by fire: Várzea in North-Central Portugal and Ayora in Eastern Spain, and four by grazing: Albatera-Santomera in Eastern Spain, Castelsaraceno in Southern Italy, Messara in Southern Crete and Randi in Southern Cyprus.

For general descriptions of the study sites including information on geography, soils, climate, land use, degradation drivers, socioeconomic status and evolution of vegetation see

»Várzea Portugal: Description of site and main causes of degradation
»Albatera, Spain: Description of site and main causes of degradation
»Ayora, Spain: Description of site and main causes of degradation
»Castelsaraceno, Italy: Description of site and main causes of degradation
»Messara, Greece: Description of site and main causes of degradation
»Randi Forest, Cyprus: Description of site and main causes of degradation

A brief summary of the study site characteristics is provided in Table 1.

Table 1. Summarized description of the study sites

Variables  Várzea (Portugal) Albaterra (Spain) Ayora(Spain) Castelsaraceno (Italy) Messara (Greece) Randi (Cyprus)
Stress factor  Fire Grazing  Fire  Grazing Grazing  Grazing 
Mean annual T (ºC) 13.4 18 14.6 9.1 17.9 19.5
Mean annual rainfall (mm) 1170 268 385 1290 504 489
Elevation (m.a.s.l) 468 - 530 180 – 270 763 - 1041 1764 - 1861 435 140
Soil type & bedrock Umbrisols; Cambisols over schists Calcisols; Cambisols over marls Regosols over marls/ limestone Regosols over limestone/ dolomite Cambisols; Luvisols over marls/limestone Calcaric Regosols over marls
Plant community Pine woodland Open shrubland Pine woodland Grassland Open shrubland Open shrubland

2. Target species

For all six CASCADE sites, we identified the most relevant plant species to be considered as target species. The species selected were either shrubs or perennial grasses (Table 2). The selection was based on the importance of their role (abundance; functional role) in the ecosystems of study. The target species in Várzea, Pterospartum tridentatum, is a dominant shrub species in the study site, which quickly resprouts after fire and plays a critical role in the post-fire recovery of the vegetation. Rosmarinus officinalis, the target species in Ayora, represents a different post-fire regeneration strategy, a post-fire seeding shrub, which is very common in fire-prone shrublands developed in old agricultural fields in the Mediterranean. Anthyllis cytisoides and Calicotome villosa, the target species in Albatera and Randi, respectively, represent abundant palatable shrubs and therefore represent the species that are the most likely to be affected by grazing intensity. Similarly, Brachypodium rupestre and Stipa austroitalica in Castelsaraceno and in Hyparrhenia hirta Messara represent the common palatable grasses in these grazed areas.

Table 2. Selected target species

Species  Species description
D3.1b tab02a

Name: Pterospartum tridentatum (L.)
Family: Fabaceae
Functional group: Shrub
Functional strategy: Resprouter species
Site: Várzea (Portugal) 

D3.1b tab02b Name: Anthyllis cytisoides (L.)
Family: Fabaceae
Functional group: Subshrub
Functional strategy: Drought deciduous species
Site: Albatera-Santomera (Spain)
D3.1b tab02c Name: Rosmarinus officinialis (L.)
Family: Lamiaceae
Functional group: Shrub
Functional strategy: Seeder species
Site: Ayora-Mariola (Spain)
D3.1b tab02d Name: Brachypodium rupestre (Host) Roem. & Schult.
Family: Poaceae
Functional group: Herb
Functional strategy: Perennial grass
Site: Castelsaraceno (Italy)
D3.1b tab02e Name: Stipa austroitalica (Martinovský)
Family: Poaceae
Functional group: Tussock grass
Functional strategy: Perennial grass
Site: Castelsaraceno (Italy)
D3.1b tab02f Name: Hyparrhenia hirta (L.)
Family: Poaceae
Functional group: Subshrub
Functional strategy: Perennial grass
Site: Messara (Crete)
D3.1b tab02g Name: Calicotome villosa (Poir.) Link
Family: Fabaceae
Functional group: Shrub
Functional strategy : Drought deciduous species
Site: Randi (Cyprus)


 Note: For full references to papers quoted in this article see

» References

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