Livestock Corridors Working as Pollinator Refuges and Dispersal Hotspots: Lessons from Spain

Pablo Manzano, Alfredo García-Fernández, Javier Seoane, Francisco M. Azcárate, Jose Maria Iriondo, Begoña Peco

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Habitat fragmentation is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity conservation and ecosystem productivity mediated by direct human impact. Its consequences include genetic depauperation, comprising phenomena such as inbreeding depression or reduction in genetic diversity. While the capacity of wild and domestic herbivores to sustain long-distance seed dispersal has been proven, the impact of herbivore corridors in plant population genetics has not been observed previously.

We conducted this study in the Conquense Drove Road in Spain, where sustained use by livestock over centuries has involved transhumant herds passing twice a year en route to winter and summer pastures. We compared genetic diversity and inbreeding coefficients of Plantago lagopus populations along the drove road with populations in the surrounding agricultural matrix, at varying distances from human settlements.

We observed significant differences in coefficients of inbreeding between the drove road and the agricultural matrix, as well as significant trends indicative of higher genetic diversity around human settlements. Trends for higher genetic diversity along drove roads may be present, although they were only marginally significant due to the available sample size.

Our results illustrate a functional landscape with human settlements as dispersal hotspots, while the findings along the drove road confirm its role as a pollinator reservoir observed in other studies. Drove roads seem also to function as linear structures that facilitate long-distance dispersal across the agricultural matrix, while local P. lagopus populations depend rather on short-distance seed dispersal. These results highlight the role of herbivore corridors for conserving the migration capacity of plants and contribute towards understanding the role of seed dispersal and the spread of invasive species related to human activities. The coupling of traditional pastoralist practices with the phenology of plants and pollinators raises concerns on the environmental effects of current global land use change.

This paper is based on García-Fernández et al. (2019).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationXXIV International Grassland Congress / XI International Rangeland Congress : Sustainable Use of Grassland and Rangeland Resources for Improved Livelihoods
Number of pages4
Place of PublicationNairobi
PublisherKenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)
Publication date29 Oct 2021
Article number23
ISBN (Print)978-9966-30-093-5
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes
MoE publication typeA4 Article in conference proceedings
EventInternational Grassland Congress & XI International Rangeland Congress - Nairobi, Kenya
Duration: 25 Oct 202129 Oct 2021
Conference number: XXIV

Fields of Science

  • 4111 Agronomy

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