Mediterranean Forest, Betting on green shoots By Juan Carlos Munoz
It is true that those of us who are dedicated to nature photography are part of a larger force that links us to other living beings like animals and plants that inhabit the Earth. The dunes of the desert or the stars that every night, scattered in the sky, remind us that we are part of something much more immense.
Maybe this is the primary reason that l have always felt an irresistible attraction to the Mediterranean forest, but I also must credit my university education as a biologist specializing in environment. The Mediterranean forest is not only one of the main ecosystems dominating the landscape of my home country of Spain, but it also remains the best global representation of this type of landscape. Besides being the most emblematic forest throughout the Mediterranean basin, this type of forest is also found in Baja California, Australia, South Africa and Chile.
I'm just captivated because it is a harsh environment where nevertheless life becomes rich. Its hardness is based on water shortages during the long summer periods which challenge all living beings of this biotope. The dry season is accompanied by extreme temperature rises and yet, the extraordinary biodiversity remains. Plants and animals have developed unique adaptations which allow them to maximize the available resources provided by the forest.
But what most attracted my interest in this Mediterranean forest is the paradigmatic case that reveals the relationship between man and his environment. For ages, men have utilized its resources without destroying the forest.
The dehesa, the Spanish term for grassland habitat with trees, is a grazing system in which agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry have been combined in a way that preserves biological diversity and safeguards this natural habitat as a mature forest with high stability and productivity even while making use of the widest possible range of resources available.
This natural forest is pruned in a way that sometimes recalls the order of an English garden or an African savanna and is home to an exceptional tree, the holm oak. This tree, even with its medium size and slow growth, is the most emblematic tree of the Mediterranean basin.
This unique landscape whose natural beauty is the result of an ancient and harmonious relationship between man and his environment, is also the reserve of a variety of Mediterranean wildlife. Under the protective and productive shade of the holm oaks, cattle graze and Iberian pigs feed on the acorns, each thriving in the midst of a seemingly austere landscape.
It is where I have been going for years in search of the changing seasons and the wide panoramas bathed occasionally in extraordinary light. I go to witness the delicate and mutually beneficial relationship that man has cultivated with nature through the centuries.
Nowadays my photographic work is energized by a great effort to collect together such natural biodiversity in photographs for a large format book to be released at the end of this year.
I’m really excited about the opportunity to share this magnificent forest which demonstrates the balanced relationship that man maintains with the environment.
It is possible to view the dehesa as a landscape made to man’s measure but I prefer to think that man in the dehesa is just a species customized to the universe’s measure.
All photographs are copyright Juan Carlos Munoz
To view and purchase his work on AFC:: http://www.artforconservation.org/artists/juancarlosmunoz
To see his website: http://www.artenatural.com/