There are about 150 bison in Spain in 35 breeding centres, but Morán hopes to see 1,000 roaming the countryside in future.
Creatures great and small
But it’s not just big animals that have a role to play in fighting wildfires. “We found a huge variety of animals that can influence fire,” ANU’s Dr Foster told Popular Science. “One of the things I really started to appreciate in this review was insects and other invertebrates,” she added.
Some insects break down the leaf litter, allowing microbes to consume it more quickly. Birds too have a part to play. Australian bird the malleefowl heaps leaves on the forest floor on which to lay its eggs, creating mini-fire gaps, her research found.
At the opposite end of the scale, as they travel through forests elephants create well-trodden paths that can act as firebreaks. Like the birds, insects and microbes, these “patches” of cleared land created by animals can slow or even halt the spread of fires.
American Bark Beetles weaken and kill trees which therefore burn more readily and insects which feed on leaf litter can slow down its decomposition, leaving more fuel for wildfires on the forest floor, says Dr Foster.
A study for the US Forestry Service found that grazing animals tend to favour deciduous plants and trees, leaving the much more flammable coniferous varieties standing. Saplings create a “fire ladder” that can set the whole forest ablaze.
Increased fire activity
The ANU report comes after a year in which wildfires raged across the globe.