Herdade da Contenda

Montado Inland Mountains

Name Description

On the far western limit of the Sierra Morena, in the transition to the lowlands of Baixo Alentejo province (Moura Council). The area is limited to the east and the south by the Portuguese – Spanish border and to the north and west by several streams (Arroio, Murtigão and Pais Joanes) tributaries of the Guadiana River.

Size 5270.5 ha

Moura Municipality property under joint management of the Municipality and the National Forest Authority.

Soil and topography

The site is hilly; soils are essentially derived from Paleozoic schist complexes and quartzite crests. The majority of eutric lithosoils derived from schist in the property can be considered in the last stages of erosional degradation. Altitude ranges from 235 to 583 m. The highest elevations correspond to rocky outcrops of schist and quartzite crests usually running along the NW-SE direction. Streams and creeks flow between or spring from these crests.


The climate of Contenda belongs to the Iberian-Mediterranean / Sub-Mediterranean ecological zone, and is classified as sub-humid, mesothermic with a severe summer water-deficit. This situation varies with altitude, increasing with decreasing altitudes. The lowest altitudes are on the limit of Emberger’s semi-arid Mediterranean climate.

Montado type

On Northern Contenda, with relatively flat ground and moderate slopes and climate conditions closest to the semi-arid, the predominant and typical vegetation is the open holm-oak woodlands, with under-cover of pastures and cultivations used for grazing. On Central Contenda with steeper relief and slopes the soil is covered by rock-rose and/or heather maquis, arboraceous maquis with cork-oak or holm-oak and also by young stone and maritime pine forest stands. In Southern Contenda, where the highest altitudes can be found and topography and slopes are less pronounced, the climate is sub-humid; this is the most afforested area, dominantly covered by stone pine, maritime pine and cork oak stands.

Past history of use

The designation of Contenda for a vast area of the councils of Moura (Portugal) and Aroche and Encinasola (Spain) dates to the times of the Christian Reconquest of the Alentejo / Andalusia to the Moors.The area was exploited with common use and equality of rights by the inhabitants of these councils due to the undefined border until 1893. Before 1542 the traditional use of Contenda was based on pastoral grazing, cultivation, hunting and beekeeping, but after this year, common use was practically restricted to pastoral uses until 1893. After this time the area under jurisdiction of Moura was divided into small “lots” which were leased to local farmers. The depletion of Contenda resources was very high; only very limited grazing activities and smuggling during and after the Spanish Civil War enabled some of the farmers to pay their rents. Conditions were thus created in 1958 for the intervention of the Forest Services that initiated the afforestation on Contenda Sul. In 1963 the Forest Services started to manage Northern Contenda, but no afforestation was carried there, as the area was already totally covered by holm-oaks and also because it was considered that the area had exceptional conditions for game production and the protection of rare fauna species. The increase of red-dear and wild boar local populations after 1975 were on the base of the establishment of a National Hunting Area by the end of the 1980’s. It was also by the end of the last century that the area was included on the Portuguese Natura 2000 Network.

Current use

Managed as a multiple use system, where forestry, hunting silvopastoral and protection/conservation of natural habitats / flora & fauna communities are maintained roughly in the same fashion since the 1960s. The main economic outputs are cattle and hunting. Cork was never harvested on the dominant areas of Contenda.

Main drivers of change

Holm-oak tree decline is observed on silvopastoral areas. The natural regeneration of the tree stand is not uniform, and is lacking in some places because of grazing and shrub clearing. Conflicting interests arise from the livestock and game grazing component that affects the natural regeneration of holm and cork oak trees. Interventions and adjustments to promote natural regeneration and active afforestation of oaks have been included in management plans over the last 50 years. An Integral Protected Area where natural regeneration of holm and cork oaks between the natural woods and maquis is promoted was created on Central Contenda in 1963.

Available datasets
  • Precipitation since 1940.
  • Piezometric levels since the 80’s.
  • Biodiversity inventories, particularly of game species since the 80’s.