THE TARGET SPECIES


Brown bear – Italy 

In Italy there are two distinct bear populations. A European brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) population has been reintroduced in the 90’s in the Eastern Alps, while the endemic and critically endangered (IUCN Red List) subspecies Apennine brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus) survives in a small portion of the Apennines. 

Bears in the Apennines have experienced a prolonged period of isolation (3.000-4.000 years), which resulted in a significant genetic and morphological differentiation from the bears in the rest of Europe. The remnant Apennine brown bear population, estimated in 50 (45-69) individuals in 2014 during the LIFE ARCTOS project (LIFE 09/NAT/IT/000160), should therefore be regarded as an evolutionary and conservative unit on its own.

 

The Apennine brown bear population was once spread along all the Apennines but its range progressively decreased, mainly due to the land use change and persecution by humans. The establishment of the Abruzzo National Park in 1923 helped the preservation of this subspecies and today, even though the area stably occupied by reproducing females is still reduced to a 1500 km2, there are evidences of re-colonization of parts of the former range. The total range of this species is now estimated in 5000 km2 with the area occupied by reproducing females coinciding mainly with the Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise National Park (PNALM) and the immediate surrounding mountains. 

Since 2006 direct observations of family units are performed during summer in the PNALM, and the results indicate that the population is reproductively functional, despite a year to year variation in the number of cubs as well as of reproductive females.

 

The Majella National Park (PNM) is one of the most important areas where re-colonization is taking place: aside from the presence of males, also reproductive females are stably present (at least 2 with 5 cubs born between 2014 and 2017) and there are evidences of denning activity as well.

Although these are encouraging signals, this endangered population still face many threats that compromise its survival. 

 

The fragmentation caused by the presence of roads is one of them: for example, from 2015 to 2019 two bears died and one was seriously injured along a single road running in an area between PNALM and expansion areas of PNM and Molise Region.

To favor the expansion of this bear population it is important to solve these issues, which are a roadblock to bear survival and dispersion.

 

Brown bear - Greece

The Brown bear Ursus arctos distribution range in Greece consists of two separate population nuclei, approximately 150-200 km apart and located in the north-western and north-eastern parts of the country, respectively in the Peristeri-Pindos and the Rodopi mountain ranges over a total surface of 17.8500 km2 of permanent occupation range. Over the last 15 years the Greek bear population shows a constant geographical positive trend with recolonization of former (historical) range of the western distributional range. The permanent and recolonized range covers ~ 34.868 km2.

The population size can be described as follows:

I. Bioregional scale: The western brown bear population nucleus is attached to the Dinara-Pindos biological brown bear population (which covers 8 different countries of the W. Balkans) is 3.070 individuals (source: Status, management

and distribution of large carnivores – bear, lynx, wolf & wolverine – in Europe (2013) (P.

Kaczensky, G. Chapron, M. von Arx, D. Huber, H. Andrén & J.Linnell Eds.).

II. Country scale (Greece): the minimum population size estimates are 500 ind. (Pilidis 2015, Karamanlidis et al. 2017).

III. Regional scale: Areas targeted by the project:

Project sub-scale (1) minimum population size ranges from 100-205 ind. (Tsparis et all 2014).

Project sub-scale (2): (a) approximately 130 individuals minimum (Karamanlidis et al. 2010) and (b) approximately 109 individuals (min. 52 – max 196, 95% CI) (Pilidis et al. 2015, Karamanlidis et al. 2017). The project will depend on the latter figures as more recent. Both project areas Ursus arctos* population represents circa 50% of the country population.

 

Overall Ursus arctos* conservation status has been evaluated according to the two most recent national reports (92/43 art. 17) from FV(-) to (U1) as distribution is affected by bottle-neck phenomena due to habitat disruption related to large infrastructure (mainly highways) and other detrimental human activities such as criminal forest fires, changes in land use and poaching.

 

Brown bear - Romania

The Romanian brown bear population is distributed across the whole forested area of the Romanian Carpathian Mountains, occupying a surface of approximatively 69.000 km2 (Ionescu 1999).

The legal protection status of the brown bear species (Ursus arctos) in Romania was ensured by the law no. 407/2006 for game protection and hunting, which was later amended, and which includes the brown bear in its Annex 2 as a species of national interest, for which hunting is not allowed.  

Following the entry into European Union in 2007, the legal protection status of the brown bear species in Romania was further enhanced through the inclusion of the species into the Annex 3 and 4 of the OUG no. 57/2007 (Law no. 49/2011), which lists the flora and fauna species of European interest, requiring a strict protection status and the designation of special conservation areas to enlarge the Natura 2000 network of protected areas.      

In order to reduce the number of human-bear conflicts without endangering the stable trend of the bear population, the responsible authorities pass derogations according to the Article 16 of the Habitats Directive.

The size of the brown bear population in Romania is estimated for the year 2016 at somewhere between 6050 and 6640 individuals (Iordache, Jurj et al. 2016). The highest density is registered in north-eastern and central Carpathians.

The assessment of the conservation status of the species and habitats included in the Annex IV and V of the Habitats Directive conducted within the time period 2006-2012, which reported the conservation status of species to the EU Commission on the basis of Article 17 of the Habitats Directive, states that “the conservation status of the brown bear population across the alpine and continental biogeographical regions in Romania is favorable”.         

 

Iberian lynx – Spain

The Iberian lynx is considered to be the most endangered cat species of the world (Novell, 2002). The evolution of the species in the 20th century has been clearly declining, passing from a population of 5-6.000 specimen in the 1960ies, to 1.000-1.200 in the 1990ies and down to estimated 160 individuals in 2002. This drastic decrease has been due mainly to the following factors:

- Decrease of populations of rabbits due to an epidemia of mixomatosis and to hemorhagic disease (EHV) of the rabbit, which has caused a decline of 90% of the rabbit population

- Direct or indirect persecution

- Stochastic events such as diseases

 

Since 2001 the la Consejería de Medio Ambiente de la Junta de Andalucía has started a strong effort for the conservation of the Iberian lynx, through the programa de Actuaciones para la conservación del lince en Andalucía I, II y III (Feoga) and three lynx recovery LIFE Projects: LIFE02NAT/E/8609, LIFE06NAT/E/209 and LIFE10NAT/ES/570.

Thanks to these efforts the population of the species has greatly increased, in fact according to the last census made in 2016

(http://www.iberlince.eu/images/docs/3_InformesLIFE/Informe_Censo_2016.pdf), the total number of individuals in the Iberian Peninsula has increased to 483 individuals, of which 397 in Andalucia.

In this region, the two nuclei are located in Doñana-Aljarafe and Sierra Morena (See map B2c-1). In the last 5 years the species has increased by 21% and the distribution range by 34,4%.

Thanks to these improvements in 2015 the IUCN has declassified the Iberian lynx conservation status from Critically Endangered to Endangered.

However, although these results are very encouraging the species is still strongly endangered and risks extinction, therefore the efforts for its conservation must not be decreased.

               

Wolf - Italy

The wolf is targeted directly only in Terni province, although also in PNALM and PNM it will benefit from the project implementation. In this area the activities are carried out mainly in order to function as demonstration actions, and to create a link between the beneficiaries of the LIFE STRADE project and the present one.

 

Wolf-human persecution made the wolf to disappear from most of its original range in Italy, until it reached its minimum in the 1970s, when the population estimate was of around 100 individuals (Zimen & Boitani 1975). Since then, a series of processes took place, namely: National and international legislation; economic changes that made rural people to shift to urban lives thus abandoning the countryside; reintroduction of wild prey. The combination of all these made the wolf population to increase and expand into areas where it was extirpated in the previous decades.

Actually the species is distributed all along the Appennines and since 1990 recolonized the alpine arch. The most recent estimate of the wolf population is about 1212–1711 wolves in the period 2009–2013 for the Appenine chain and 57-89 for the Alpine sub-population (Galaverni et al 2015)

In Umbria Region there isn’t an accurate estimation of wolf population size but the species is expanding and distributed in almost all of the regional territory

This project is funded with the contribution of the LIFE programme of the European Union

Photos: Manuel Moral Castro; Haritakis Papaioanou, Balkan Chamois Society, Pindos, Valentino Mastrella/PNALM, Angelina Iannarelli/PNALM