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Large carnivore species recolonize Europe

Wolves, lynxes and brown bears are among the most charismatic carnivore species in Europe, and they seem to be making a comeback after almost becoming extinct at the end of the past century. What is causing this gradual recolonization of their historical range?

A multi-national team from 11 European countries, including the Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC) investigated if changes in land cover, human population density and protection status were responsible for the expansion of Eurasian lynx, brown bear or grey wolf in Europe in the last 24 years.

Contrary to popular belief, the increasing protection in Europe did not play a significant role in their expansion. According to the study, the factors that positively affect the recovery of these large carnivores are agricultural abandonment and forest encroachment, exodus of human population from rural to urban areas, and decrease in direct persecution. Up until now, the relative importance of these changes for large carnivore distributions at the European scale remained unclear.

"This does not mean that the protected area network is not important for the conservation of these species. It means that its relative importance is lower regarding other factors such as changes in land use or human population density" explains Ana Benítez, researcher at EBD-CSIC and co-author of the study.

The results open new paths to study the role played by society's perception and tolerance toward these species and their expansion, especially in rural areas where there may be conflicts between some socio-economic activities and the conservation of these species. In addition, it would also be interesting to study the importance of other factors that could have also influenced the expansion of large carnivores in Europe, such as the abundance of pray species or the level of compliance with the law regarding direct persecution and illegal hunting.



Cimatti, M et al (2021) Large carnivore expansion in Europe is associated with human population density and land cover changes. Diversity and Distributions.

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When conservation bias leads to restoration failure

When conservation bias leads to restoration failure

Conservation bias towards flagship species sometimes threatens other species of chief concern. Long-term studies of potential harm by favoured species on other sensitive species, though seldom adopted, are required to fairly evaluate the suitability of management and restoration efforts. The potential detrimental outcomes of conservation biased towards birds is illustrated by investigating the long-term (1963–2009) impact of a large waterbird colony on a remnant cork oak Quercus suber population at a World Biosphere Reserve in south-western Spain (the Doñana National Park). To this end, changes in performance (growth, crown vigour and survival) of oaks occupied and unoccupied by the waterbird colony were compared. After 46 years of occupation, the risk of death to centenarian oaks in the area occupied by the colony was over twofold higher than for trees outside the area. Non-centenarian planted and naturally regenerated oaks showed similar trends, leading to restoration failure. This long-term study reveals that waterbirds and centenarian oaks cannot coexist, at the most local scale, but they can at a regional scale including within the Doñana area. Immediate planting efforts in suitable colony-free areas are proposed, while managers evaluate the feasibility of relocating colonial waterbirds to an alternative location. To preserve the Doñana oak genetic pool, such reforestation should be accomplished using local seeds and seedlings. New trees should not be planted in close proximity of colony-occupied trees since it significantly reduces their survival. Doñana stakeholders should both overcome current conservation bias in favour of birds and enter into a process of settlement to best preserve the overall biodiversity of the system.  informacion[at] Fedriani et al (2016) Long-term impact of protected colonial birds on a jeopardized cork oak population: conservation bias leads to restoration failure. J Appl Ecol. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12672