LIFE Bears with future

First meeting of the scientific committee of the project. March 2022.

First meeting of the scientific committee of the project. March 2022. 1000 596 Fundación Oso Pardo

On March 2 and 3, the first meeting of the Scientific Committee of the LIFE Bears with Future project was held in Villablino (León). The researchers and experts participating in the meeting have been Pedro Álvarez Álvarez and José Carlos Pérez Girón from the University of Oviedo, Emilio R. Díaz Varela and María J. Lombardero from the University of Santiago de Compostela, Fernando Castedo Dorado from the University of León, José Vicente López Bao from the Biodiversity Research Institute (CSIC/UO/PA) and Javier Cano from the Fundación Tierra Pura, in addition to the technical team from the Fundación Oso Pardo.

During the meeting, the main results of the preparatory actions of the project were presented and debated, and field visits were made to areas planned for fleshy fruit plantations and chestnut plantations in Anllares del Sil (Páramo del Sil, León), and areas planned for chestnut treatments in Gedrez (Cangas del Narcea, Asturias), where the action proposals have been reviewed and suggestions and recommendations have been collected from the experts.

Up-to-date scientific information and researchers’ advice is considered a key aspect in the design, execution and monitoring of the LIFE Bears with Future actions, taking into account that the objective is to facilitate adaptation to climate change considering the forecasts of future climate scenarios, and that the project is working with species with very specific requirements and phytosanitary conditions. In addition to a regular dialogue with the specialists of the Scientific Committee, future meetings and field visits will be developed in order to evaluate the result of the interventions and the necessary adaptations to guarantee their success and long-term maintenance.

Scientific Committee of the LIFE Bears with Future project.

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Progress in the preparation of the chestnut plants at the La Mata Forest Nursery in the Principality of Asturias. February 2022

Progress in the preparation of the chestnut plants at the La Mata Forest Nursery in the Principality of Asturias. February 2022 800 600 Fundación Oso Pardo

The work team of the La Mata Forest Nursery (Grado, Asturias), dependent on the Principality of Asturias, has recently finished sowing the chestnuts collected last autumn in various Asturian official seed sources for the production of chestnut plants for the LIFE Bears with Future project. An important effort has been made and more than 60,000 chestnuts have been planted in 500 cm3 forest pots, and these first days of February the new seedlings have already begun to sprout. The plants will be cared for in the nursery in the next months. The LIFE Bears with Future project will plant 25,000 chestnut trees for the production of fruit, most of which will be grafted with local varieties typical of each territory. The Regional Ministry of Rural Environment and Territory of the Principality of Asturias contributes to the project with the production of 15,000 chestnut trees in the La Mata Forest Nursery, which will be obtained from the chestnuts planted this season.

The forestry engineer from the Fundación Oso Pardo María Gómez (left), the researcher from the University of Oviedo Pedro Álvarez (centre) and the manager of the La Mata forest nursery Eloy Ron (right) in the greenhouse where the trays planted with chestnuts for the LIFE Bears with Future project are maintained and cared.

On February 9, 2022, a work meeting was held at the nursery to review the progress of chestnut production and plan the actions to be carried out this year, with the participation of Eloy Ron, technical manager of the nursery, Pedro Álvarez, professor at the University of Oviedo, Fernando Ballesteros and María Gómez from the Fundación Oso Pardo and Jairo Marqués, from Tragsatec and responsible for coordinating the participation of the Principality of Asturias in the LIFE project. At the meeting, the characterization of old chestnut trees for the selection of identified varieties adequate as grafting material sources and the corresponding administrative requirements were also presented and discussed. In the autumn of 2022, part of the chestnut trees will be planted in different Natura 2000 sites within the brown bear distribution area in Asturias, once the corresponding land stewardship agreements have been established with the interested public or private owners. Subsequently, these chestnut trees will be grafted directly in the field by the LIFE project team with the selected and identified local varieties that are most interesting and suitable for the plantation areas.

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Identification and genetic characterization of ancient chestnut trees to obtain plant material of local varieties. December 2021

Identification and genetic characterization of ancient chestnut trees to obtain plant material of local varieties. December 2021 800 520 Fundación Oso Pardo

The LIFE Bears with Future project is going to plant 25,000 chestnut trees in bear areas in the Cantabrian Mountains to improve fruit production for the bear and biodiversity in general, contributing to the promotion of the chestnut tree and related socioeconomic development. Most of the trees to be planted will be grafted with local varieties, selecting those with greater interest due to their fruit production, phenology, resistance to diseases or climate change, and establishing in the plantations an adequate combination of different varieties and wild ungrafted chestnuts to ensure good pollination.

Old specimen of chestnut tree in Belmonte de Miranda (Asturias).

To collect plant material for grafting with all the guarantees of origin and identification, a selection, characterization and genetic analysis of ancient chestnut trees in the project area has been carried out. The team from the University of Oviedo led by Pedro Álvarez has located and genetically characterized 62 centenarian chestnut trees in protected natural spaces and Natura 2000 sites in the municipalities of Grado, Proaza, Quirós, Teverga, Lena, Belmonte, Somiedo, Ibias and Cangas, after meeting and talking with tree or land owners and collect the information that is still preserved about them. Chesnut trees of the Parede, Chamberga, Galliciana, Naveixa, Palaciana, Panchina, Pelona and Vaqueira varieties have been genetically identified, but in addition 30 trees have presented genetic results that are not compatible with registered varieties and that in many cases can correspond to lost varieties currently unknown, which may be recovered thanks to these works. Given the enormous interest of these results, characterization work will continue and the possibility of applying cultural care to the most degraded trees will be analyzed to guarantee their conservation.

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Participation in the AMYBEAR international conference “Bear-human coexistence”. November 2021

Participation in the AMYBEAR international conference “Bear-human coexistence”. November 2021 1080 1079 Fundación Oso Pardo

On November 15 and 16, 2021, the final conference of the LIFE Amybear project “Improving Human-Bear Coexistence Conditions in the Municipality of Amyntaio” was held, combining a meeting in Amyntaio (Greece) and the online participation of specialists from other European projects. The conference has been organized by LEVER Development Consultants SA, coordinating entity of the project, together with the specialized NGO “CALLISTO” and the administrations of Epirus-West Macedonia and the municipality of Amyntaio (Greece).

The objectives and proposals of the LIFE Bears with Future project were presented at the meeting, along with other projects recently developed by the Brown Bear Foundation, and the project coordinator has participated in a specific session on proposals and solutions to prevent conflicts between humans and bears addressing the forecasts of greater conflict in the face of the effects of climate change and the solutions proposed in the LIFE Bears with Future project.

 More information:

https://conference.lifeamybear.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/LIFE-AMYBEAR-CONFERENCE-Human-%E2%80%93-Bear-Coexistence_final.pdf

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Networking and exchange of experiences before the arrival of the bear in Portugal. October 2021

Networking and exchange of experiences before the arrival of the bear in Portugal. October 2021 1225 950 Fundación Oso Pardo

On October 28 and 29, 2021, the networking event «What if the brown bear returns?» (www.ursopardo.pt) has been celebrated in Bragança (Portugal) with a meeting and exchange of experiences whose main objective has been to anticipate one of the great challenges of nature conservation in Portugal: the potential return of the brown bear to the north of the country and its coexistence with people. The event has been organized by the environmental NGO Palombar – Conservation of nature and rural heritage, together with the Association for the Study and Protection of the Donkey (AEPGA), the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF), the Municipality of Bragança (MB) and the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança (IPB), and with the support of the European Commission “Natura 2000 biogeographic process” initiative.

The ‘LIFE Bears with Future’ project team has participated in the event, presenting the project’s objectives and approaches as an example to improve the bear’s habitat, contribute to its adaptation to climate change scenarios and promote coexistence with people in bear areas. In addition, Fernando Ballesteros, LIFE project coordinator, has given the presentation «Habitat management, conservation of dispersal corridors and improvement of connectivity conditions – A perspective from coexistence», collecting experiences acquired and lessons learned in the development of LIFE projects for the conservation of the Cantabrian brown bear and the expansion of its area of distribution.

The meeting has served as the first contact to advance in the conservation of the species and in the preparation of its future arrival in the north of Portugal, and joint lines of work have been proposed with the Portuguese organizations to transfer knowledge and experiences that are acquired in the ‘LIFE Bears with a Future’ project.

 

LIFE project coordinator, Fernando Ballesteros, during the networking event

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LIFE Bears with Future at the Naturcyl Ecotourism Fair. September 2021

LIFE Bears with Future at the Naturcyl Ecotourism Fair. September 2021 700 480 Fundación Oso Pardo

Between September 24 and 26, the fourth edition of the Castilla y León International Ecotourism Fair, NATURCYL, was held in the town of Ruesga, in the Montaña Palentina. The Brown Bear Foundation (FOP) has participated in the fair offering information to visitors about the ‘LIFE Bears with Future’ project. At the FOP stand, visitors have been able to learn about the actions aimed at improving the availability of food for bears through the planting of native wild fruit trees and the forest treatment of oak and chestnut groves, with the aim of helping the adaptability of the brown bear to climate change in the Cantabrian Mountains.

The Fair, which has had 85 exhibitors from all over the national territory, has been visited by 10,500 people, attracted by the exhibitions and activities related to the enjoyment of nature and the outdoors, in a wide spectrum of possibilities, such as rural tourism, wildlife observation, nature photography, hiking, mountains, astrotourism, routes, rural life, etc.

The ‘LIFE Bears with Future’ project is coordinated by the Brown Bear Foundation and has as beneficiaries associated the Biodiversity Foundation (Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge) and the Natural Heritage Foundation (Junta de Castilla y León). The regional administrations of the Junta de Castilla y León and the Principality of Asturias collaborate in the project, and Fundación Tierra Pura and the Principality of Asturias also contributes to the co-financing.

 

Visitors to Naturcyl Fair listen to explanations about the ‘LIFE Bears with Future’ project.

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First collection campaign of Alder Buckthorn seeds. September 2021

First collection campaign of Alder Buckthorn seeds. September 2021 1149 843 Fundación Oso Pardo

The Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus) is a deciduous shrub or tree that produces fleshy fruits that are highly valued by the brown bear and other frugivorous species. It generally appears in riparian forests, fresh hedges, birch forests, borders and oak forest clearings and rocky areas on neutral or acidic soils. It has a great capacity for regeneration, very fast growth and good productivity, making it a very interesting species in the enrichment small forest plantation model proposed in the ‘LIFE Bears with Future’ project.

In September 2021, the LIFE project field team held several days to collect fruits of this species in areas of the municipality of Cabrillanes (León) and the councils of Ibias and Degaña (Asturias), avoiding access to the most visited by bears at the same time. A total of 11 kg of fruit has been collected. Although it is not a species regulated by Royal Decree 289/2003 on the commercialization of forest reproductive materials, suitable stands have been selected within the project’s area of action and the fruits have been adequately labeled and transferred to the Central Forest Nursery of the Junta de Castilla y León, where the seeds will be cleaned and prepared for plant production.

This autumn there has been a very low and irregularly distributed production of Common Whitebeam fruit (Sorbus aria), another species of interest in the project. The different official seed sources established for this species have been evaluated, detecting a great shortage of fruit. Years with low production also tend to give rise to seeds with low viability and low germination rates, which is why it has finally been decided not to collect Common Whitebeam fruits and wait for a year with high fruit production.

 

Field technician of the ‘LIFE Bears with Future’ project collecting Alder Buckthorn seeds (Frangula alnus)

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Collection of field data for the climate change vulnerability analysis of fruit plant species important for the bear. August 2021

Collection of field data for the climate change vulnerability analysis of fruit plant species important for the bear. August 2021 1600 1256 Fundación Oso Pardo

Since the beginning of the project ‘LIFE Bears with Future’, but especially since spring 2021, the project’s field team has been collecting data on the species of trees and shrubs that produce fleshy fruits of most interest for the brown bear. The objective has been to collect enough field information to carry out a climate change vulnerability analysis of the native tree species that produce fruits of high bear interest. The area of distribution of the Cantabrian brown bear has been surveyed through field trips in which plants of the different species have been located and georeferenced, separated at least 200 m from each other to allow data independence and representativeness, collecting information on their location, the presence of other nearby plants and the use by the brown bear. The areas most visited by bears have been especially surveyed according to the previous experience of the Brown Bear Foundation field patrols. In total, more than 1,500 locations of plants have been collected (725 Prunus avium, 352 Sorbus aria, 172 Rhamnus alpina, 146 Arbutus unedo, 114 Frangula alnus), most of them visited by the bears.

With these data, models of the potential distribution of the species are being carried out to establish relationships between different environmental and climatic variables and the available presence data. The work is being carried out by the team of Professor Ángel Felicísimo, from the University of Extremadura, with whom a technical assistance contract has been established. The models will be applied to the current and future scenarios, using the climate change cartography developed by the Kraken Group of the University of Extremadura for, at least, the A2 and B2 scenarios of the CGCM2 global model. The results will show the ideal areas for the implantation of each species under climate change scenarios, establishing the areas of greater suitability or opportunity that can be generated, where climate change may even favour its presence and/or fruiting.

 

Alder Buckthorn georeferenced

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Agreement for the preparation of chestnut plants grafted with local varieties in La Mata Forest Nursery (Principado de Asturias). June 2021

Agreement for the preparation of chestnut plants grafted with local varieties in La Mata Forest Nursery (Principado de Asturias). June 2021 2560 1469 Fundación Oso Pardo

After several meetings and preparatory work, on June 15, 2021 a working meeting was held at La Mata Forest Nursery (Grado, Asturias) for the organization and preparation of the chestnut plant production campaign for the project ‘LIFE Bears with Future’. David Villar, General Director of Natural Environment and Rural Planning of the Principado de Asturias, Eloy Ron, of the Society of Services of the Principado de Asturias and technical manager of the forest nursery, Pedro Álvarez, professor at the University of Oviedo, Fernando Ballesteros, project coordinator and member of the Brown Bear Foundation and Belén Garzón, Tragsatec technician, participated in the meeting.

The project ‘LIFE Bears with Future’ will plant 25,000 chestnut trees, of which about 20,000 will be chestnut trees grafted with local varieties from each area and the rest wild chestnut trees without grafting. As a very relevant contribution to the project, the Principado deAsturias government will produce 15,000 chestnut trees grafted with local varieties in La Mata Forest Nursery, without cost associated with the project.

The working meeting has allowed to establish the bases and define needs and roles in the production of chestnut trees, which will begin with the collection of seeds in official authorized Seed Sources in autumn 2021 by the technical team of the forest nursery. The LIFE project will provide technical support for grafting work, which can be done in the nursery and/or in the field once the planting is done, with the most appropriate techniques in each case. The project will also inventory and locate old chestnut trees grafted with different local varieties of interest, which can provide suitable plant material for grafting, considering aspects such as resistance to diseases, vulnerability to climate change or productivity and phenology of fruiting.

 

From left to right: Pedro Álvarez (University of Oviedo), David Villar, (General Director of Natural Resources and Rural Planning of the Principado de Asturias) and Fernando Ballesteros (Brown Bear Foundation), reviewing characteristics of seedling production in the Forest Nursery La Mata (Grado, Asturias).

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First cherry seed campaign collection. June 2021

First cherry seed campaign collection. June 2021 3680 2760 Fundación Oso Pardo

One of the main species to be planted in the trophic enrichment forests foreseen in the ‘LIFE Bears with Future’ project is the cherry tree (Prunus avium). To begin with the production of locally sourced seedlings, in this month of June 2021, the project field team has collected 100 kg of cherry fruits in the north of León. The cherry tree is a regulated species, so it can only be planted from seeds collected in forest stands declared as an official seed source and all the seed collected in the different areas must be certified by the Castilla y León forest administration, to guarantee the suitability of the origin of the seeds and the traceability of the plant production process.

The cherry fruits have been collected in trees from the Seed Source FS/95/02/24/001, in the municipality of Cubillos del Sil (León), under the supervision of the environmental agents of the Junta de Castilla y León. The fruits have been transferred to the Central Forest Nursery of the Junta de Castilla y León, where the seeds will be cleaned and prepared for plant production. The amount collected will allow to obtain 50,000-60,000 seeds. We are evaluating the availability of fruit in other seed sources of the project area for future collections, and at the end of summer or during autumn we will proceed to the collection of other seeds of interest such as Alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus), Whitebeam (Sorbus aria), Strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo) and other species.

 On July 21, the cherry seed collection was completed with another 40 kg collected by the LIFE project team at the Seed Source FS-95/04/24/023 in Villablino (León).

 

Field team of the ‘LIFE Bears with Future’ project collecting cherries for plant production.

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