LIFE Bears with future

More than 100,000 trees have been planted in northwestern Spain to secure the brown bear’s future food supply

More than 100,000 trees have been planted in northwestern Spain to secure the brown bear’s future food supply 1920 1080 Fundación Oso Pardo

The Brown Bear Foundation (FOP) continues to work within the framework of the LIFE Bears with Future project to adapt the species’ habitat to climate change. Local work crews will finish the second planting campaign of the project in the coming days, with more than 100,000 native trees – mostly fruit bearing trees- planted since these actions began in 2022, 46,800 during this campaign.

The plantations cover 115 hectares so far and have been carried out in public lands in the municipalities of Palacios del Sil, Páramo del Sil and Villablino (León) and also on private properties in these municipalities after establishing land stewardship agreements with the landowners.

The aim is to create stands of native fruit-producing trees, «supermarkets» for the bear that will reinforce its diet in scenarios of climate change. The characteristics of the chosen species and the location of plantation plots have been taken into account, with some of them located at an altitude of more than 1,000 metres.

The work of this second planting campaign began in October, after hiring 10 unemployed residents of the municipalities. Between October and early April, the crews planted 13,000 wild cherry trees (Prunus avium), 3,400 alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus), 600 wild apple trees and 2,500 grafted apple trees of different varieties (Malus sp.), 9,300 whitebeam trees (Sorbus aria), 5,000 rowan trees (Sorbus aucuparia) and 13,000 silver birch trees (Betula alba) in various stands. In addition, 2,930 chestnut trees (Castanea sativa) have also been planted in this period – a species that, in the new climate scenarios, is expected to thrive in new areas and at higher altitudes in the Cantabrian Mountains.

Trabajos de reforestación durante el LIFE Osos con Futuro

The FOP LIFE project technicians collected seeds in ecologically similar areas to produce the seedlings in the Central Forest Nursery of the Junta de Castilla y León. The chestnut trees were produced in the La Mata forest nursery, belonging to the Principality of Asturias, some of them with grafts of traditional varieties.

These actions benefit the brown bear and biodiversity as a whole by improving the environmental quality of bear habitats, making them more resilient to climate change. The involvement of the municipalities and the creation of local employment is also key to the project.

The LIFE Bears with Future Project, co-financed by the European Union’s LIFE Programme, will be carried out until 2025. It is coordinated by the Brown Bear Foundation in partnership with the Biodiversity Foundation (Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge), and the Natural heritage Foundation of the Castilla y León regional government. Both the Government of Asturias and Tierra Pura Foundation collaborate in the project.

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Study into the impact of climate change on the wild cherry and its effects on the brown bear. December 2023

Study into the impact of climate change on the wild cherry and its effects on the brown bear. December 2023 888 500 Fundación Oso Pardo

The climate change crisis will displace wild cherries to areas of higher altitude and this will have effects on the brown bear and other species. This is the principal conclusion of a study, fruit of the collaboration between the Biodiversity Research Institute (IMIB) of the University of Oviedo, The University of Granada and the Brown Bear Foundation (FOP).

The work has just been published in the highly prestigious scientific journal Biological Conservation.  Click to access the press release from the University of Oviedo and the scientific article .

The wild cherry is a crucial species in the Cantabrian Mountains, since it provides food and refuge to numerous species, from small birds  to large mammals such as the brown bear. Predictive models indicate that between 20 and 40 years from now, the area potentially suitable for the species will decrease slightly, but over the longer period, between 60 and 80 years, this reduction will be more pronounced.

The results offer a practical application, given that they orientate where to carry out future planting of cherry trees, taking into account the possible predicted impacts deriving from climate change.

The study has been financed by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO) and also by the Bears with Future LIFE project . This project, which is co-financed by the LIFE program of the European Union, is working precisely in order to improve the availability of food resources for the brown bear and to increased the production of fruits from tree and shrub species under a climate change scenario. The project is coordinated by the FOP,  in partnership with the Biodiversity Foundation of the MITECO and the Natural Heritage Foundation of Castilla y León, plus in collaboration with the Government of the Principality of Asturias  and the Pure Earth Foundation (Fundación Tierra Pura).

 

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Review of the first plantings campaign of the LIFE Bears with Future project. October 2023

Review of the first plantings campaign of the LIFE Bears with Future project. October 2023 1000 750 Fundación Oso Pardo

Checks of the tree plantations undertaken between last November and March as part of the first planting campaign of the LIFE Bears with future project, were made during September and October. During these checks, the percentage of successfully rooting plants was evaluated in order to apply the necessary corrections to the second planting campaign, currently underway.

The result has been very positive, with a success rate close to 90%, although it will be crucial to evaluate their continued development over the coming spring and summer seasons.

Summer 2023 saw a series of severe heatwaves in the area, leading to problems caused by insolation in the newly planted trees, which were further exacerbated by the long periods of drought also suffered by the area. Given that the models for the coming summers predict a worsening of these conditions, the selection of ideal locations for these plantations is fundamental. In this regard, terrain receiving less direct sunshine and with a degree of existing shrub cover to protect the newly planted trees from direct sunlight are selected, in addition to creating a microclimate which reduces evapotranspiration and also minimises the risk of browsing by herbivores. Minimal scrub clearance is only undertaken on a planted seedling by seedling basis in order to avoid excessive competition with the other woody species present.

The terrain reforested during the project’s first planting campaign complies with these criteria and the occurrence of a few small localised storms has contributed towards meeting the objectives.

FOP staff checking a grafted apple in the Alto Sil area of León, within the framework of the LIFE Bears with future project.

Furthermore, the sweet chestnut trees grafted last spring in the La Mata Forestry Nursery of the Principality of Asturias were checked and which currently continue to grow. These were grafted with eight different local varieties from the project area (Parede, Chamberga, Galliciana, Naveixa, Palaciana, Panchina, Pelona and Vaquera). Some of these varieties are already under-represented in the region, such that the grafting work to recover these varieties is of high scientific and practical value for their recovery and conservation.

These traditional varieties of sweet chestnut are in the process of being lost, as was graphically illustrated by the genetic study of the surveyed trees at the start of the project. These trees were also in a poor condition and their survival is not guaranteed in the middle term. During the first phase, buds from genetically identified sweet chestnuts were collected for grafting in the nursery.

Part of the revision process in the nursery has consisted of the elimination of suckers from the grafted sweet chestnuts in order for the seedlings to invest all of their energy in growing the grafted section. Extreme precautions were taken in the cleaning and sterilization (using a bleach solution) of the tool used after each cut, and each cut was sealed using mastic.

Removal of the suckers from the grafted sweet chestnuts within the framework of the LIFE Bears with future project. La Mata Forestry Nursery of the Principality of Asturias

The “Bears with Future” Project, co-financed by the European Union LIFE Project, will be carried out until 2025. It is coordinated by the Brown Bear Foundation in partnership with the Biodiversity Foundation (Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge), and the Natural heritage Foundation of the Castilla y León regional government. The Government of Asturias is co-financer, via the Directorate General for the Environment and Rural Planning, of the Department of Rural Development, Agriculture and Fisheries. Tierra Pura Foundation collaborates technically and co-finances the project.

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New seed collection of native species of interest to the brown bear. September 2023

New seed collection of native species of interest to the brown bear. September 2023 1000 750 Fundación Oso Pardo

The new seed collection campaign of the LIFE Bears with Future project was carried out over the whole summer. It commenced in July with the collection of wild cherry (Prunus avium) fruits. Subsequently, in August, alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus) fruits were collected, with the fruits of whitebeam (Sorbus aria) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) collected in September.

Fruit collection work was undertaken by Brown Bear Foundation field teams in bear areas showing compatible ecological characteristics with the planting terrain selected. The objective is to maintain the areas’ ecotypes and in consequence maximise the success of the plantations by being adapted to the action areas. Within these areas, the fruits of wild cherry, whitebeam and rowan were located within authorised collection sites, given that these are regulated species. The wild cherries were collected in León and Asturias and the rest of the species just in León. Specifically, 217 kg of wild cherries, 20 kg of alder buckthorn, 15 kilos of rowan and 58 kg of whitebeam fruits were collected under licence from from the corresponding authorities and in collaboration with the rangers from each of the areas to certify the seeds of the regulated species.

A member of a FOP patrol collecting whitebeam seeds. Photo FOP

The 77 kg of alder buckthorn, whitebeam, rowan and wild cherry fruits collected in León were sent to the Central Forestry Nursery of the Castilla y León regional government. The remaining 140 kg of wild cherry fruits collected in sources in Asturias were taken to the La Mata Forestry Nursery of the Principality of Asturias. In these nurseries, with which there are collaboration agreements, the fruits will be cleaned and prepared for the production of seedlings to reforest areas of interest under a climate change scenario and away from human settlement.

The wild cherry is a heavily used species by the brown bear at the end of spring and beginning of the summer, when other high energy trophic resources are scarce. It is a highly attractive delicacy for the bears since they have been feeding principally on leafy vegetation since coming out of hibernation.

The alder buckthorn is another highly attractive trophic resource for bears in the summer, while the whitebeam acquires major relevance during the autumn feeding period in years of poor fruiting of other species such as European beech and oak species. The same is true of apples (Malus sp.) and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), which have also been planted within the project’s framework.

Finally, although the fruits of rowan are not as attractive to bears as those species noted above, it is still a fruiting species of interest and which together with silver birch (Betula alba), another species also planted by the project, contribute to rapidly increase the high quality tree cover present in degraded areas.

To date within the project’s framework, 18,434 wild cherry, 6,958 alder buckthorn, 7,150 whitebeam, 3,400 rowan, 17,994 silver birch, 5,000 apple and 6,030 sweet chestnut trees, a proportion of the latter two species grafted with local varieties, have been planted to date.

The “Bears with Future” Project, co-financed by the European Union LIFE Project, will be carried out until 2025. It is coordinated by the Brown Bear Foundation in partnership with the Biodiversity Foundation (Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge), and the Natural heritage Foundation of the Castilla y León regional government. The Government of Asturias is co-financer, via the Directorate General for the Environment and Rural Planning, of the Department of Rural Development, Agriculture and Fisheries. Tierra Pura Foundation collaborates technically and co-finances the project.

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Activities with the Mycological Associations and Federations of the Cantabrian Mountains. July 2023

Activities with the Mycological Associations and Federations of the Cantabrian Mountains. July 2023 2560 1881 Fundación Oso Pardo

The LIFE Bears with Future project contemplates celebrating meetings with collectives who undertake recreational activities in bear areas. The objective is to interchange experiences and publicize the recommendations on how to safely move around in the mountains housing brown bears. Fungi collecting is one of these activities.

These meetings started in March with talks and the distribution of materials. A digital infograph has been developed in collaboration with each of the associations and/or federations which have signed a collaboration agreement, such as a specific version of the video «Recommendations for visiting the Brown Bear Mountains»

A talk was given to the Cantabrian Mycological Society in March and to the Asturian Mycological Society in April, while activities started in June with the Galician Mycological Federation, via two days with talks and field excursions, on  17 June in O Courel and on 1 July in the Ancares area of Lugo, interchanging experiences and knowledge about fungi and bears.

Infographic for fungi collectors, prepared in collaboration with the associations and federations. Each of these entities distributes the infographic amongst its own members, using its respective logo.

The “Bears with Future” Project, co-financed by the European Union LIFE Project, will be carried out until 2025. It is coordinated by the Brown Bear Foundation in partnership with the Biodiversity Foundation (Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge), and the Natural heritage Foundation of the Castilla y León regional government. The Government of Asturias is co-financer, via the Directorate General for the Environment and Rural Planning, of the Department of Rural Development, Agriculture and Fisheries. Tierra Pura Foundation collaborates technically and co-finances the project.

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Experiences interchange with the LIFE ARCPROM project in Pola de Somiedo (Asturias). May 2023

Experiences interchange with the LIFE ARCPROM project in Pola de Somiedo (Asturias). May 2023 1000 532 Fundación Oso Pardo

From 22 to 26 May 2023 and within the framework of the LIFE Bears with Future project, an international meeting was held in Somiedo (Asturias) with members of the LIFE ARCPROM project, which develops actions to improve the cohabitation between bears and human activities in three National Parks in Greece (Rodope Mountain Range, Prespa and Pindos) and in the Majella National Park in Italy.

The meeting was highly productive, with active participation by representatives of the Department of the Environment and Territorial Cohesion of the Principality of Asturias, the Somiedo Natural Park director, the wildlife rangers of the Brown Bear patrols of Asturias, the Biodiversity Research Institute (of the Higher Council for Scientific Research – Oviedo University –  Principality of Asturias) and the Bear Foundation  of Asturias.

In-depth analyses of the damages caused by brown bears to economic activities were explored. This included the intervention by the Brown Bear Patrol of the Principality of Asturias in a true certified case of a wolf/bear attack in a livestock farm. The complete process of how the agents obtained samples and analysed different evidence in order to determine which species had caused the attack was observed. Those assisting the meeting were able to resolve doubts on the methodologies used and the management of the compensation process for damage by large carnivores in this autonomous region.

Discussion panel in Pola de Somiedo (Asturias) of the LIFE ARCPROM and Bears wth Future projects. Photo FOP

Furthermore, an intense discussion panel session was held where interesting strategies and management methods were exchanged for dealing with habituated and/or conflictive bears in the three populations in the south of Europe. This meeting is deemed as particularly important as it allowed us to keep in close contact with how work in this aspect is being developed in other countries where the bear population is also increasing. Additionally, in the case of Greece, the bear population is greater than ours, which gives us the possibility to gain an idea of the potential future scenario for the bear in Spain. In Italy the project is centred on the brown bear population in the Apennine Mountains, a small isolated population of around 100 bears, but where for some time work has been underway to avoid habituation by some individuals.

Visit to the plantations of the LIFE Bears with Future project on land belonging to the Neighbourhood Council of Anllares del Sil, León. Photo FOP

The representatives of the LIFE ARCPROM project also showed great interest in the actions being undertaken for adaptation to climate change being undertaken by the LIFE Bears with Future project. Consequently, on one of the days we visited a plantation in Anllares del Sil (León) to explain in situ why and how we are working with the sweet chestnut. The project’s director, Guillermo Palomero and field technician, Luis Fernández, also explained how the selection of terrain responded to earlier studies on the different climate change scenarios. Likewise, the importance of using a proportion of plants grafted with local varieties at risk of disappearing, to favour their adaptation, resistance and fruiting capacity, was explained.

The “Bears with Future” Project, co-financed by the European Union LIFE Project, will be carried out until 2025. It is coordinated by the Brown Bear Foundation in partnership with the Biodiversity Foundation (Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge), and the Natural heritage Foundation of the Castilla y León regional government. The Government of Asturias is co-financer, via the Directorate General for the Environment and Rural Planning, of the Department of Rural Development, Agriculture and Fisheries. Tierra Pura Foundation collaborates technically and co-finances the project.

 

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64,966 trees planted during the first campaign of the LIFE Bears with Future. April 2023

64,966 trees planted during the first campaign of the LIFE Bears with Future. April 2023 700 525 Fundación Oso Pardo

64,966 trees have been planted on the Alto Sil area of León to improve the habitat for the brown bear under a climate change scenario. April 2023

The first planting campaign of the  Brown Bear Foundation (FOP) was undertaken in the Alto Sil area of León within the framework of the  LIFE Bears with Future project and finalised on 21 April 2023. The planting was undertaken in three public utility areas in the municipalities of Palacios del Sil and Páramo del Sil (León) and also in private estates in the same municipalities. Land custody agreements guaranteed for 30 years with the owners and corresponding administrative licences are a prerequisite for planting.

Preparatory work on the land started in October 2022, with hole digging using a walking excavator and scrub clearance and in November a second walking excavator was incorporated to speed up the processes. Later, in December 2022, 10 unemployed people from the municipalities where the works were to be undertaken were employed to form two work teams for the planting. Between December and the start of April, a total of 58,936 wild cherry (Prunus avium), alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus), apples (Malus sp.), whitebeam (Sorbus aria), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) and silver birch (Betula alba) trees were planted in various enrichment patches to increase the trophic resources available for the bear and improve its habitat. Additionally, 6,030 sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa), some of these grafted with traditional varieties, also in order to augment the availability of food resources for the brown bear under a climate change scenario, were also planted.

On-site preparatory work with a walking excavator in plantations in the Alto Sil area of the LIFE Bears with Future project

 Planting has been undertaken in part with seedlings coming from seeds collected by the LIFE project’s technicians in areas with ecological similarity to the planting areas, which were subsequently nursery raised in the Central Forestry Nursery of the Government of Castilla y León . In parallel, the sweet chestnuts were raised in the La Mata Forestry Nursery of the Principality of Asturias.

In addition to improving the habitat for the brown bear and the biodiversity in general, these actions contribute towards increasing the tree cover and environmental quality of the bear areas, increasing the value of ecosystem services that these areas provide, such as carbon capture and conservation of the hydrological resources.

The “Bears with Future” Project, co-financed by the European Union LIFE Project, will be carried out until 2025. It is coordinated by the Brown Bear Foundation in partnership with the Biodiversity Foundation (Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge), and the Natural heritage Foundation of the Castilla y León regional government. The Government of Asturias is co-financer, via the Directorate General for the Environment and Rural Planning, of the Department of Rural Development, Agriculture and Fisheries. Tierra Pura Foundation collaborates technically and co-finances the project.

 

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Press visit to see the LIFE project actions. February 2023

Press visit to see the LIFE project actions. February 2023 1000 750 Fundación Oso Pardo

On Thursday 16th February, a wide representation of broadcasting media, covering national, regional and local press participated in a session held in the Alto Sil, León, to learn first-hand about the progress of the LIFE Osos con Futuro project actions. This meeting was held in the Coworking Centre of Caboalles de Arriba, in the Villablino municipality and where, following a welcome by the Councillor of the Environment, the participants received information from the three partners of the project: Guillermo Palomero, the Brown Bear Foundation president, covered how climate change affects bears and the production of the wild fruits on which they feed, in addition to an introduction to the project’s objectives and actions; Víctor Gutiérrez, coordinator for the ecosystem conservation and restauration team of the Biodiversity Foundation, talked about the joint efforts between the administrations and organisations for the recovery of emblematic species such as the brown bear; and Eduardo Álvarez, the coordinator for León of the Natural Heritage Foundation of Castilla y León , explained what the network of demonstration forest patches for the adaptation to climate change and to fruiting being developed within the project framework consists of.

The animated video “Recommendations for visiting the brown bear mountains”, also developed within this LIFE project, was screened after these explanations, providing a pleasant and visual means of spreading the best practices to be adopted to safely enjoy spare time activities in mountains with bear presence.

The visit continued in the municipalities of Palacios del Sil and Páramo del Sil to learn about the work of planting fruit trees and sweet chestnuts, where the reporters had time to carry out interviews, observe the work being carried out by the forestry teams of local workers and even to collaborate in the planting of a sweet chestnut tree.

 

Following a lunch break, a field trip in bear territory was organised in order to explain, in situ,  the recommendations and guidelines to follow to avoid potential conflicts.

A total of 15 different reporters from 9 national, 3 regional, 2 provincial and 1 local media outlets attended, although the remainder of the nearby local media of El Bierzo and Laciana, especially radio, using the opportunity of the meeting to give live interviews via mobile phone calls. Representatives from the written press, agencies, digital media, radio and television were all present.

The project outreach was highly significant thanks to the hundred or so media impacts that the meeting generated.

The visit was organised in coordinated fashion by the three project partners: Biodiversity Foundation (Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge), Natural Heritage Foundation of Castilla y León (Castilla y León regional government) and the coordinating body, the Brown Bear Foundation.

The Government of Asturias and the Tierra Pura Foundation also collaborate in the project.

 

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Signing of collaboration agreements with the hunting federations of Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y León. December 2023

Signing of collaboration agreements with the hunting federations of Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y León. December 2023 1024 622 Fundación Oso Pardo

Within the framework of the LIFE Osos con Futuro project, the Brown Bear Foundation (FOP) has signed collaboration agreements with the hunting federations of Asturias, Castilla y León and Cantabria. The objective in all these cases is to inform and raise awareness amongst their members, so that the hunting activities in winter are carried out in the safest possible manner for both the hunters and the bears.

The hunting federations with which agreements have been signed within the LIFE project framework are:

  • Cantabrian Hunting Federation
  • Castilla y León Hunting Federation
  • Principality of Asturias Hunting Federation

The FOP is preparing specific material for this collective. More precisely, an animated video and a digital infograph are in preparation which will be distributed to the federations and also available via the general information channels of these federations and the FOP. These informative actions will be backed up with presential meetings with hunters in which the recommendations for hunting in bear areas will be presented and debated.

Signing of collaboration agreements with the hunting federations of Asturias, Castilla y León and Cantabria

A coordinated project

The “Bears with Future” Project, co-financed by the European Union LIFE Project, will be carried out until 2025. It is coordinated by the Brown Bear Foundation in partnership with the Biodiversity Foundation (Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge), and the Natural heritage Foundation of the Castilla y León regional government. The Government of Asturias is co-financer, via the Directorate General for the Environment and Rural Planning, of the Department of Rural Development, Agriculture and Fisheries. Tierra Pura Foundation collaborates technically and co-finances the project.

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Signing of collaboration agreements with the mountain sports federations of Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y León. December 2022

Signing of collaboration agreements with the mountain sports federations of Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y León. December 2022 1280 839 Fundación Oso Pardo

Within the framework of the LIFE Osos con Futuro project, the Fundación Oso Pardo (FOP) has signed collaboration agreements with the mountain sports federations of Asturias, Castilla y León and Cantabria. The objective in all these cases is to inform and raise awareness, so that the practice of these activities in winter is carried out in the safest manner possible for both the participants and the bears.

Global warming favours either a reduction in the hibernation of the brown bear, or leads to no hibernation at all. Additionally, coinciding with a greater winter presence of active bears, outdoors recreational activities are also increasing, especially in winter as a result of a warmer climate. This convergence may increase the possibilities of encounters and interactions between bears and humans, hence the necessity to inform about the best practices to avoid them.

The FOP has produced an animated video for this collective, the “Recommendations for visiting the brown bear mountains”, which is being widely broadcast in conjunction with the mountain sports federations. A digital information infograph is being finalised which will be distributed to all of these federations. In order to finalise these actions, a series of routes will be developed during which a FOP specialist will explain in situ the best mountaineering practices to undertake in bear areas.

The mountain sports federations with which agreements have been signed within the LIFE project framework are:

  • Castilla y León Mountain Sports, Climbing and Hiking Federation
  • Principality of Asturias Mountain Sports, Climbing and Hiking Federation
  • Cantabrian Mountain Sports and Climbing Federation

Recreational activity in winter in a mountain with bears

A coordinated project

The “Bears with Future” Project, co-financed by the European Union LIFE Project, will be carried out until 2025. It is coordinated by the Brown Bear Foundation in partnership with the Biodiversity Foundation (Ministry for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge), and the Natural heritage Foundation of the Castilla y León regional government. The Government of Asturias is co-financer, via the Directorate General for the Environment and Rural Planning, of the Department of Rural Development, Agriculture and Fisheries. Tierra Pura Foundation collaborates technically and co-finances the project.

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