Life Bear Defragmentation Project

The project LIFE12 NAT/ES/000192 “Habitat defragmentation for Brown Bear in the Cantabrian Mountains” is been developed by the Brown Bear Foundation (Fundación Oso Pardo, FOP by its initials in spanish) from August 2013 to December 2016 in the interpopulation corridor between the two Cantabrian brown bear subpopulations.

Defragmentation of bear corridors

Habitat fragmentation is, together with direct anthropogenic mortality, the main cause of decline or extinction of many bear populations. Besides the destruction of good quality habitat, especially large forest, highways, roads and big linear infrastructures are responsible for population fragmentation as they are a real barrier and can create an avoidance area in its surroundings. Although bears can move easily along big distances, usually only young males disperse, while young females tend to stay close to her mothers home range. This situation makes more likely the isolation of reproductive nuclei by linear barriers as big roads or highways, complicating genetic and demographic interchange and the colonization or recovery of reproductive areas and ultimately threatening the population viability and survival.

In the Cantabrian Mountains there are about 200 bears and its numbers are recovering from mid 90’s after the decrease suffered in the second part of the XX century. Cantabrian Brown bears are divided into two subpopulations fairly isolated from a genetic point of view and separated by a 50 km-wide area known as interpopulation corridor, sporadically used by the bear as the evidences show almost every year. This corridor is crossed by a highway and some roads and railways and has suffered a heavy deforestation in the southern part. Even so, the corridor habitat has a good quality and data increasingly indicate the presence of bears in the corridor linking the two subpopulations.

Through the use of genetic analyses it has been shown that some males have moved between subpopulations, and one “western” male was recently found to have bred with an “eastern” female, producing two “mixed” cubs.

In the current situation, with both Cantabrian bear subpopulations increasing its numbers, the main conservation goal is the effective connection between them, strengthen the emerging movement of bears detected in this years. For this reason, actions for the defragmentation and improvement of connectivity as those foreseen in the LIFE project Defragmentation Bear are of priority interest for the future conservation of bears in the Cantabrian Mountains.

More information about current situation of brown bear in the interpopulation corridor and the advisable actions for the improvement of connectivity, can be found in the “Best Practices Handbook for Bear Corridor Management in the Cantabrian Mountains”, published by Brown Bear Foundation in a previous LIFE project and available as pdf here (in Spanish).

The LIFE bear defragmentation project

Between 2009 and 2011, Brown Bear Foundation developed a previous LIFE project ‘Bear Corridors’ and much of the work of the project was aimed at improving the social climate for bears in the corridor areas. A favourable social environment was created around this project and it contributed to eliminating risks and to raising social awareness about the importance of the presence of the brown bear in the interpopulation corridor. Work on the social aspects is now complemented in the new LIFE project ‘Defragmentation Bear’ with a direct intervention in the habitat in the south part of the corridor, with the aim of contributing to its defragmentation and consolidating favourable habitat passages along this corridor.

The general goal of this project is to ensure the long-term viability of the Cantabrian brown bear population, defragmentating the Cantabrian interpopulation corridor and consolidating the genetic and demographic interchange between the two sub-populations.

The project’s specific goals are the following:

These objectives coincide with what has been established in the Strategy for the Conservation of the Cantabrian Brown Bear in Spain.

Connectivity will be achieved by eliminating gaps, reducing infrastructure-crossing black spots and improving habitats. To achieve that, the project foresees the plantation of 180 small connectivity forests dispersed along the corridor, the improvement of some passages in the main linear infrastructures crossing the corridor, and the restoration of some valuable habitats. All this work includes the plantation of more than 60.000 fruit trees. The preparation and development of the actions will be done by means of agreements with local authorities and landowners, technical projects, scientific monitoring and the participation of volunteers and local workers. Some of the tree planting will be carried out on land acquired by FOP for the project and the rest will take place in farms and land whose owners signed territory guardianship agreements.

Actions for dissemination and public involvement will include activities addressed to local stakeholders and the general public, work with volunteers, a bulletin in a national magazine, periodic newsletters, informative material and a documentary and periodic video-news.

The coordinator beneficiary of the project is the Brown Bear Foundation (Fundación Oso Pardo, in spanish), with the economic support of the Spanish Agriculture, Food and Environment Ministry, Biodiversity Foundation, the Government of Castilla y León and Gas Natural Fenosa; and the collaborators of the Government of Asturias and the municipalities of Los Barrios de Luna, Cármenes, La Pola de Gordón, Sena de Luna, Valdelugueros, Valdepiélago, Vegacervera and Villamanín.


Economic support


Action area of the project

El proyecto LIFE Oso Courel se desarrolla entre julio de 2017 y diciembre de 2020 en el espacio Red Natura Ancares-Courel (ES1120001), en la parte sur del mismo dentro de los concellos de Folgoso do Courel, Quiroga, Samos, Triacastela, As Nogais y Pedrafita do Cebreiro. Algunas acciones informativas y educativas se realizan también en el sector norte del espacio, en la Serra de Ancares.

Action area of the project

El Life in action


Esta página web ha sido realizada con la contribución financiera del programa LIFE de la Unión Europea.
La información recogida en esta página web refleja únicamente el punto de vista de los beneficiarios del proyecto LIFE Oso Courel. Ni la Agencia Ejecutiva para las Pequeñas y Medianas Empresas (EASME) ni la Comisión Europea son responsables por cualquier uso que pueda realizarse de la información contenida en esta web.

This website has been made with the contribution of the LIFE Programme of the European Union.
The information included in this website reflects only the view of the LIFE Oso Courel beneficiaries. Neither the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) nor the European Commission are responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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