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:

1.- Favour the movement and dispersal of the bears between the Cantabrian sub-populations, improving coverage and food availability in the main habitat passages of the interpopulation corridor, and eliminating the detected gaps.

2.- Ensure that both sub-populations are connected through defragmentation work carried out around the infrastructures currently in operation.

3.- Contribute to the demographic and genetic recovery of the eastern Cantabrian sub-population, using individuals dispersing from the western sub-population to foster the recovery.

4.- Contribute to the progressive consolidation of the interpopulation corridor as an area with a permanent brown bear presence and as a future breeding ground.

5.- Increase information and social awareness among local agents and professional groups about the importance of the brown bears’ connectivity and conservation.

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.