Project LIFE Bears with future

The Project LIFE Bears with future “Improving key food resources and preventing winter conflicts for Cantabrian brown bears under climate change scenarios” – LIFE19 NAT/ES/000913 – is being developed under the coordination of the Brown Bear Foundation from October 2020 to March 2025. The project have as associated beneficiaries the Biodiversity Foundation, dependent on the Spanish Ministry for Ecological Transition, and the Natural Heritage Foundation of Castilla y León, dependent on the 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 the Principality of Asturias also contributes to the co-financing.

Cantabrian brown bears and climate change

Different climate prediction models and the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change foresee a 15% decrease in rainfall and an up to 4°C increase in temperature in the Cantabrian mountains by the end of the century. Similarly, regional climate change scenarios for Spain predict that by around 2040, winter temperatures in the high mountain areas will have risen by about 2°C, with this increase particularly notable in November and March, which, in all probability, will contribute towards lower rainfall/snowfall, even more than has already been detected in meteorological stations.

  • The scientific literature indicates that brown bears will become more active in winter, given that hibernation times will shorten. It appears that temperature has a greater effect on hibernation than food availability and in warmer winters bear enter into hibernation later and emerge earlier as well. Consequently, global warming favours the situation of bears hibernating less, or even not at all. In parallel with greater winter bear activity, human outdoor recreational activities are also increasing, especially in winter as a consequence of the warmer conditions and are predicted to increase further given forecasts of further warming. This convergence of presence may increase the possibility of bear encounters with humans.

  • Furthermore, changes in feeding patterns associated with climate change have already been noted in the Cantabrian mountains over the past few decades. Some plant species particularly susceptible to climate change, such as the bilberry, have lost their significance in the Cantabrian brown bear diet, possibly due to the growing irregularity in their fruiting patterns, while others, including cherry and alder buckthorn, appear to have increased in importance. The sweet chestnut can be considered as a key resource during the autumn fattening period in many areas due to the greater consistency in its fruiting pattern and given that the predicted climate change may favour its growth and fruiting in certain specific areas.

Objectives and actions of the project

The general objective of the project is to improve the adaptability of the brown bear to climate change in the Cantabrian Mountains allowing the achievement of a favourable conservation status of the species in the medium and long term, with an ecosystem-based approach, promoting best practices and solutions that favour the expansion of bear trophic resources and the prevention of human-bear conflicts.

  • A1. Signature of agreements with local administrations, sectoral organizations and landowners

    A2. Identification of action areas and technical planning of plantations and forest treatments

    A3. Climate change vulnerability assessment of brown bear critical areas in the Cantabrian Mountains

    B1. Land purchase for the development of activities to improve chestnut trees and forest plantations

    C1 Plantation of fruit trees to increase bear trophic availability

    C2 Plantation of autochthonous chestnuts varieties to increase bear trophic availability

    C3 Restoration and treatment of abandoned chestnut forests to increase fruit production and climatic resilience

    D1. Monitoring the effectiveness of tree plantations and chestnut restoration treatments

    D2. Measuring the impact of the project and monitoring the Key Project level indicators

    D3. Evaluation of the socio-economic impact of the project

    D4. Monitoring the impact of the project on ecosystem services

    E1. Dissemination activities for the general public and networking

    E2. Information, training and awareness of social actors and interest groups.

    E3. Strategy of replicability and transferability of the lessons learned in the project

    F1. Overall Project management

    1. Contribute to the improvement of trophic availability in climate change scenarios by planting, treating or improving small forests of autochthonous species that produce fruits for the bears from summer to winter and have low climate vulnerability, to compensate for the foreseen reduction in other trophic resources.
    2. Inform and raise awareness between the stakeholders involved in potential conflicts with bears less prone to hibernate, providing advice and guidance for the development of winter activities in bear areas.
    3. Disseminate information and best practices generated in the project, contributing to the adaptation of the bear management to the expected impacts of climate and social change and facilitating the development of integrated adaptation and nature-based strategies by key stakeholders in these territories.

Project area

The project LIFE Bears with future is being developed between October 2020 and March 2025. The main conservation actions are carried out in 8 areas of the Natura 2000 Network: Peña Ubiña (ES1200011), Caldoveiro (ES1200012), Montovo-La Mesa (ES1200010), Fuentes del Narcea, Degaña and Ibias (ES1200056) and Somiedo (ES0000054) in Asturias, Alto Sil (ES0000210) and Sierra de los Ancares (ES4130010) in León and Fuentes Carrionas and Fuente Cobre-Montaña Palentina (ES4140011) in Palencia.
Conflict prevention and dissemination actions reach the entire distribution area of ​​the Cantabrian brown bear.

LIFE in action

Documentation

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 Bears with future beneficiaries. Neither the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) nor the European Commission are responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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