The “Bears with Future” LIFE Project, with the objective of facilitating the adaptation of the brown bear to climate change, was presented to the media on 11th March. The project’s actions, co-financed by the European LIFE program, will be undertaken in 8 protected areas of the Natura 2000 Network. These are the reserves of Peña Ubiña, Caldoveiro, Montovo-La Mesa, Fuentes del Narcea, Degaña e Ibias and Somiedo in Asturias and the Alto Sil and Sierra de los Ancares in León for the western Cantabrian brown bear subpopulation, and in the Montaña Palentina reserve in Palencia for the eastern subpopulation.
Science has shown us that climate change will particularly affect the brown bear during its hibernation period, which will tend to shorten given the increasing temperatures, but that it will also impact on the production of wild fruits on which the bear feeds, some of which, such as the bilberry, have already shown irregular fruiting success over the past few years. Additionally, greater mobility of the bears in winter may increase interactions with hunting activities and with other outdoor recreational and sporting activities which are undergoing an important surge in mountain areas.
Planting, restoration and research
The Project plans to plant, in various phases, 150,000 fleshy fruit producing native trees and shrubs in 225 copses, occupying a total surface area of 155 hectares. A further 25,000 sweet chestnuts, grafted with native varieties, will be added in 75 groves covering 55 hectares and, as for the former, strategically located in areas selected considering the predicted climate change impact. Researchers from the universities of Oviedo, Valladolid, Cantabria and Extremadura will be participating in these and other project actions undertaken. The restoration of abandoned sweet chestnut groves is also contemplated, using treatments to improve both their fruiting yield and resilience to climate change.
In addition to the planting program, a study of the vulnerability of the most sensitive areas for brown bear conservation to climate change will also be carried out, which will be evaluated by two work groups of the regional administrations implicated for its future application.
The project’s actions will also present an opportunity to promote rural development and the creation of jobs linked to wildlife conservation actions and adaptation in the context of climate change, with strong potential for being copied across the entire area with Cantabrian brown bear presence and also other areas facing similar challenges.
Information and awareness campaign
The other main line of actions is directed towards those groups that undertake activities in the mountains in the Cantabrian bear territory in winter, fundamentally those related to hunting and mountain sports. An intensive campaign will be carried out with over 100 hunting and winter sports associations to explain the new scenarios arising from climate change and to raise awareness of the implications of this on bear activity. The campaign will be accompanied by audiovisual materials, explanatory leaflets and other information and awareness raising materials which will also be distributed among the tourism establishments across the bear areas.
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 the co-financer, via the Directorate General for the Environment and Rural Planning, of the Department of Rural Development, Agriculture and Fisheries.