Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - CONTRASST (Landscape connectivity for Cat species: transcending structures, scales and climates)

Anthropogenic pressures drive global biodiversity loss. The loss of landscape connectivity, further exacerbated by climate change, is a key driver of species decline. Hence, it is crucial to identify key elements that ensure landscape connectivity across landscapes and scales. Against this backdrop, the EU-funded project CONTRASST Landscape connectivity for cat species: transcending structures, scales and climates aimed to establish an integrative eco-physiological approach across scales, from local to continental, to predict functional connectivity for wild felids. CONTRASST was implemented in collaboration with Trent University (Canada), the Department of Conservation Biology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ (Germany), the Doñana Biological Station (Spain), the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (Norway), the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Sweden), and the University of Aberdeen (UK).

Strategies for practical nature conservation and landscape management were developed within the scope of CONTRASST. For example, simulation modeling enabled the determination of the impact of human activities, such as harvesting, on connectivity for lynx populations. This allowed the identification of cohesive habitats and areas that can serve as a template for the conservation planning for umbrella species, such as carnivores (e. g. for the establishment of additional protected areas, adaptation of management units for hunting, etc.). In addition, landscape genetic studies helped identifying barriers to the movement of lynxes and to gain insights into how to optimize the design of dispersal corridors for these species. Such results will enable more efficient long-term conservation investments of public funds for species protection and landscape planning.

The organization of the Workshop on Functional Connectivity in late 2017 in Leipzig, Germany, was particularly timely and relevant for CONTRASST, following some of the preliminary results of the simulation modeling component, to aid in their interpretation and to debate their appropriate translation to different stakeholders, with a selected group of 20 experts from Europe and North America in the field. Additionally, this event was instrumental to further develop opportunities to network and establish new collaborations.

The project has helped improve the academic maturity, scientific independence and reputation of the Fellow and to expand her cooperation network with several actors both within and outside academia. Technically, the project provided critical biological information to fine-tune the connectivity simulation modeling platform Rangeshifter and to parameterize connectivity models for lynx species in Europe and North America using real-world data from wild populations. This was one of a handful of applications of this platform to real world environmental issues. The project also successfully established an exemplary interdisciplinary approach to understanding the mechanisms underlying the population connectivity of felids on large spatial scales and helped promote institutional collaborations between the different project partners (from Germany, Spain, Scandinavia and Canada) as well as to establish new collaborations with institutions in other countries (USA) and organizations outside academia.

These findings will be pivotal to develop guidelines for maintaining or restoring connectivity of wide-ranging species across landscape structures, scales and climates and to offer information of direct relevance to the conservation and management of terrestrial habitats, as well as for ecological restoration in consideration of socio-economic impacts and implications. Importantly, the outcomes of this project can contribute to the debate on land sparing-land sharing in Europe, on the effectiveness of the Habitats Directive, in particular, the need to ensure and improve the spatial coherence of the EU’s network of protected areas (Natura 2000) in terms of connectivity. These outcomes can help meeting the requirements emerging from the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), namely SDG 15 (“Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss”).

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Life Sciences
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