A study into the comeback of species in Europe by the Zoological Society of London has been joined by two other organisations in the hope that the research can help fuel future conservation success stories.
BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) have joined the study, commissioned by Rewilding Europe in 2011, which looks at iconic mammal and bird species covering different geographical regions and habitats in Europe.
The study’s main goal is to generate a science-based overview of changes in abundance and distribution during the period 1960-2010 of wildlife species that have shown a considerable comeback in Europe. This can provide important lessons for future conservation of these and other species.
According to the 2012 Living Planet Report , 1970 to 2008 saw an average increase in animal population size of 6 percent in the Palearctic realm (which mostly includes data from Europe), in contrast to an overall decrease in biodiversity in tropical regions.
Wolf - Photograph by Grzegorz Leśniewski Wild Wonders of Europe
One explanation put forward is better environmental protection, but recent changes in land use with abandonment of farmland, reduced hunting pressure, and higher productivity of many ecosystems due to more nutritional input from human activities (for example eutrophication of lakes and coastal areas and nitrogen deposition from air) could also play an important part.
Apart from an important ecological role, the studied species have an economic value as, for example, draw cards for wildlife based tourism that can provide new opportunities in many parts of Europe. Wildlife comeback also poses new challenges in terms of wildlife management, allowing populations to reach natural densities and natural dynamics.
The study shows the largest populations of species such as Roe deer, Moose, Wild boar, Chamois, Ibex, White Stork, Barnacle Goose, Common Crane, and White-tailed Eagle for decades if not centuries. With active protection and re-introductions, other species have also benefited including Ibex, Beaver, Otter, Eagle Owl, Peregrine, Lammergeier and Black Vulture. Even the endangered Iberian lynx has started to recover marginally, though long-term prospects remain unclear.
A first draft document covering 18 mammal species has been prepared by ZSL and is now being peer-reviewed by species specialists from all over Europe. BirdLife and EBCC are now analysing data to describe and analyse the comeback of some 20 bird species that have shown a significant comeback over the last 40 to 50 years.
The wildlife comeback study will be a landmark report to be launched at the end of September 2013 during a seminar in London. The findings of the study will also be presented at the 10th World Wilderness Congress (WILD10) in Salamanca, Spain, on 4th October 2013.
White-tailed Eagle - Photograph by Staffan Widstrand Rewilding Europe
The Wildlife Comeback Study and Seminar are made possible by the generous grants of the Swedish Postcode Lottery (Svenska Postkod Stiftelsen) , Liberty Wildlife Fund (The Netherlands) and ARK Nature (The Netherlands) .