Reasons that motivated us to start the project

The loss of ecological connectivity in increasingly fragmented human-dominated landscapes threatens the long-term persistence of many species. The Northern Carpathians are a European hotspot of natural wildness harbouring the umbrella species e.g. brown bear or European bison, particularly the border zone between Slovakia and Poland. Until now, most of the connectivity assessments in this region were done at a national level or on one side of the border. Moreover, existing studies were also limited by focussing on the distribution of only one species. We intend to bring together scientists and stakeholders from both sides of the border and work on solutions for better ecological connectivity assessment allowing to improve conservation efforts and environment management in transboundary areas.

 

Solution

In the project we will develop an interdisciplinary, innovative 3D ecological connectivity assessment approach at the region scale based on GPS telemetry and remote sensing data, and knowledge transfer among scientists and practitioners. We will develop models and guidelines for functional 3D connectivity assessment using 3D landscape structure with telemetry data for species movement, which will result in a new and powerful, spatially explicit connectivity assessment.

Furthermore, we will review the current state of the art in connectivity assessment using scientific databases and guidelines already published by organisations such as the Carpathian Convention. Baseline information in the models will be developed together with stakeholders to mitigate conflicts of conservation management.

 

Regional relevance

Migrating wildlife does not respect country borders. We focus on the area around the Polish and Slovakia border (40 km from the border in both countries, along the whole border), i.e. a part of the main ridge of the Carpathians - being one of the main natural migrating corridors of the continent, harbors some of the largest densities of large mammals in Europe. Most of them have home ranges of about 100km2, often shared by both neighboring countries.

This project is emblematic for studying the trans-boundary species movement and identification of their potential and realized habitat. The primary outcomes of the project (i.e., models and maps of ecological connectivity) may improve spatial planning and management but also our knowledge about given species within the region.