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Alpine barriers and the way they affect species

Nov 30, 2011 / CIPRA Internationale Alpenschutzkommission
ECONNECT researchers analysed how barriers affect selected species: lynx, brown bear, wolf, red deer, black grouse, griffon vulture, bullhead and fish otter. For the terrestrial species they found out that altitude and forest availability are the major factors influencing species distribution.
Image caption:
ECONNECT researchers found out that 64,5% of the suitable corridors for lynx are unprotected. © Dieter Haugk / PIXELIO
Especially in the Eastern Alps, species seem to benefit from more favourable conditions, probably due in part to the lower altitudes of the mountains. For the aquatic species the analysis showed that rivers, their riparian zones and floodplains are strongly fragmented by artificial structures, associated with human settlements and activities in the valleys.
Analysis also show that physical barriers are nearly never total barriers and animals still manage to overcome them, but movement and distribution is strongly limited. Evidently, it is vital to improve landscape permeability in providing species with functioning stepping stones (like green bridges or fish by-passes) to overcome barriers more easily. Urgent action is needed in human-dominated Alpine valleys, with their transport infrastructures and urban settlements. Furthermore, it is imperative to take into account species needs in the various future planning processes.
Ultimately, ECONNECT clearly shows that the essential prerequisite to life in the Alps is defining, accepting and implementing the trade-off between boundless development and the setting aside of large tracts of interconnected and permeable lands to maintain a higher biodiversity for regeneration and renewal to occur in the face of ecological disruption. Social acceptance and political buy-in are as important as building a green bridge to cross motorways.
The findings on the single species are published in dedicated reports (download from