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Distribution and connectivity of the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) in the Alps

Image caption:
© Lammerhuber,
Year of publication2010
Author(s)Johannes Signer
Publisher(s)Umweltbundesamt Österreich
Place of publicationWien
Publication typeJournal, booklet
In this report the approaches taken to model the distribution and connectivity of Ursus arctos in the Alps are described. This was undertaken within the project Econnect. The analysis was conducted with the following guidelines in mind:
1. Analysis of species habitat needs in terms of habitat connectivity (e.g. maximum distances, characteristics of corridors/stepping stones).
2. Spatial analysis of current and potential habitats, their lack of connectivity and its reasons (qualitative and quantitative assessment)
3. Characterization of the barriers by their origin, size, shape and degree of permeability and (economic) assessment of possibilities to diminish them.
Due to human driven persecution and extinction the current distribution of U. arctos in the Alps is very spare and limited mainly to the eastern Alps. The potential distribution model for the Alps shows that there is potential for bears in the western Alps. Regarding the legal status of potential bear habitat, the analysis revealed that more than 60 % of potential bear habitat is unprotected. From a nature conservation view of perspective, it would be desirable to protect all bear habitat not yet protected. Motorways are certainly the main anthropogenic barrier for bears in the Alps. However, bears usually do find a way to cross motorways. So motorways cannot be seen as absolute barriers. Within the course of this study it became evident that the main problem for the bear in the Alps is whether or not the bear is accepted within the population and managing authorities.