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Enhancing landscape connectivity for brown bear and wolf through a regional network of NATURA 2000 sites in Romania (LIFE Connect Carpathians)
Start date: Sep 1, 2013, End date: Feb 28, 2019 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background The Carpathian Mountains are an important biodiversity reservoir for the brown bear (Ursos arctos) and wolf (Canis lupus). However, an assessment of environmental suitability for large carnivores (LCIE 2008) identified the isolation of the Apuseni Mountains (Western Carpathians) from the Southern Carpathians in Romania as a pressing connectivity issue. Passing through a network of 17 Natura 2000 sites, the Apuseni Link is fragmented, but is the only key route through which bears, wolves and other wildlife can move between the Western and Southern Carpathians. It is therefore crucial to ensure that the bears and wolves in the Apuseni Mountains do not become demographically, genetically or ecologically isolated and thus to advance the process to achieve and maintain the favourable conservation status of both the bear and wolf in this region. Objectives The project focuses on the landscape corridor, the Apuseni Link, which is critically important for the conservation of the target species. The specific project objectives are: To increase functional connectivity through the securing and restoring of critical habitat and landscape features and the promotion of sympathetic land management in the wider area; To address the direct threats – namely human-wildlife conflict and the poaching of bears and wolves as well as associated prey species within the corridor – and build up local knowledge to allow the co-existence of humans and large carnivores; To promote integrated conservation of the landscape by developing the information base and capacity of responsible agencies and developing Regional Species Action Plans and harmonised forestry and hunting strategies for the bear and wolf, their habitats and prey, in the corridor; and To enhance the awareness and support of the local population and other stakeholders for the conservation of the bear and wolf and the Natura 2000 sites in the corridor. Expected results: Enhancing functional connectivity Enhanced capacity of statutory agencies to appreciate and practice landscape scale conservation for bear and wolf; Agreement achieved with key stakeholder organisations for their collaboration in restoring the functional connectivity of the Apuseni Link; and Functional connectivity of Apuseni Link enhanced through the purchase and restoration of 280 ha of land to create eight connectivity corridors for the bear and wolf through a permeability block. Reducing human-wildlife-conflict A reduction in bear and wolf damage reduced through proactively installing and demonstrating prevention control methods to farmers; Rapid resolution of human-wildlife conflict incidents by a response team demonstrating conflict prevention; and A reduction in the poaching of target species and their prey thanks to the presence of the enforcement patrol team. Promoting long-term planning and action for bear and wolf conservation Establishment of the current conservation status of the bear and wolf in the project area; Assessment of the impacts of forestry and hunting sector plans on the conservation status of the bear and wolf; Confirmation of priority areas and preferred habitats of the target species and their prey by GIS modelling; and Completion of Regional Species Action Plans for the bear and wolf. These will be used to inform forestry and hunting plans, Natura 2000 site management plans and national action plans for the bear and wolf. Engaging local people and other stakeholders in wolf and bear conservation Agreements with local communities and other key stakeholders for their collaboration with the project’s objectives; Dissemination of project results to local communities and other key stakeholders through a range of communication activities and a website; and An improvement in the attitude and behaviour of stakeholders with regards to bear and wolf conservation.
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