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Creation of Ecological Corridors in the Ukrainian Carpathians

  • Institute of Ecology of the Carpathians, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Lviv, Ukraine

Abstract and Figures

In order to develop a methodology for the creation of functional and consolidated ecological corridors for the Carpathians, a pilot study has been conducted at two locations in Ukraine creating corridors connecting Ukrainian protected areas with protected areas in Romania and Poland. The methodology was based on landscape ecological modelling, using the habitat requirements of brown bear, European bison, lynx and wildcat to locate the most suitable corridor areas. Manageable corridors were created by identifying interconnected land management units with a minimum of obstacles for wildlife and conflicts with land use, and forming the shortest possible connection. The location of the corridors and their management plans were developed in consultation with the users and owners of the land. Approval and inclusion of the corridors in the spatial planning system was achieved following a model elaborated after analysis of the Ukrainian institutional and regulatory framework related to ecological network development.
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Creation of Ecological Corridors
in the Ukrainian Carpathians
Floris Deodatus, Ivan Kruhlov, Leonid Protsenko,
Andriy-Taras Bashta, Vitaliy Korzhyk, Stefan Tatuh,
Mykola Bilokon, Mykhaylo Shkitak, Iaroslav Movchan,
Sebastian Catanoiu, Razvan Deju and Kajetan Perzanowski
F. Deodatus (&)
Altenburg & Wymenga Ecological Consultants, Box 32 9269ZR Feanwâlden,
The Netherlands
I. Kruhlov
Faculty of Geography, Ivan Franko National University, vul. Doroshenka 41, Lviv 79000,
L. Protsenko
InterEcoCentre, r.65, 31/33 Kudriavskaya str, Kyiv 04053, Ukraine
A.-T. Bashta
Institute of the Ecology of the Carpathians, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine,
vul. Kozelnytska 4, Lviv 79026, Ukraine
V. Korzhyk
Vyzhnytsky NNP, 61, Golovna str, v, Beregomet, Vyzhnytskyi rayon, Chernivetska Oblast
59233, Ukraine
S. Tatuh M. Shkitak
Administration for Environment and Natural Resources in Lviv Oblast, vul. Stryiska 98,
Lviv 79026, Ukraine
M. Bilokon
State Department of Environment Protection in Chernivetskiy Oblast, 35, Mayakovskogo
str, Chernivtsi 58003, Ukraine
I. Movchan
National Aviation University, 1, Kosmonavta Komarova prospect, Kiev 03680, Ukraine
S. Catanoiu R. Deju
Vanatori Neamt Natural Park, Zimbrului no.2 617500 Agaipa, Romania
K. Perzanowski
Carpathian Wildlife Research Station, MIZ PAS Ogrodowa 10 38-700 Ustrzyki Dolne,
K. Perzanowski
Catholic University of Lublin, Konstantynow 1H 20-708 Lublin, Poland
J. Kozak et al. (eds.), The Carpathians: Integrating Nature and Society
Towards Sustainability, Environmental Science and Engineering,
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-12725-0_49, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013
Abstract In order to develop a methodology for the creation of functional and
consolidated ecological corridors for the Carpathians, a pilot study has been
conducted at two locations in Ukraine creating corridors connecting Ukrainian
protected areas with protected areas in Romania and Poland. The methodology
was based on landscape ecological modelling, using the habitat requirements of
brown bear, European bison, lynx and wildcat to locate the most suitable corridor
areas. Manageable corridors were created by identifying interconnected land
management units with a minimum of obstacles for wildlife and conflicts with land
use, and forming the shortest possible connection. The location of the corridors
and their management plans were developed in consultation with the users and
owners of the land. Approval and inclusion of the corridors in the spatial planning
system was achieved following a model elaborated after analysis of the Ukrainian
institutional and regulatory framework related to ecological network development.
1 Introduction
Several biological theories such as the theory of island biogeography and the meta-
population theory deal with the limitations in space and time of animal populations
(MacArthur and Wilson 1967; Hanski 1998,2005). These theories support the
generally accepted opinion that the survival of large mammals depends on large
land areas with appropriate habitat providing food and other functions during all
seasons for a population big enough to maintain sufficient genetic variability to
cope with environmental changes, disease and inbreeding.
The Carpathians are one of the largest continoues natural areas in Europe with a
high biological diversity represented by the last large European populations of
large mammals such as brown bear (Ursus arctos), lynx (Lynx lynx), and wolf
(Canis lupus). For Europe, the Carpathians do not only form an important reservoir
of these species, but they also play a role connecting wildlife areas in Eastern,
Western and Southern Europe. During the last century significant changes
occurred in the Carpathians regarding land use and land cover. The most striking
trends in the Carpathian landscape since the 1990s are:
privatisation and fragmentation of land,
farmland abandonment,
encroachment of farmland and pastures by forests,
developing road infrastructure and urbanisation,
unsustainable development of tourism and recreational facilities.
As a result, the Carpathians tend to turn into a fragmented landscape of isolated
forest blocks with little possibilities for animals to move from one to another. To
cope with current and fragmentation and future habitat loss, most Carpathian
countries have established a framework for the development of an ecological
network including legislation, spatial planning and policy targets (Jongman and
702 F. Deodatus et al.
Kamphorst 2002; Bennett and Mulongoy 2006; van Maanen et al. 2006; Simeo-
nova et al. 2009). Generally this has led to the consolidation of protected area
systems established mainly in marginal areas with a low human population den-
sity. However, since complexes of protected areas are usually separated by zones
with high human influence, such as agriculture, settlements and infrastructure, the
connectivity between these protected areas has hardly been improved. In many
cases fragmentation continues due to expanding traffic infrastructure, tourism
facilities, settlements and other development.
The objective of our study is to develop a methodology for the creation of
ecological corridors connecting (protected) core areas within the Carpathian
ecological network, considering landscape ecology, land use, ownership and leg-
islation. The specific purpose of this work is to help closing the gap between the
possibilities offered by advanced scientific modelling techniques available today
for corridor mapping (van Maanen et al. 2006; Beier et al. 2007,2008) and the
realities and requirements related to the creation and consolidation of ecological
corridors in the actual land management system (Bennett and Mulongoy 2006;
Lombard et al. 2010; Mackey and Watson 2010). The study is carried out as a pilot
study in the Ukrainian Carpathians, to allow realistic investigation and testing of
procedures required to deal with legislation, stakeholders and other aspects of the
land use system. The general methodology developed is meant to be applicable as
a model for corridor development in the Carpathians.
In most Carpathian countries, frameworks for ecological network development
have been realized following initially the Landscape Stabilisation Approach and
since 1995 the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy
(Bennett and Mulongoy 2006). Ecological networks have been designed in all
countries, based on Natura 2000 in EU countries. Most of these frameworks
include provisions for the development of connections between core areas for
conservation. In most countries specific legislation addressing connectivity has
been adopted, but this has not been effective everywhere (Jongman and Kamphorst
2002; Bennett and Mulongoy 2006;Je˛drzejewski et al. 2009). Corridor develop-
ment is most advanced in Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, where eco-
logical corridors connecting protected areas have been created and are functional.
In the other countries corridors have only been established on pilot basis, but in
many cases, corridors remain features on maps waiting for implementation. This
can be explained by the lack of experience of those responsible for the develop-
ment of ecological networks in dealing with land use issues outside protected
areas, and the lack of understanding of how to deal with administrative mecha-
nisms to match land use with conservation (Nassauer and Opdam 2008; van der
Windt and Swart 2008).
The planning of ecological corridors usually involves GIS (Geographical
Information System) modeling techniques (Marulli and Mallarch 2005; Hepcan
et al. 2009; Gurrutxaga et al. 2010; Roy et al. 2010), which are predominantly
focused on the identification of the ecological linkages in a landscape through a
least-cost approach, relying on the suitability assessment of landscapes for selected
species based on the parameters provided by species experts (Schadt et al. 2002;
Creation of Ecological Corridors 703
Beier et al. 2008). Modeling results can be validated and optimized using the
reliability theory (Jordan 2000), uncertainty analysis (Schadt et al. 2002; Beier
et al. 2009), network flows (Phillips et al. 2008), graph theory (Urban et al. 2009;
Rayfield et al. 2010), or Markov chains (Billionnet 2010). Special software has
been designed in several occasions to assist the GIS modeling of the ecological
corridors (e.g. Majka et al. 2007).
2 Study Area
The Ukrainian part of the Carpathian Ecoregion covers approximately 21,000 km
(Kruhlov 2008), which is about 10 % of the whole ecoregion area. The Ukrainian
Carpathians are crucial for the ecological connectivity as they occupy the narrow
part of the mountain arc linking its massive northern and southern sections, thus
forming a bottleneck for animal migration within the Carpathians, as well as
between the Southern, Western, and Eastern Europe (Webster et al. 2001). This
part of the Carpathians consists of a series of parallel low and medium mountain
ridges (usually up to 1,500 m a.s.l.) stretching in the NW–SE direction and pre-
dominantly formed by flysch. They are mainly covered with beech and spruce
forests; however, several elevated ridge tops (higher than 1,500 m) have subalpine
and alpine vegetation (Herenchuk 1968). Human settlements are rather densely
dispersed and they are represented mainly by medium and large villages (1–3
thousands of inhabitants) located in river valleys. The economy of the region is
mainly determined by forestry, recreation, and nature conservation (Kubijovyc
1984; Burdusel et al. 2006; Anon. 2007). Forest fragmentation is limited, but
forests are disturbed by clear-cuts in widely-spread cultural spruce stands (Ku-
emmerle et al. 2006). The area of these clear-cuts is gradually increasing as well as
abandoned agricultural land is gradually changing into forest (Kuemmerle et al.
2008). Forests are state-owned, while agricultural land (mostly grassland) is pre-
dominantly private.
Terrestrial mammals occurring in the Ukrainian Carpathians include rare spe-
cies such as brown bear (Ursus arctos), lynx (Lynx lynx), wildcat (Felis sylvestris),
European mink (Mustela lutreola), otter (Lutra lutra) and European bison (Bison
bonasus). There are also populations of red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer
(Capreolus capreolus), wolf (Canis lupus), fox (Vulpes vulpes), pine marten
(Martes martes), ermine (Mustela erminea), Carpathian squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris
carpathicus) and common dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius). Species of
amphibians and reptiles include Carpathian newt (Lissotriton montadoni), Alpine
newt (Mesotriton alpestris), yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata), spotted
salamander (Salamandra salamandra), Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus),
and smooth snake (Coronella austriaca). During the last 20 years populations of
large mammals decreased due to human influence such as poaching and other
disturbances. Particularly, numbers of red deer and roe deer have dropped dras-
tically, and elk has almost disappeared from the Ukrainian Carpathians (Domnich
704 F. Deodatus et al.
et al. 2009). Downward trends of carnivores are also observed but accurate data are
lacking (Nowell and Jackson 1996; Servheen et al. 1998; Anon. 2004; Bashta and
Potish 2005,2007).
The pilot study has been carried out at two locations in the north-west and the
south-east of the Ukrainian Carpathians (Fig. 1), establishing local level ecological
corridors between selected protected areas in Ukraine, Poland and Romania. The
location in the north-west is the area between Skolivski Beskydy National Nature
Park in Ukraine and Bieszczadzki National Park in Poland, while in the south-east
the area between Vyzhnytskyi National Nature Park and the border with Romania
is covered in order to create the Ukrainian part of a corridor towards Vanatori-
Neamt Natural Park. Characteristics of the landscape of the two locations are
presented in Table 1.
3 Methods
In this study, ecological networks and particularly ecological corridor areas are
considered as natural, socio-economic and legal entities, since they exist in the
landscape inhabited, transformed and managed by humans. Corridor modelling has
Fig. 1 The Ukrainian Carpathians showing the pilot areas and the related protected areas
Creation of Ecological Corridors 705
been based on the habitat requirements of selected species, referred to as model
species hereafter
, which are considered to represent the overall habitat require-
ments of all species to be facilitated by the corridor. In the modelling process,
available corridor area is identified for each of these model species in a stepwise
process, subsequently eliminating land of low connectivity due to physical barri-
ers, habitat suitability, human disturbance, future development and unwillingness
of land users and land owners to contribute to the corridor protection (Fig. 2).
Hence, manageable corridors are obtained by completing the following steps:
1. identification and delineation of possible corridors, using habitat suitability
criteria determined for selected model species,
2. tailoring the corridor boundaries to the extent of existing administrative,
ownership, and management units in order to create manageable areas to realise
and maintain connectivity,
3. determining and implementing required protection measures and arrangements
with regard to legislation and management.
Following earlier corridor modelling practice in other areas (e.g. van Maanen
et al. 2006; Beier et al. 2007,2008) four model species were identified: brown
bear, European bison (further referred to as bison), lynx, and wildcat. These
species have rather rigid and distinctive habitat requirements, together covering
Table 1 Landscape features of the pilot study areas (Kuemmerle et al. 2006,2007,2008, 2009;
Hostert et al. 2008; Kruhlov 2008)
Landscape feature North-west area South-east area
Meso-ecoregions Sian-Stryi Verkhovyna and Internal
Bukovyna internal mountains and
Pokuttia-Bukovyna external
Rocks Flysch Flysch
Elevation average
and range (m
750 (580–1,100) 830 (560–1,200)
Landform Low mountains and medium
Medium mountains and dissected
low mountains
Climate Moderately cool Moderately cool and moderately
Natural vegetation Beech–spruce forests Beech–spruce and beech forests
Human population *12,000 (17 villages) *2,000 (2 villages)
Dominant land use Forestry and agriculture Forestry
Actual land cover Grassland, forest and settlement Forest and grassland and settlement
Disturbances Forest clear-cutting, hunting Forest clear-cutting, hunting
Land cover change
Forest encroachment on grassland,
moderate expansion of built-up
The terms ‘‘umbrella species’’ and ‘‘focal species’’ are sometimes also used in this context (van
Maanen et al. 2006; Beier et al. 2008).
706 F. Deodatus et al.
the requirements of all large terrestrial mammal species of the Carpathians and
therefore they can be regarded as ‘‘umbrella’’ for those species. For each of the
model species an ecological profile has been prepared describing habitat
requirements based on expert knowledge as well as publications on habitat utili-
zation (Slobodian 1988,1993; Turianyn 1988; Nowel and Jackson 1996; Serv-
heem et al. 1998; Anon. 2004; Bashta 2004; Pucek et al. 2004; Bashta and Potish
2005; Ray et al. 2005; van Maanen et al. 2006; Krasinska and Krasinski 2007; Klar
et al. 2008; Kuijper et al. 2009). Habitat suitability and resistance values for
landscape features were represented as a separate raster geo-dataset in a GIS. The
habitat suitability values were established by experts for each model species and
assigned to the respective geo-datasets using a standardized scale from 1 to 100
with 0 as a restrictive value (Table 2).
The raster datasets on habitat suitability determined by the species experts were
additively overlaid to establish one overall habitat suitability data layer for each of
the model species. Assuming that the focal species have different tolerance to
human presence, the additive overlay was adjusted for this feature as follows.
Bison was considered as the most tolerant to human disturbance and therefore its
human proximity factor received the weight of 1.0, for lynx this factor was set to
3.0, while for the bear and the wildcat it was estimated at 2.0. The additive overlay
was adjusted with the weight factor of 1.0 for all other the landscape features.
Subsequently, possible corridors were manually drafted based on habitat suit-
ability maps for each species, and these ‘‘species corridors’’ were merged into a
single ‘‘robust’’ corridor (van Maanen et al. 2006; Nassauer and Opdam 2008).
The course of these preliminary corridors has been evaluated by the species
experts to identify so-called ‘‘bottleneck areas’’ which are relatively narrow
Fig. 2 Stepwise approach
for corridor modeling,
subsequently eliminating land
of low connectivity due to
physical barriers, habitat
suitability, human
disturbance, future
development and
unwillingness of land users
and land owners
Creation of Ecological Corridors 707
corridor parts crossing agricultural and settled areas. Field checks of these ‘‘bot-
tleneck areas’’ have been made to determine the least problematic passages for the
animals. As a result, the best corridor option for all four model species has been
determined based on habitat suitability and the most passable bottleneck areas.
In order to function and to be able to cope with land use changes and devel-
opment projects in the future, ecological corridors need to meet the following
conditions (Jongman and Kamphorst 2002; Bennett and Mulongoy 2006; Mackey
and Watson 2010):
be composed of manageable units,
of which boundaries follow administrative, natural or landownership
accepted and respected by all stakeholders,
recognized and respected by spatial planning authorities,
recognized and approved by local and higher administration,
Table 2 Landscape features and their suitability values for model species
Landscape feature Category Suitability values (1–100)
Bear Bison Lynx Wildcat
Land cover types
derived from Landsat TM/ETM ?images
(Kuemmerle et al. 2006; Hostert et al. 2008)
and supplemented with hydrography,
transportation network, and settlement pattern
from topographic map of 1:200,000 scale
100 70 100 50
Deciduous and
100 100 100 100
Grassland and
shrub land
20 50 10 20
Other 0 0 0 0
Forest/grassland ratio
calculated in % for 250 m radius circle
neighborhood from the land cover dataset
100/0 % 100 75 100 75
75/25 % 75 100 50 100
50/50 % 50 75 10 75
25/75 % 25 50 0 25
0/100 % 0 10 0 0
Altitudinal bioclimatic belts
(elevation intervals in m a.s.l.) stratified from the
SRTM 3-arc-second digital elevation model
(Jarvis et al. 2008)
0–350 50 100 50 100
350–700 80 100 80 100
700–1,100 100 50 100 50
1,100–1,300 100 30 100 30
1,300–1,500 80 10 80 10
1,500–1,800 30 0 30 0
[1,800 10 0 10 0
Terrain roughness (m)
calculated as an elevation magnitude within a
250 m radius circle from the SRTM data
0–50 50 100 50 100
50–100 100 50 100 80
100–200 100 30 100 50
[200 100 10 100 30
Human proximity is calculated using a cost-distance function, where distance is estimated to
settlements and roads, and cost is defined by the terrain’s slope. The proximity values are
standardized to a 1–100 scale
708 F. Deodatus et al.
managed according to agreed and effective management arrangements.
To comply with these criteria, the ‘‘raw’’ corridors as they were modelled above
are fitted in the existing land use system by identifying adjacent manageable land
units (e.g. forest blocks) within the area covered by the corridor area based on
habitat suitability and the best bottlenecks, forming a chain between the protected
areas to be connected. The selection of these areas to determine the final corridor
boundaries is achieved through direct consultations with land owners and land
users with the aim to agree on a final course of the corridor using boundaries of
municipalities and forest management units, taken from administrative and for-
estry maps. Areas where no agreement on compatible land use could be reached or
where future incompatible developments were unavoidable could be excluded
from the corridor following the consultations.
The Ukrainian laws supporting the development of the Ukrainian ecological
network are the Laws ‘‘On the State Programme of Ukraine’s National Ecological
Network Development for 2000–2015’’ (2000) (Government of Ukraine 2000) and
‘On the Ecological Network of Ukraine’’ (2004) (Government of Ukraine 2004).
These laws define the different elements of the ecological network and ensure the
Government’s support on the development of the ecological network (Brusak et al.
2006). To facilitate the implementation of these laws, the Ministry of Environ-
mental Protection of Ukraine has issued the directive ‘‘Methodological Recom-
mendations for the development of regional and local Econet schemes’ (Order 13/
11/2009 No. 604) (Government of Ukraine 2009). When corridors are endorsed by
the relevant authorities (particularly the Land Resources Department and Regional
Council), incompatible land use can be sanctioned and future projects have to take
into account the integrity of the corridors. In order to determine the procedure to
be followed for the creation of ecological corridors, which are recognized by the
law and authorities, the sections of these Methodological Recommendations rel-
evant for corridor development were extracted (Deodatus and Protsenko 2010) and
combined with the modelling methodology for corridors applied (van Maanen
et al. 2006). The different steps were further elaborated in consultation with
government staff during the implementation of the procedure.
4 Results
The main result of this study is a methodology for the creation of ecological
corridors developed in the context of landscape, ecology, land use and legislation,
based on a pilot connecting protected areas in two different locations.
Habitat suitability maps prepared for different model species showed very
similar suitability patterns in each pilot. Habitat suitability scores were generally
higher for bison and lower for lynx, which is most probably related to human
proximity. Nevertheless, merging ‘‘species corridors’’ into one ‘‘robust’’ corridor
was straight forward in both areas.
Creation of Ecological Corridors 709
The main barriers for connectivity were formed by residential areas mainly
located in river valleys and to a lesser extent by agricultural areas, particularly
when tree cover was poor. The potential corridor area in the south-eastern pilot is
mainly covered by forest and has limited residential and agricultural areas. Only
one ‘‘bottleneck area’’ with low connectivity due to a road and farmland was found
here. The potential corridor area in the north-western pilot however, with a higher
human occupation counted nine of such bottleneck areas. Field checks proved easy
accessibility for animals of the bottleneck in the south-eastern pilot, as the hay-
fields in the valley bottoms were only partly fenced, and patches of trees and
shrubs provided cover for eventually crossing animals. Local people witnessed that
the place is frequently crossed by deer and boars. In the north-western pilot four of
the nine bottlenecks were hardly accessible for the animals, due to the high
occurrence of agricultural land, residential area, fences and roads. Therefore the
course of the final corridor here has been determined by the location of the other
five ‘‘bottlenecks’’ which appeared to provide sufficient conditions for animal
passage (Fig. 3). Consultations with land users and the local administration
resulted in both pilots in agreement on the final corridor boundaries aligned with
existing management units such as forestry management units and municipality
After agreement on the location of the ecological corridors, approval has been
received from local authorities and relevant technical authorities, including the
spatial planning authorities. According to the Ukrainian regulations, a file has been
elaborated for this purpose according to the specifications presented in the
Directive ‘‘Methodological Recommendations for the development of regional and
local Econet schemes’’ (2009) of the Ministry of Environmental Protection of
Ukraine. Through extraction of relevant sections from this directive, a model has
Fig. 3 The approved north-eastern corridor area related to the habitat suitability for lynx and the
final corridor geometry tailored to land management units
710 F. Deodatus et al.
been derived adapted to the application of ecological corridor creation, which
resulted in the draft directive ‘‘Methodological Recommendations for Ecological
Corridor Scheme Development’’. The file compiled according to this directive (the
Ecological Corridor Scheme) includes a number of maps with prescribed formats
as well as text sections presenting justification, general environmental context
information, stakeholders, and a management plan of the proposed corridor. This
file played a central role in the process leading to endorsement and to the inclusion
of the ecological corridor into the spatial planning system. In the final stage of the
procedure, corridor maps, corridor description and management plans have been
Fig. 4 The model for ecological corridor creation elaborated in the Ukrainian Carpathians,
including corridor location identification, corridor management and inclusion in the regulatory
land management system
Creation of Ecological Corridors 711
approved by the relevant level state authorities ensuring their management on the
long term. An outline of the entire procedure developed (Fig. 4) disposed of
country-specific terminology and procedures can be considered as a guideline for
corridor development in Carpathian countries.
5 Discussion
Several authors (Hanski 2002; O’Donell 2007; Nassauer and Opdam 2008; van der
Windt and Swart 2008) claim close collaboration between scientists and govern-
ment officers to be instrumental for effective ecological network development, as it
provides opportunities for synergy and appropriate policy development and
implementation. In the corridor development process presented in this chapter
researchers and administrators fulfilled an indispensable role in ecological corridor
development, contributing specific and highly complementary knowledge and
experience. Since the use of GIS is increasingly important in spatial planning,
administrators can benefit on the one hand from qualified staff from research
institutes and from new technology. On the other hand, collaboration makes
research staff more familiar with tuning their work to administrative requirements,
leading to more effective use of scientific results. The process of corridor devel-
opment is also an opportunity to create broad public support for ecological cor-
ridors by using major events for radio or television broadcastings. Governmental
as well as non-governmental stakeholders developed commitment and under-
standing with regard to biodiversity conservation and the creation of an ecological
network, while they were intensively involved in the corridor development
This study has shown that pilot projects are very useful to understand the
constraints and gaps in the current framework for ecological corridor development
and help to improve the methodologies used. Generally GIS has been a very useful
and time-efficient tool that helped to focus the selection process to identify
appropriate corridor area. Moreover GIS is a very flexible tool for the composition
of cheap high-quality maps and on-screen support to decision processes through
desktop comparison of corridor options. At the same time, the use of GIS has its
limitations. It helps ordering information, but this process should be controlled and
interpreted critically by the users, by comparing GIS output with field information.
The finalisation of the corridors requires therefore ‘‘handwork’’, by visual map
interpretation. The identification of ‘‘bottleneck areas’’ for field verification proved
to be a useful approach, which, on the one hand, ensured realistic results of the
corridor mapping and, on the other hand, helped to optimize time and resources
required for field work.
To ensure the perpetual functioning of ecological corridors, agreements need to
be reached on their management (Je˛drzejewski et al. 2009; Mackey and Watson
2010). This can be done in a management plan specifying crucial elements such as
stakeholders, responsibilities, measures and timing. Management plans are often
712 F. Deodatus et al.
based on a zoning system and it is usually convenient to match management zone
boundaries as much as possible with land ownership and land use, to minimize the
arrangements to be made with stakeholders. In western Carpathian countries
(Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia) management plans or other arrangements
are included in the respective legislation on ecological corridor development
(Jongman and Kamphorst 2002). In Ukraine, however, both laws on ecological
network development refer but indirectly to the use of management plans
(Deodatus and Protsenko 2010). Therefore, the inclusion of an ecological corridor
management plan has been proposed as compulsory in the Ecological Corridor
Scheme in the ‘‘Methodological Recommendations for Ecological Corridor
Scheme Development’’. The major challenge to make corridors work is the
establishment of management arrangements accepted by all stakeholders (Bennett
and Mulongoy 2006; Chettri et al. 2007; Lombard et al. 2010) and their
enforcement. The final challenge is to adapt arrangements and supporting docu-
mentation to the requirements of the spatial planning authorities. Their acceptance
and integration of the designed corridors into spatial management plans can assure
their existence and functioning in the future, making them more resistant to threats
such as infrastructure and other development plans (Nassauer and Opdam 2008).
Connectivity issues are usually (at least technically) more easily dealt with in
agricultural areas as agriculture is not necessarily conflicting with connectivity
(Lombard et al. 2010). Agriculture in most of the Carpathians has mainly an
extensive character which is potentially compatible with wildlife presence.
However, it may cause sometimes conflicts between wildlife and land users
(poaching, crop damage, cattle predation). Handling this type of conflicts as well
as the consolidation of extensive farming can be supported through an adequate
High Nature Value farming policy in wildlife areas such as corridors (Hoogeveen
et al. 2002; Andrews and Rebane 2005). A very useful tool reducing wildlife-
human conflicts in this case and creating sometimes also opportunities for farmers
is the land-swap instrument, which involves the swap of nature areas (parts of
forests or protected areas) for agricultural land located in strategic parts of cor-
ridors. If crossings between ecological corridors and transport infrastructure can-
not be avoided, constructions are recommended to enable connectivity such as
wildlife overpasses and underpasses (Iuell et al. 2003;Je˛drzejewski et al. 2009).
6 Conclusions
A pilot project to develop ecological corridors from paper plans to land allocated
to connect biodiversity core areas agreed by all stakeholders provides a setting to
develop and test a model for ecological corridor creation including lessons learned
for wider application. Crucial for the functionality of corridors with regard to
species migration are the ecological characteristics of the species selected to
determine the habitat suitability criteria of the model. In this Ukrainian study, the
establishment of two corridors has been realized as a result of combining the
Creation of Ecological Corridors 713
spatial modelling of corridors based on ecology and landscape with the adminis-
trative process that leads to inclusion of these corridors in the governmental land
management system. By doing so, contributions of scientist and government
authorities in the process are better geared to their purpose. The engagement of all
stakeholders optimized the design and support for the establishment of the corri-
dors. GIS maps provided effective support in this process, giving stakeholders
accurate information on the location of optimal habitats of biological species and
barriers. Field verification for the validation of this information and its interpre-
tation proved to be essential. The actual choice of corridor location and boundaries
should be realized through a dialogue of relevant authorities, land owners and land
users to establish acceptance and future support. Using ‘‘bottleneck areas’’ as a key
for corridor identification contributed very much to the efficiency of this process
by focusing attention of consultations and analysis on these areas, enabling the
exclusion of unsuitable corridor parts at an early stage. GIS maps indicating
habitat suitability were very effective to locate these areas. Established corridors
only make sense when their management is covered by agreements among
stakeholders. The elaboration of management plans is therefore part of the model
for corridor creation, and alignment of corridors with existing land management
unit boundaries such as forest management units and municipality borders turned
out to be instrumental.
Acknowledgments We are grateful to the valuable contributions of the following colleagues to
this paper: Akos Gabor Ugron, Anatoliy Deyneka, Bohdan Prots, Borys Bagley, Dries Kuiper,
Eddy Wymenga, Edith Oudt, Guus Schutjes, Hans Kampf, Harald Egerer, Harmanna Groothof,
Henk Zingstra, Hieke van den Akker, Igor Ivanenko, Jana Urbancikova, Jan Kadlecik, Jan Seffer,
Joep van den Vlasakker, Maaike Krol, Meeuwes Brouwer, Mike Baltzer, Mykhaylo Kokhanets,
Mykhaylo Oprysko, Oksana Maryskevych, Oleg Kohan, Patrick Hostert, Tobias Kuemmerle, Ton
Verhagen, Vasyl Pryndak, Victor Melnichuk, Volodymyr Domashlinets, Włodzimierz Je˛drze-
jewski, Yuriy Lylo and Yuriy Zhebchuk, and Zbigniew Niewiadomski. Funding was provided by
the Netherlands International Biodiversity Policy Programme BBI-MATRA of the Netherlands
Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the
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... The Carpathian Mountains form a particularly important regional forest massif and corridor for area-demanding focal species (e.g., Breymeyer and Dą browski, 2000;Borsa et al., 2009;Deodatus and Protsenko, 2010). However, the forest loss differed considerably among countries. ...
... Forest gain outside the forest mask within the massifs was low in all countries (<0.16%), and even lower outside the massif (<0.07). The poor developed road network and absence of highways in the Ukrainian Carpathians has no serious impact on large carnivores' migration, except when roads and railways are located in the same valley (Deodatus and Protsenko, 2010;Huck et al., 2010). However, Vasas et al. (2009) demonstrated that a new planned highway corridor in the fragmented lowland forests of the Transcarpathian region could have deleterious consequences on forest species. ...
... The bilateral and multilateral co-operation of Belarus with neighbouring countries is mainly oriented to protect water resources of transboundary rivers and setting up ecological networks on boundary territories (Meyerovsky, 2003;Grishkova, 2003). A main aim of the National Ecological Network Program of Ukraine for 2000e2015 was to increase the protected area of the country's natural landscapes to a level sufficient to preserve their biodiversity (Anon, 1995;Deodatus and Protsenko, 2010). Also Ukraine has thus embarked on the process of integration of the national ecological network into the Pan-European network (Parchuk, 2004;Zingstra et al., 2009). ...
The functionality of forest patches and networks as green infrastructure may be affected negatively both by expanding road networks and forestry intensification. We assessed the effects of (1) the current and planned road infrastructure, and (2) forest loss and gain, on the remaining large forest landscape massifs as green infrastructure at the EU's eastern border region in post-socialistic transition. First, habitat patch and network functionality in 1996-98 was assessed using habitat suitability index modelling. Second, we made expert interviews about road development with planners in 10 administrative regions in Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. Third, forest loss and gain inside the forest massifs, and gain outside them during the period 2001-14 were measured. This EU cross-border region hosts four remaining forest massifs as regional green infrastructure hotspots. While Poland's road network is developing fast in terms of new freeways, city bypasses and upgrades of road quality, in Belarus and Ukraine the focus is on maintenance of existing roads, and no new corridors. We conclude that economic support from the EU, and thus rapid development of roads in Poland, is likely to reduce the permeability for wildlife of the urban and agricultural matrix around existing forest massifs. However, the four identified forest massifs themselves, forming the forest landscape green infrastructure at the EU's east border, were little affected by road development plans. In contrast, forest loss inside massifs was high, especially in Ukraine. Only in Poland forest loss was balanced by gain. Forest gain outside forest massifs was low. To conclude, pro-active and collaborative spatial planning across different sectors and countries is needed to secure functional forest green infrastructure as base for biodiversity conservation and human well-being.
... In recent years, the drastic changes in land use that have occurred at a large and local scale (road infrastructure development, urbanization, the unsustainable development of tourism and recreational facilities) have influenced the ecological connectivity in an irreversible way [32] by land fragmentation. A similar situation is found in the mountainous areas, such as the Romanian Carpathians, which have undergone profound changes in the landscape and land cover. ...
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Recent studies carried out by landscape and urban ecologists have shown that habitat fragmentation has negative environmental effects and is accountable for the loss of biodiversity. The development and extension of road infrastructure to support economic growth, the urbanization and the land-use changes are major drivers of habitat fragmentation. Planners have attempted to develop tools for restoring connectivity and stopping biodiversity loss at the landscape scale and which can be applied at the urban scale, too. The study fills in the gap by developing a methodology for identifying the ecological corridors of a Romanian large carnivore (brown bear) in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains at several spatial scales. The methodology relies on geospatial data; this is equally its most important advantage and challenge. Our findings suggest that the implementation of ecological corridors in current planning practice must be completed cautiously, provided the possible restrictions are imposed on economic activities by plans, and highlight the importance of field data in increasing the scientific soundness of the results. In addition, the findings show the need to interconnect spatial planning policies with environmental policies by improving the actual legislation.
... An analysis of previous methodologies used to identify ecological corridors shows that they were developed in order to identify priority areas for wildlife management (Walker and Craighead, 1997), to increase spatial connectivity (Bruinderink et al., 2003) and to create functional landscape models (Adriaensen et al., 2003), to assess landscape and ecological connectivity (Marulli and Mallarach, 2005), to develop a green infrastructure planning approach (Chang et al., 2012), to create and consolidate ecological corridors (Deodatus et al., 2013) or to identify the most important barriers for ecological connectivity in the Carpathian Mountains. These methodologies models were mainly GIS-based assessments, using mathematical languages and multicriteria analysis, and were developed and applied in different pilot areas, including parts of the Romanian Carpathians. ...
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A solution for the habitat fragmentation, decline of biodiversity, loss of ecosystems and ecosystem services can be to increase the number of protected areas and the connectivity between them, by creating ecological corridors. Since this conservation practice is becoming more relevant considering the climate change, the concept of ecological connectivity must be integrated in most political frameworks, especially in relation with the spatial development, requiring appropriate legislation. The article aims at proposing a new technique of ecological connectivity modeling, demonstrated by a specific methodology aiming to identify the ecological corridors used the brown bear (Ursus arctos) within the Natura 2000 sites in the Romanian Carpathian Mountains covered by the Buzau County. The processed GIS layers together with the ArcGIS.x Corridor Design Tool were used to map the permeability in the studied area and thus to identify the ecological corridors. The obtained results are useful tools for spatial planners that must integrate, adapt and accept these corridors in their plans. It is the first study published at national level, a novel one, in which ecological corridors for the brown bear are identified based on a County Land Use Plan, embedding the ecological dimension in the concept of spatial planning.
... Several projects and studies focused on identifying ecological networks and corridors in the Carpathians for large mammals, for example, the "Mapping conservation areas for carnivores in the Carpathian Mountains" (Salvatori 2004), "Potential habitat connectivity of the European bison (Bison bonasus L.) in the Carpathians" (Kuemmerle et al. 2011), "Identification and assessment of the potential movement routes for European bison in the North-East of Romania" (Deju 2011), "Creation of ecological corridors in Ukraine" (Deodatus et al. 2013), BioREGIO Carpathians project (Appleton and Meyer 2014) and Life Connect Carpathians (FFI 2019). No matter the selected focus species, the identification of ecological corridors used different methodologies, making the results non-comparable at the Carpathian level, sometimes not even at the national levels. ...
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The development of sustainable transport is a key challenge in societies where there is an accelerated need for socio-economic development. This is the case for seven countries from central and south-eastern Europe that share the Carpathian Mountains. The challenge of developing sustainable transport requires transdisciplinary, or at least cross-sectoral cooperation, between the transport development and nature conservation sectors. Such cooperation is not in the culture of the Carpathian countries, which together host some of the most remarkable biodiversity values in Europe, including the largest populations of brown bear, grey wolf and Eurasian lynx. The overall length of motorways in these countries more than quintupled in the last 30 years and the rapid expansion of Linear Transport Infrastructure (LTI) continues at exacerbating rates. The rich biodiversity habitats are being fragmented and the concept of ecological connectivity is poorly understood and implemented by the national authorities. Ecological networks for large carnivores are not defined nor officially recognised in the Carpathian countries, with little exceptions. The legislation is not consistent across the strands of ecological connectivity and is not harmonised between the countries to effectively support transnational conservation efforts. Thus, the critical intersections between planned or even existing LTI and ecological corridors for large carnivores cannot be identified, in most cases leading to increasing habitat fragmentation and isolation of wildlife populations in the region. We summarised all this key context-related information for the Carpathians in relation to LTI development and ecological connectivity. To counteract this trend in the Carpathian ecoregion, we propose a set of recommendations to: improve and harmonise the legislation; develop and endorse methodologies for designating ecological corridors; address the cumulative impact on ecological connectivity; define other threats on landscape permeability; improve stakeholder engagement, cooperation and communication; develop comprehensive and transparent biodiversity and transport databases; monitor wildlife and transport for implementing most appropriate mitigation measures and strategies; build capacity to address the issue of sustainable transportation; and foster transnational cooperation and dialogue. Bringing these elements together will support the design of ecological networks in a way that considers the needs and location of both current and future habitats and contribute to efforts to address the climate crisis. These specific recommendations are relevant also for other areas of the world facing similar problems as the Carpathians.
... By examining the multi-species corridors, we observed that the Carpathian Mountains are the most likely landscape unit where these linkages can be created with great success. The Carpathians are a well-known hot spot for biodiversity in Europe 86 , with large continuous natural areas 87 , and projects involving connectivity in the Carpathians have been developed in recent years 88 . Areas along the Danube River also showed great connectivity, ...
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Landscape heterogeneity and fragmentation are key challenges for biodiversity conservation. As Earth’s landscape is increasingly dominated by anthropogenic land use, it is clear that broad-scale systems of nature reserves connected by corridors are needed to enable the dispersal of flora and fauna. The European Union currently supports a continent-wide network of protected areas, the Natura 2000 program, but this program lacks the necessary connectivity component. To examine whether a comprehensive network could be built in order to protect amphibians and reptiles, two taxonomic groups sensitive to environmental changes due to their physiological constrains and low dispersal capacity, we used species’ distribution maps, the sites of community interest (SCIs) in Romania, and landscape resistance rasters. Except Vipera ursinii rakosiensis, all amphibians and reptiles had corridors mapped that, when assembled, provided linkages for up to 27 species. Natura 2000 species were not good candidates for umbrella species as these linkages covered only 17% of the corridors for all species. Important Areas for Connectivity were identified in the Carpathian Mountains and along the Danube River, further confirming these regions as hot spots for biodiversity in Europe, where successful linkages are most likely. In the end, while such corridors may not be created just for amphibians and reptiles, they can easily be incorporated into more complex linkages with corridors for more charismatic species, therefore enhancing the corridors’ value in terms of quality and structure.
... Therefore, integrated spatial planning is needed. For example, Deodatus (2013) and Deodatus and Protsenko (2010) developed a methodology for planning functional ecological corridors to facilitate the movements of large mammals in the Carpathian region. To support operational planning, for example, GIS and satellite images have also been used to analyse forest dynamics (e.g., Commarmot et al. 2013;Hobi 2013). ...
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Increased demand for natural resources and economic transition threaten natural and biocultural capital and thus ecosystem services for human well-being. We applied an evidence-based approach to strategic planning of functional green infrastructure in a European biodiversity hotspot: the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains. We (1) described how potential natural vegetation types have been transformed, (2) applied evidence-based critical thresholds for each potential natural vegetation land cover, (3) measured how much of the potential natural vegetation land covers are protected, and (4) estimated the area of cultural landscapes that emerged. While only 2% of lowland land cover types were left, 55% of mountain forests and 94% of alpine land covers remained. Many mountain forests were transformed to valuable cultural landscapes. Beech and oak forests covered 42% of the study area but at low levels of protection (<5%). The highest protection level (12–17%) was in mixed beech–fir–spruce and in spruce forests. However, taking connectivity into account, only alpine land covers formed a functional habitat network. More areas need to be protected and planned to build a functional green infrastructure. Traditional village systems with biocultural values need support. We discuss how strategic analyses can encourage collaborative spatial planning and international development cooperation.
... due to the development of recreational infrastructure, which for a number of years has been a significant issue in the Carpathians. Through preventing the natural exchange of individuals, it may lead to permanent functional isolation of free-ranging herds, which would contribute to the further loss of their genetic variability (Bashta et al. 2010). So far a marginal issue seems to be the impact of predation; however, in regions where sizeable populations of large predators (brown bears, wolves) occur (e.g. the Carpathians, Russia) some cases are observed. ...
Names Genus: Bison H. Smith, 1827 Species: European bison Bison bonasus (Linnaeus, 1758) Subspecies: Lowland (Bialowieza) European bison, Bison bonasus bonasus (Linnaeus, 1758); Caucasian (mountain) European bison, Bison bonasus caucasicus (Turkin & Satunin, 1904); Carpathian (Transylvanian) European bison, Bison bonasus hungarorum (Kretzoi, 1946) Names in other languages: French: Bison d’Europe; German: Wisent; Spanish: Bisonte Europeo; Italian: Bisonte Europeo; Polish: Zubr; Russian: Zubr; Slovak: Zubor; Romanian: Zimbru. Other common names: Wisent Taxonomy The European bison belong to the sub-order of ruminants, whose representatives have a four-chambered stomach comprising the three pre-stomach compartments – the rumen, reticulum and omasum – and the true stomach – the abomasum. It is in the pre-stomach, especially the massive rumen (whose volume in adult bison may exceed 100 litres), that plant food is gathered for periodic regurgitation as ‘the cud is chewed’ (for more details see Chapter 6)
... The key to mitigating these impacts is the establishment and legal protection of movement corridors and wildlife passages throughout the Carpathians, especially in the light of projected increases in traffic volume and planned modernizations of roads in the region (e.g., the upgrading of road E371 to an express road). Some steps in this direction have already been made in Ukraine, where a wildlife migration corridors linking the Bukovina region in Romania and the Bieszczady Mountains in Poland have been designated and formally included in spatial planning (Deodatus et al., 2013). Similar actions are needed in other Carpathian countries (Perzanowski, 2014; van de Vlasakker, 2014). ...
Reintroductions are an important tool for re-establishing or reinforcing populations of threatened species, and thus to restore ecosystems. However, predicting how reintroduced populations will spread is difficult, and past reintroductions often lacked a thorough assessment of habitat availability and connectivity. Using the case of reintroduced European bison (Bison bonasus L.) in the northern Carpathians, we show how habitat suitability models in combination with connectivity assessments based on circuit theory can remedy such shortcomings, and identify potential habitat patches and corridors between these. European bison were reintroduced in our study area in the 1960s, and against prior expectation, have not spread along the Carpathian ridge, but instead expanded their range towards human settlements. Our analyses provide an explanation for this pattern. Although we identified a network of suitable habitat patches along the Carpathian ridge, the functional connections between them were limited due to a number of major barriers to movement. To avoid future conflicts between European bison and people, and to achieve the long-term goal of a viable bison metapopulation in this region, conservation action should focus on establishing connectivity between habitat patches through the creation and legal protection of corridors and wildlife passages, which would benefit Carpathian wildlife in general. Our study emphasizes the importance of landscape-scale connectivity analyses to guide restoration efforts, and of adaptive management to ensure the success of reintroduction projects.
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Prospective climate changes in the current century will cause substantial shifts in the potential species habitats, in the spatial extents of communities and ecosystems, and in the areas covered by them. The present study is related to the climatic factors influencing the formation of altitude vegetation zonality in the Ukrainian Carpathians. As the borders between altitudinal belts in this area have been substantially transformed by anthropogenic activity, the method has been elaborated for the detection of the locations of natural borders, on the basis of the statistical analysis of the distribution of the altitudinal gradient of NDVI index derived from Landsat 8 remote sensing data. Thereafter the relations between the locations of these natural borders and the WorldClim bioclimatic surfaces were analyzed by means of multiple regression models. Thus, it was revealed that the location of the boundary between nemoral and boreal altitude belts in this region is influenced mostly by minimal winter temperatures, while the location of the boundary between boreal and high-altitude treeless belts is mostly determined by the average temperatures of the warmest quarter of the year. On the basis of climatic data, the location of altitude zones of natural vegetation has been mapped, that mirror the climatic aspect of the site – the potential natural vegetation on the classification level of biome (vegetation type). WorldClim dataset, together with actual climatic data contains the prospective climatic surfaces obtained by global climatic system modeling. Using these data allowed forecasting the changes in location and relative areas of altitude belts in the Carpathians under the influence of global warming. In the middle of this century, the areas of nemoral belts are expected to expand while the areas of boreal and high-altitude treeless belts will significantly dwindle. These two belts can totally disappear in this region by 2070. Key words: Carpathians, altitude zonality, global warming, Landsat, WorldClim.
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The main aim of the study is to assess the functioning of an ecological corridor in the context of landscape changes, especially planned land use at local scale. The analysis was conducted within the Northern Ecological Corridor in Poland, which was first determined at national scale, and then specified at local scale. 29 municipalities in NE Poland were selected for detailed analysis. These municipalities are situated within the Northern Ecological Corridor in Poland, which connects the Knyszyn Forest, through the Biebrza Marshes, with the Pisz Forest. Spatial planning documents developed at local scale were analysed. The research allows the identification of areas where conflicts between land use and landscape connectivity occur. These conflicts are mainly connected with housing development and tourism infrastructure. This study shows that in Poland, where no legal instruments to protect ecological networks exist, the development of ecological corridors at local scale requires not only conducting an analysis of the present land use and landscape permeability, but also a detailed analysis of spatial planning documents. Only a coherent ecological network with a perspective for the future will ensure effective protection of an ecological network and, thus, biodiversity.
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The book is devoted to the mammals of the Transcarpathian region (Ukraine) and consists of survey of the current, disappeared, doubtful, introduced unsuccessfully and expended in the near future mammals. Detail information about distribution, habitats and biological requirements of the mammal species, as well as their quantity, connection to the riverine biotopes, conservation status and treats for the populations are given. The publication is illustrated by the photograph and maps of the records in the region. The book is recommended for zoologists, ecologists, specialists in nature conservation, students of universities and naturalists.
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The CorridorDesigner project is funded by a generous grant from the Environmental Research, Development and Education for the New Economy (ERDENE) initiative from Northern Arizona University. Our approach was initially developed during 2001-2006 for South Coast Missing Linkages, a set of 16 linkage designs in southern California (draft & We especially thank the many government agents, conservationists, and funders who conserve linkages and deserve the best possible science.
This book had its origin when, about five years ago, an ecologist (MacArthur) and a taxonomist and zoogeographer (Wilson) began a dialogue about common interests in biogeography. The ideas and the language of the two specialties seemed initially so different as to cast doubt on the usefulness of the endeavor. But we had faith in the ultimate unity of population biology, and this book is the result. Now we both call ourselves biogeographers and are unable to see any real distinction between biogeography and ecology.
The mighty and majestic European bison is the relictual embodiment of the wildness of prehistoric Europe. Tragically, the millennia since that time have seen so many species driven to extinction by human impacts, and the European bison has only narrowly avoided the same fate. Today, the species represents the symbolic sentinel of successful conservation actions in a world in which such achievements remain few and far between. From an early stage in the restitution of the European bison, husband-and-wife team Malgorzata Krasinska and Zbigniew A. Krasinski have been participating in relevant management initiatives and researching all facets of the bison, from its morphology and diet, to its movements, social life and reproduction, and the conservation management actions that have been taken to save it. Now they have summarised this wealth of knowledge on the species, giving rise to a publication ideal for students, professional biologists and conservationists, but also for all nature enthusiasts. This new edition of the monograph offers extensively updated content taking into account research carried out on the European bison in the last few years. Also featured, a new chapter devoted to knowledge of the genetics of the species drawn up by Malgorzata Tokarska of the Bialowieza-based Mammal Research Institute PAS. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. All rights are reserved.
We developed a new methodology for the assessment of landscape and ecological connectivity at regional scale. This method has been entirely formalized using mathematical language, is supported by a topological analysis of a 1:25,000 scale land use map, and has been developed using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The method allows the elaboration of a diagnose of the connectivity of terrestrial landscape ecosystems, on the basis of a previously defined set of ecological functional areas, and a computational cost-distance model which includes the barrier effect. This last component takes into consideration the type of barrier, the distance impact, and the adjacent land use and vegetation type. We defined two new compound indices: one for ecological connectivity and another for the barrier effect. The practical interest of our model is that it not only allows a cost-effective assessment of the current situation, but it has predictive capabilities, allowing the quantitative assessment and comparison of the impacts resulting from different planning scenarios or different infrastructure alternatives on the landscape and ecological connectivity. The application of this model to the Barcelona Metropolitan Area (BMA), 16% of which is currently classified as urban, showed that 65% of the BMA area is currently occupied by functional ecological areas, and that 18% is covered by artificial barriers, although they have a direct negative impact on 56.5% of the area. The model also allowed the identification of vulnerable spots, including 1.7% of the BMA that has a critical importance for ecological connectivity, as well as the network of landscape linkages and ecological corridors that offer a high restoration potential. Further applications of this methodology assessing the impacts of regional and urban plans on ecological connectivity, suggest than it could easily be extrapolated to other regions.