Enhancing Park Managers’ Capacity to Monitor Impacts on Species in Catalonia, Spain

Leo Baquedano
Published: 11 October 2023
Last edited: 11 October 2023
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Summary

The Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata) is a flagship species in the Mediterranean, although it is vulnerable in several parts of the region. In Catalonia, the Wildlife Service of the Government has estimated 85 breeding pairs, one of them in Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac Natural Park. Park managers have faced challenges in understanding and monitoring the species' reproductive behaviour and its relation with different threats and pressures within and outside the park.

 

Tech4Nature Spain developed a monitoring programme to understand how visitors and other external factors affect the eagle’s breeding and mobility behaviour. A technological architecture using cameras, GPS trackers and the Axis Station software was put in place along with metrics and alerts to ensure a better monitoring infrastructure and prevention capabilities. This solution can be replicated in other protected areas, be applied to other species and even other phenomena such as wildfires.

Classifications

Region
West and South Europe
Scale of implementation
Local
Ecosystem
Forest ecosystems
Tropical deciduous forest
Theme
Infrastructure maintenance
Protected and conserved areas governance
Science and research
Species management
Tourism
Species Conservation and One Health Interventions
Species Status Assessment
Wildlife Health Surveillance (to capture biodiversity, health, disease, and pathogen surveillance)
Species Monitoring and Research
Challenges
Increasing temperatures
Loss of Biodiversity
Wildfires
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Ecosystem loss
Lack of access to long-term funding
Lack of infrastructure
Lack of technical capacity
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Sustainable development goals
SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 15 – Life on land
SDG 17 – Partnerships for the goals
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 2: Biodiversity values integrated
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 13: Safeguarding genetic diversity
Target 17: Biodiversity strategies and action plans
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Target 20: Mobilizing resources from all sources

Location

Carrer De Sant Llorenç Del Munt, 08278 Talamanca, Barcelona, Spain

Challenges

The solution has tackled the main challenges faced by protected and conserved areas when it comes to the management of the species and their habitats: the lack of technological infrastructure and economic resources allocated to monitoring and research.

 

The solution has also tackled another challenge, which is the increase the management capacities and skills of the park staff. The implemented solution and parameters have been developed in close collaboration with the park management team. Therefore, the technological architecture is adapted to the available human resources, both in terms of the simplicity to use the software and the time needed to allocate to the monitoring system, ensuring its long-term success.

 

Finally, this solution tackles another challenge, which is the lack of spatial data about the main disturbances to specific endangered species (in this case the Bonelli’s eagle), which is essential to improve their conservation.

Beneficiaries

Park managers and rangers involved in species monitoring and land-use management in Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac Natural Park, in Catalonia (Spain).

 

Researchers studying the behaviour and evolution of the Bonelli’s eagle.

How do the building blocks interact?

The solution consists of four building blocks. The first one focuses on the implementation of the technological architecture that will allow to monitor and control the species. Ensuring that the correct infrastructure is in place is key to obtain the desirable data.

 

The second building block takes the technological infrastructure of the first block as a basis for data collection and creates a methodology and monitoring system that tracks the behaviour of the species and park visitors, along with an early warning system for risk detection.

 

Building on this, the third building block involves park staff using the outcomes of the monitoring system to expand their knowledge and make informed decisions for territory and species management.

 

Finally, the last building block sustains the correct planning, inception, implementation, monitoring, improvement and dissemination of the solution. This involves the establishment of a successful partnership willing to maximise the initiative’s impact. Therefore, these four building blocks are fundamental to ensuring the proper control of the species and addressing the primary impacts affecting it.

Impacts

The solution achieved more results than anticipated in monitoring the ecology of Bonelli’s eagle. GPS trackers recorded 5,511 locations for the male eagle, and its vital domain was established at 71 km2. As for the female eagle, 21,187 locations were recorded, with a vital domain of 68 km2. The monitoring programme also revealed that the eagles venture beyond the park for hunting, increasing the threats. So far, no noticeable disturbances by visitors have been detected.

 

The monitoring system detects risks of expulsion or mortality, improving management capacity. It has also made it possible to detect and intervene during critical events:

  • The female spent 7 hours upside down on the ground. The technology established the causes: a fight with a neighbour female, probably due to density dependence, potentially contributing to the failure in reproduction.
  • The death of the male. The GPS locations showed that the male was unusually still next to a communication tower. The body was found before being predated and electrocution was determined as the cause of death. This allowed to identify a black spot for the species’ survival and report the incident for potential mitigation actions.
  • The recruitment of another male 17 days after the death of the previous male. It was detected through the nest camera and confirmed by the rangers.

Story

Daniel Pons Julià

For decades, a significant group of scientists, technicians, rangers, and rural agents have monitored a pair of Bonelli's eagles nesting in the Natural Park of Sant Llorenç del Munt i l'Obac. The aim was to understand their behaviour, hunting and nesting areas, reproductive success, habitat conditions, and prey.

 

In my role as a biodiversity conservation technician in the Natural Park for the past five years, I greatly appreciate the collaboration with Tech4Nature. This solution represents a significant step towards regulating public use in both critical areas and periods for these protected species.

 

The initiative addresses an outstanding challenge in the park management: obtaining accurate information on the annual distribution of these birds of prey, human activities in their nesting area, and the eagles' tolerance towards these activities according to their intensity, proximity and time of year.

 

The monitoring results will inform regulations based on the specific data of this pair of Bonelli's eagles, complementing the broader Mediterranean basin studies and following the precautionary principle, crucial for biodiversity conservation.

 

This project has achieved several key objectives:

  1. Recognizing and highlighting the efforts of dedicated professionals
  2. Raising awareness among stakeholders (local authorities, environmental organisations, and residents of the nearby municipalities) through communication campaigns.
  3. Underlining the importance of public-private partnerships to ensure biodiversity conservation
  4. Raising awareness of the risk of electrocution caused by poorly designed power lines
  5. Emphasising the need for systemic management of the natural environment, both inside and outside protected areas

Professionally, this initiative has allowed me to become familiar with monitoring technologies, such as images and GPS, to:

  • Visualize the presence of eagles and understand their behaviour
  • Monitor the nest surroundings and broader areas
  • Track individual bird movements within their territory

For instance, I have learned that these eagles have well-defined routines, spending most of their time together. In the mornings, before egg-laying, they usually fly from the roost to gather at the nest or to scout prey locations, as well as to defend their territory from nearby pairs.

 

Daniel Pons, Conservation technician and biologist, Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac Natural Park

Contributed by

lucia.prieto_43243's picture

Lucía Prieto IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation

Other contributors

Àngel Miño Salinas
Parc Natural de Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac
Daniel Pons Julià
Parc Natural de Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac
Alejandro González Domingo
Consultant
Arnau Teixidor Costa
IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation
Carla Danelutti
IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation
Francesc Parés Tanco
Consultant
Rafael Bosch Janer
Consultant
Valerie Sosto
Huawei Spain
Esperanza Gaoyin
Huawei Spain
Sophie Luoxingyun
Huawei Spain