The environmental organization BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany) is advancing the connectivity of German forests. Within its large-scale project “Safety Net for the European Wildcat” BUND will implement six new migration corridors in order to reconnect isolated forest patches. The overall aim of the project is the restoration of a nationwide network of forest habitats with a total length of 20,000 kilometers.
The project is one of the major conservation initiatives in Europe and thus relevant internationally. Wildcat migration routes were calculated and mapped on a scientific basis using results from studies on wildcat habitat use. The concept incorporates possible forest connections to most neighbouring countries, thus providing an important tool for biotope networking across national borders. During meetings with experts from neighbouring countries such as Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Poland several collaboration were initiated.
The corridors are swaths of trees and scrub between isolated woodland areas sometimes up to 50 meters wide. Natural habitats throughout central Europe are heavily fragmented and isolated by roads, settlements and extensive agricultural areas. This poses major problems for wildlife conservation. Many forest species, such as the endangered wildcat, need shelter in order to be able to migrate to new habitats. Thanks to the green corridors planted by BUND, wildcats can disperse safely and establish further populations.
Hubert Weiger, the Chairman of BUND, states: "Our wildcat corridor project proves that in alliance with local communities, reconnecting forest areas is a feasible task. Aided by volunteers and supported by authorities, politicians, and land users, we are able to relink the rare old-growth deciduous forests – which is a crucial contribution to the conservation of biodiversity”.
Since 2004, BUND has been working on such a “Safety Net for the Wildcat”. The project has been classified as a conservation showcase by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), an IUCN Member. Now the organization has been granted 3.8 million Euros by the Federal Nature Conservation Agency (BfN), also an IUCN Member, from the federal aid program for maintaining biodiversity to continue forest reconnection activities and push forward the conservation of the wildcat. Together with BUND’s own resources and contributions from other supporters, 5.2 million Euros are now available for the project. Furthermore, BUND started an awareness raising campaign in 2010 in order to gain public support for biotope networking and wildcat protection which has a volume of 1 million Euros (co-financed by the LIFE+ EU grant).
The number of wildcats in Germany is estimated between 5,000 and 7,000 individuals. In many European countries however, e.g. Poland and the Czech Republic, the wildcat has already become extinct. This is why the species has been chosen by BUND to represent many other forest species endangered by landscape fragmentation in today’s Europe.
The issue of habitat fragmentation and green infrastructure is crucial to European biodiversity. Hence great interest is shown by experts from numerous countries for the Pan-European conference of the Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE) taking place in Potsdam, Germany on 21-24 October 2012. The conference will discuss various aspects of transportation, infrastructure, and ecology. Approximately 200 experts and decision makers from four continents are going to discuss best practices for ecologically sustainable infrastructure. The event starts with a visit to the sites of the three leading habitat reconnection projects in Germany, including one of the sites of the BUND project "Safety Net for the Wildcat“ in Thuringia.
- BUND wildcat corridor project
- Wildcat corridor map
- Printable pictures of the wildcat
- BUND (FoE Germany)
- IENE conference
Contacts for the press
Dr. Friederike Scholz, BUND Expert on wildcat, Tel +49 30 275 86 483, firstname.lastname@example.org