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New agreement between UB and Red Eléctrica España to study Egyptian vulture populations in Catalonia

The new agreement will contribute to know better how to improve the conservation of the Egyptian vulture (<i>Neophron percnopterus</i>). Photo: Jordi Baucells

The new agreement will contribute to know better how to improve the conservation of the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus). Photo: Jordi Baucells

02/06/2014

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To make an accurate evaluation of the conservation status of Egyptian vulture populations and to determine the factors that explain its increase in Central and East Catalonia are the main objectives of the agreement signed by the University of Barcelona (UB) and Red Eléctrica España – SAU, which is the sole transmission agent and operator of the Spanish electricity system.

The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is a necrophagous bird distributed from Asia to the Middle East, the circum-Mediterranean region, some areas in the South of the Sahara and some Atlantic islands, such the Canary Islands. For several years, the Conservation Biology Group of UB, affiliated with the Department of Animal Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute of UB (IRBio), and the Grup de Naturalistes d’Osona have been developing a monitoring programme of a population of Egyptian vultures in Central and East Catalonia, an area where experts have observed a progressive population increase.

 

The Egyptian vulture, the species’ decline in the Iberian Peninsula

Joan Real, professor from the Department of Animal Biology and head of the Conservation Biology Group, affirms that “the Egyptian vulture population in the Peninsula Iberia, with more than 1,500 pairs, is the largest one in the Western Palearctic, and probably the largest one in the world”. However, Iberian populations are in decline and they are even considered endangered populations. For instance, populations studied and monitored during some decades in Andalucia, Castilla y León and the Ebro Valley have experienced an important decline and even disappeared in some parts.

“This species faces a number of threats across its range —points out Joan Real—, but it has been observed that some Egyptian vulture populations in the Iberian Peninsula are not in decline; on the contrary, they are increasing and colonising new areas”. This is the case of Catalonia, where Egyptian vulture populations have increased for the last decades. It is crucial to know which factors have enabled the success of Catalan’s populations to know better how to improve species conservation in the Iberian Peninsula.


To know how to improve species conservation

The new agreement sets up a monitoring programme that will include the elaboration of a detailed census of Egyptian vultures, the calculation of reproductive rates, the individual study of chicks, and the analysis of population viability. With these aims, experts want to obtain relevant and significant information in order to know the factors that limit Egyptian vulture populations and to establish conservation protocols to be applied to the rest of endangered populations in the Iberian Peninsula and Europe.


Collaboration with institutions and environmental organizations

The key elements of the programme are the collaboration and positive synergies established between the UB research group and environmental organizations like the Grup de Naturalistes d’Osona, the natural parks of Montserrat and Zona Volcànica de la Garrotxa of the Government of Catalonia and the Parc Natural de Sant Llorenç del Munt of the Barcelona Provincial Council. The Group of Rangers of the Government of Catalonia collaborates in fieldwork tasks. Moreover, the Barcelona Provincial Council and the Government of Catalonia provide technical and administrative support to develop the project.

 

 

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