Bearded Vultures and Protected Areas: Importance for distribution and reproduction

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A. Schwarzenberger, J.Laass & R.Zink

The bearded vulture went extinct in the Alps in the early 20th century. An international reintroduction program was started in 1986, based on the release of young bearded vultures born and reared in captivity. Up to 2012 a total of 184 birds have been released in the Austrian, French, Italian and Swiss Alps, the vast majority within protected areas. Since 1997 a total of 92 birds have fledged in the wild.

Observations from the whole Alpine Arc are being collected in the central online database of the International Bearded Vulture Monitoring (IBM), a collaboration of 12 partners all over the Alps. Currently about 55.000 observations are documented. For this study observation data from 2003 to 2012 and all reproduction events from 1996 to 2012 were used. For the analysis protected areas provided by ALPARC have been used.
Considering the Alpine part of each country, the observations of bearded vultures are quite evenly distributed. Fifty-one percent of observations have been located in protected areas. There was a considerable difference in the amount of data located inside protected areas between countries. Whereas in France 78% have been located inside in Switzerland this was found for only 28%. The majority of observations are found in National parks (79% of all observations inside protected areas).

No difference in the distribution has been found for the different age classes of bearded vultures on an Alpine scale. Since 1996 151 breeding events have been recorded in the Alps.

Out of these, 92 young bearded vultures have fledged in the wild. 65% of the 151 breeding events have been located within protected areas, but again relevant differences among the countries have been noted (Italy 92%, Austria 62%, France 53%, Switzerland 52%). On an Alpine scale bearded vultures have been almost equally successful breeding inside (62%) and outside (58%) protected areas. 

Overall, 51% of all reported observations of bearded vultures and 65% of all reproduction events of the species have been located in protected areas in the Alps, which were estimated at 25% of the area covered by the Alpine arc. Thus protected areas definitely are centres of the known bearded vulture distribution in the Alps.

(Author : Richard Zink) 

ALPARC - The Alpine Network of Protected Areas

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