The endangered Bonellis eagle, Aquila fasciata, has a unique population in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA), Portugal. In Europe, it is the only known population of this priority species to survive in a densely populated area and to nest exceptionally close to human settlements. The European Bonellis eagle population is endangered, but recovering from a severe decline during the 1980s. Tree-nesting breeding adaptation is aiding a notable trend inversion in less populated southern Portugal. However, there is no evidence of a positive trend for the LMA population. In this context, mitigation of the identified threats requires an interdisciplinary, cooperative approach based on socio-economic data and the support and promotion of private land conservation initiatives, particularly outsider protected areas. Thus, this conservation project is structured under the land stewardship approach, not yet a common practice in Portugal, and the European Land Conservation Network. The land stewardship approach is greatly suited to addressing property and use rights, and to test incentives related to protection of breeding sites, in order to bind Bonellis eagle stakeholders and policy-makers to the effective, sustainable land management necessary for this species conservation.
The LIFE LxAquila project will create a land stewardship network for the conservation of the vulnerable peri-urban population of Bonelli's eagle in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA) in Portugal. This population represents the best European genetic heritage of this priority species for addressing adaptation to future habitat changes caused by increased human presence. Project partners and landowners of nest sites will form the basis of the network, and will implement and monitor conservation actions to mitigate the major threats.
The main project objectives are to: Protect Bonellis eagle in the peri-urban, agro-forested landscape of LMA through the long-term protection of breeding sites and enhancement of hunting areas, by reducing disturbance during breeding season and human-induced mortality; Establish an innovative, long-lasting and cooperative platform for Bonellis eagle conservation that empowers, and encourages to act, key stakeholders (such as landowners, land managers), and that facilitates policy-making and adaptive strategies in face of global threats, such as habitat loss and degradation, and climate change; Implement and promote the land stewardship network concept for nature conservation inPortugal, in line with the European Land Conservation Network, particularly in peri-urban areas and private land outside protected areas, and prepare its replication and regulatory uptake; Demonstrate and assess its impact, and disseminate strategies of land-use planning and agro-forestry management that reconcile rural development with biodiversity conservation and boost sustainable socio-economy and regional distinctiveness and competitiveness, which can be replicated across other European contexts; Raise awareness of civil society for the importance of predator conservation and its compatibility with human development by using an umbrella, flagship species surviving under human pressure transforming the community into guardians of their neighbouring natural values.
The project contributes to the implementation of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy, especially Target 3 (Increase the contribution of agriculture and forestry to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity); Birds Directive (Bonellis eagle is an Annex I species); EU Forest Strategy and climate policy relating to forest resilience; and the EU Action Plan for the Bonellis eagle through recommendations for the species range in Portugal.
Expected results: Bonellis eagle ecological parameters assessed in the project area (distribution, breeding sites, main juvenile dispersal areas and breeding parameters); 7 juvenile eagles tagged and tracked; Priority social aspects on human-raptor coexistence in peri-urban areas identified; At least 50 stakeholders engaged in the stewardship network; At least 37 long-term land stewardship agreements with landowners (at least one per targeted nest) covering at least 315 ha of buffer area around the nests; Contain at least 90% of the disturbance events and other threats detected; Increased Bonellis eagle population, to 18 occupied territories and at least 1 juvenile/pair; 100 most dangerous pylons of power lines made safe; At least 250 patrols of canine teams during the project to detect illegal poisoning; 55 ha of managed habitat for fire prevention in 2 high fire risk territories; Three acclimation enclosures and 8 artificial warrens for wild rabbit; 200 ha of managed habitat for wild prey in 3 wild prey-depleted territories; Four stewardship network meetings (one per year); At least 19 participatory workshops with stakeholder groups for feedback on social perceptions and for dissemination, replication and transfer of the network concept, targeting 200 stakeholders inside and outside the project area; At least 250 environmental awareness and educational activities; At least 22 school groups involved in the environmental education plan, targeting 20 000 students and 650 teachers; At least 7 500 people reached by environmental awareness activities, such as the Eagles days, the Festival of Raptors and participation at local events, and the development of an environmental education virtual reality app; At least 90 000 people reached by general project information activities with the use of online media and partners media (social networks, information boards, websites, etc); Presence at national and international scientific and conservation events and one international symposium organised in the project area; Evaluation of project's impact on socio-economy and ecosystem services; Short documentary on Bonellis eagle conservation and the stewardship network in peri-urban landscapes; Live streaming webcam from a Bonellis eagle nest; Custom-tailored Conservation Action Plans integrated in upcoming revisions of at least 5 Municipal Master Plans, 5 Municipal Fire Protection Master Plans and 3 Forest Management Plans and 2 Management Plans of Natural Parks, targeting the most vulnerable territories, mainly outside protected areas; and Best-practice guidelines on Bonellis eagle and other endangered species conservation in peri-urban landscapes in Europe and recommendations for private land conservation policies in Portugal, targeting stakeholders, landowners and also the general public.