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Hunters key in biodiversity battle

A new scientific study published in April 2020 by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in combination with the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research highlights the unique and important niche that hunters fill in the monitoring of biodiversity across Europe.

Monitoring biodiversity in Europe is usually very costly and time consuming and often resources from governments are limited. There are mainly four aspects that makes the work and engagement of hunters so valuable for management authorities and researchers:

- During their hunting activity and the management of their hunting grounds, hunters collect diverse data on biodiversity characteristics such as species populations, species traits, genetic composition, or community composition. Since hunting grounds cover most of the European countryside, hunters ensure the collection of data over an adequate and large-scale resolution.

- Hunting data can provide time-series that cover different seasons or range even over several decades which make these datasets useful for monitoring changes in biodiversity and ecosystems.

- Hunters collect characteristics mainly on hunted species and those species that are easy to identify with high precision. Species misidentification or other uncertainties are therefore less of an issue when making usage of hunters’ data.

- Through the delivery of biological samples (e.g. jaw bones, wings, tissues) from harvested animals, hunters provide data on demographics and health of animals which would have been otherwise not obtainable.

“A key point of our study is that collaborations between hunters and scientists are fruitful and should be considered a standard partnership for biodiversity conservation. A result of this is that many of the game species are among the best studied wildlife species we have in Europe,” says the lead author, Benjamin Cretois, based at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

In this study, Cretois and his colleagues investigated hunters’ contribution to the monitoring of five broad functional species groups: “ungulates”, “large carnivores”, “waterfowl”, “other birds” and “small game”. The results indicate that in 32 out of the 36 European counties, hunter-based monitoring of at least one species group is in place which underlines the important role of hunters in the monitoring process of Europe’s biodiversity (see image). A role that is now acknowledged by the scientific community.

“We think that our review has only revealed the tip of the iceberg because a lot of the monitoring activity conducted by hunters is not readily accessible to scientists. We hope that this study can stimulate a broader engagement between hunters and researchers, bringing benefits to both,” says senior scientist and co-author John Linnell at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.

In 2019, FACE (European Federation for Hunting and Conservation) produced a Biodiversity Manifesto (BDM) report which focused on the contribution of hunters to the monitoring of biodiversity. With over 300 projects, this report successfully showed hunters’ engagement for biodiversity conservation via research/monitoring and it is encouraging that this report is complemented and supported by an article in a scientific journal.

Latest FACE Report

This year, FACE published a new BDM report, which shows that 52 per cent of the 430 initiatives undertaken by hunters for nature conservation focused on research/monitoring.

The 5th report of the FACE Biodiversity Manifesto is based on 430 initiatives undertaken by European hunters that contribute to biodiversity conservation. The report demonstrates how hunters actively conserve biodiversity via species and habitat management, research and monitoring as well as communication and awareness raising. While multiple actions are implemented, this report shows that hunters invest considerable resources into species conservation and the restoration of wetlands, farmland and forest habitats.

More specifically, this report focuses on how hunters’ actions contribute to achieving the targets set in the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020. The FACE Biodiversity Manifesto offers a relevant framework for such an assessment as it is directly related to four of the six targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020.

The findings of this report are relevant because the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 is currently under review and discussions are underway for a new EU strategy to 2030. This is why FACE decided to highlight the contribution of Europe’s hunters to the achievement of the EU Biodiversity Strategy goals.

The evidence presented in this report shows that over 135 projects (31 per cent) are undertaken on Natura 2000 sites, 41 per cent of the projects focus on protected species and 50 per cent have an important sustainable use dimension. This demonstrates the contribution of hunters to achieving target one of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020.

Furthermore, 49 per cent of projects are focused on the conservation and restoration of habitats, 23 per cent on green infrastructure, with 25 per cent on ecosystem services. These actions are relevant, in particular, to targets two and partly three of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020. Many projects are also focused implementing target five (Invasive Alien Species) of the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020.

The projects captured in the BDM demonstrate hunters’ commitment to conservation and their contribution to current EU nature policy goals, which ambitiously aim to prevent biodiversity loss by 2020 (Target six).

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