The IENE 2012 international conference and practical field excursions on ecology and transportation will be held from 21-24 October 2012 in Potsdam-Berlin, Germany. The conference, whose theme this year is ‘Safeguarding ecological functions across transport infrastructure’, is being organised by the Infra Eco Network Europe (IENE) in cooperation with the German Federal Government and the Swedish Transport Administration. Some 200 experts and decision-makers from four continents are expected 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 (Friends of the Earth Germany project) ‘Safety Net for the European wildcat’ in Thuringia. This large-scale project is aiming to restore a network of forest habitats that total 20 000 km in length – one of the largest forest corridor networks in Central Europe.
The wildcat initiative is benefitting from activities carried out as part of ‘Netze des Lebens’, a LIFE Information & Communication project that BUND launched in 2008. The goal of ‘Netze des Lebens’ (“Networks of life”) is to raise awareness and increase acceptance of the necessity of connecting forest ecosystems, thereby creating corridors for migratory species, such as the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris).
The ‘Safety Net for the European wildcat’ project is mapping migration routes for the species using results from studies on wildcat habitat use. The project, which incorporates forest connections to neighbouring countries, offers a model for biotope networking across national borders. Meetings have been held with experts from neighbouring countries, such as Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland.
The German wildcat population is estimated at just 5 000-7 000 individuals; populations in neighbouring Poland and the Czech Republic have already become extinct. Owing to its endangered status, the European wildcat was chosen by BUND to represent many other forest species threatened by landscape fragmentation in Europe.
Hubert Weiger, the chairman of BUND, said: "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 – a crucial contribution to the conservation of biodiversity.”
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