Pioneers into practice- maps for suitable habitats for fauna from the Spanish Red List (IUCN).

As Climate-KIC Pioneer into Practice  I had an opportunity to stay one month in Madrid, Spain. My placement was in Research Group for Sustainable Management SILVANET –FoReStLab, College of Forestry and Natural Environment, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM).

During the placement period, with the colleague Daniel Pop from Romania, and with a help from Vanja Spahič from Slovenia (both were also Pioneers) we created maps for suitable habitats for fauna from the Spanish Red List (IUCN) for our project. Our mentor was Prof. J.A. Manzanera.


Spain (España) country situated in the Iberian Peninsula, has one of the highest degrees of biodiversity in Europe, because of its four varied, major biogeographic regions; Atlantic, Alpine, Mediterranean and Macaronesian, and the country is considered to be one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. In connection with Natura 2000, a European Union initiative, 27% of the country is included in national parks, wildlife reserves and other protected areas.


For this study, we have analysed five different species of mammals and birds from the Spanish IUCN Red List. The species were chosen regarding their status on the IUCN Red list and also regarding their habitats and feeding patterns. The aim was to cover mammals and birds species that have different habits and habitat distribution.

For every chosen species we have described their distribution in Spain, their habitat and feeding patterns; and these parameters: average wind, altitude, temperature, land-use and precipitation.  

Analyzed bird species:

  • Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) -Urogalo comun
  • Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) – Tarabilla nortena
  • Spanish imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti) – Aquila imperial iberica
  • Black vulture (Aegypus monachus) – Buitre negro
  • Black stork (Ciconia nigra) – Cigüeña negra

Analyzed mammal species:

  • Bechstein’s Bat (Myotis bechsteinii) – El murciélago ratonero forestal
  • Broom Hare (Lepus castroviejoi) – La liebre de piornal o de Castroviejo
  • Cabrera’s Vole (Micritus cabrerae) – El topillo de Cabrera
  • Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) – Nutria
  • European Mink (Mustela lutreola) – El visón europeo

GIS methodology

The data used in the process of establishing the habitat suitability for the endangered species consist of the main five characteristics: average winds, precipitation, temperature, land-use and altitude.

The altitude file is a digital elevation model (DEM) from USGS EROS Archive – Digital Elevation – Global 30 Arc-Second Elevation (GTOPO30)[1]. The precision is 30 seconds arc (aprox 1 km) but giving the large surface of study, the use of high accuracy data is affecting the time for reclassification and is large amount of data to be processed.

Average temperature[2] and precipitation[3] data has been downloaded from the national service of maps and geographical information of Spain, a free and useful service for different data regarding climate, vegetation and many more.

From Global Winds Atlas[4] wind data has been obtained for Spain and after the statistics over this raster suggest an average of 5.7 m/s.

The Land-use layer and maybe the most important one was brought from Global Land Cover 2000[5] that offers land cover database over the whole globe from the year 2000 from the vegetation perspective.

Using different intervals for the values of each raster data-set with the reclassification for each class it has been established an agreement for each species of the importance of each class. The importance was graded between 0 and 5, 0 meaning not important and 5 meaning very important for the species.

After the reclassification of every raster data is important to use the ArcGIS Raster Calculator function where for every reclassified layer it has been agreed a percentage of involvement in the habitat of each species. The representation of the raster was divided between 4 intervals 0-50%, 50-70%, 70-90% and 90-100% for each endangered animal taken in study.

1 gtopo30?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

Climate KIC- Pioneers System Innovation tools

To easier solve our problem and find a solution we have used two Climate-KIC Pioneers System Innovation tools – Pentagonal Problem and Cover story.

Pentagonal Problem is a tool that starts with our own perspective on the problem, and helps us to enlarge our understanding by including different aspects of it. Using this tool, we will be better prepared to look for system solutions. A visual exercise helped us to understand a complex problem by dividing it into smaller parts. With a clear understanding of the problem, we have moved onto solutions.

Pentagonal problem

Cover story is a Visioning method (picturing the desirable future and describing what it might look like) which encourages you to imagine a future so brilliant that your success is on media front pages everywhere. This activity challenges us to describe, with words and pictures, the successful future outcome and the process to reach it. We have used use cover story tool  after defining the problem we are facing.

Cover story


We did the analysis of the described factors for every chosen species and after the proceed data we have created map of suitable habitats (combined in ArcGIS and QGIS).

Analysis of the bird species – one example

Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) -Urogalo comun1


Capercaillie is a species linked to the boreal taiga of conifers from all over Eurasia, where it is still abundant. In Spain they live in the Cantabrian mountains in mature deciduous forests, especially beech trees, but also in oak, birch and some planted pine, and in the Pyrenees in beech and beech-fir trees on the northern slope, but in the south it occupies pine trees of black pine and, to a lesser extent measure, of wild pine. Less than 1,500 exists in Spain, where they have experienced one of the biggest declines among all our birds, especially in the Cantabrian area, where the population is considered to be at a regressive process that could lead to extinction.

Diet: The winter diet, exclusively vegetarian, is based on conifer needles, except in deciduous forests, where it consumes buds of birch, heather, fern and beech. These foods are not very nutritious, forcing capercaillie to remain inactive much of the time not to consume energy. The rest of the year it feeds mainly on leaves, sprouts and blueberries.

Temperature: average annual 11-15 °C

Winds: 1-5 m/s

Precipitation: 1000 – 1500 mm/year.

Distance to urban areas: Mountains- conifers and beech forest, far from humans areas.

The species is listed in the Red Book of the birds of Spain (2004) as “Endangered” (EN).

Suitable habitats for capercaillie in Span


The average values of suitability for the chosen species from the IUCN Red List are above 60 % in mainland Spain. The highest suitability for the species is, approximately, in their current range of distribution, but also in some parts where they are not present at the moment. If there will be (re)introduction of the particular species into the area where they are not present at the moment, the detailed study has to be done before releasing into the wild; if the selected species inhabited that area before, what are the consequences of the reintroduction, consultations with the other stakeholders, etc. It is also important to calculate what is a minimum viable population, what is carrying capacity and what is the optimum sustainable population1 for the selected species in the chosen area. Continual monitoring, analysis and assessment, including sharing results to the publicis necessary.

1 Daniel B. Botkin and Edward A.Keller “Wildlife, Fisheries and Endangered species” in Environmental Science – Earth as a living planet, p.267
2 Daniel B. Botkin and Edward A.Keller “Wildlife, Fisheries and Endangered species” in Environmental Science – Earth as a living planet, p.272

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