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LPO Aude’s role within the context of LIFE GYPCONNECT covers the study areas located in the Aude, Ariège and Eastern Pyrenees.
Located at the junction between the Pyrenees mountain range in the South and the Massif Central in the North, this area is one of the most important regarding exchanges between the different Bearded Vulture core populations: in the South, it is home to the 2 current breeding pairs of the Pyrenees that are closest to the Massif Central and the excellent weather conditions provide the birds that move between the Pyrenees and Massif Central with a crucial corridor.
Within the LIFE GYPCONNECT program, LPO Aude is in charge of coordinating actions relevant to the availability of food resources for the Bearded Vulture. It also coordinates the actions to counter risks associated with windfarms and is involved in Bearded Vulture population monitoring operations, threat reduction, communication and events campaigns.
It was decided that the LIFE GYPCONNECT program would focus on the availability of food resources in the areas where the species is present, to promote mobility and exchanges between the core populations. The area under the responsibility of LPO Aude includes the foothills of the Pyrenees, the Corbières mountain range and the Montagne Noire in the South of the Massif Central. Operations focused on boosting food availability for the Bearded Vulture require 3 installations:
LPO AUDE, where 2 specific feeding sites were installed within the framework of the Bonebreaker Network in the Pyrenees, had also prepared and built 2 additional sites: one in the Massif Central along the main circulation corridor where a new pair could settle and the other in the Black Mountain range. The creation of the 2 new additional sites ensures that food resources are constantly available between the Pyrenees and the southern area of the Massif Central.
In addition to the specific feeding sites network, the network of rendering sites on breeder properties comes into play. In the area, the sites existing prior to LIFE GYPCONNECT involved 14 installations for 30 breeding farms. LPO Aude has pledged to create 2 to 6 new sites. In early 2016, 4 new permit applications for 9 breeders had been transmitted to the Ministry for Social Protection (DDCSPP).
Since 2011, and under specific conditions, a European decree authorizes natural rendering practices outside of existing sites. The implementation of this permit in France is envisaged for all summer pastures in the Pyrenees that are included in the scope of the program.
It is now a proven fact that the installation of windfarms in areas where large raptors are present has significant negative impacts on the species, including fatal collisions and loss of hunting grounds and food availability. Due to its ability to fly even in the most difficult weather conditions (fog, rain, snow), the Bearded Vulture is particularly exposed to collision risks. The current multiplication of windfarm installations, all too often indifferent to this factor, is a particularly preoccupying issue for the future of large raptors in the area.
The Aude region and LPO Aude constitute, within the LIFE GYPCONNECT program, a reference in the field due to their long-standing experience in this local issue (presence of the oldest windfarm in France). In view of the challenges that stem from collisions and the loss of food availability, the GYPCONNECT program has planned 2 specific actions: