What is EUROWILDCAT?

ABOUT THE SPECIES

The European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris Schreber, 1775) is a medium-sized carnivore (body weight: 3-5 Kg) (Kery et al. 2011) distributed in fragmented populations from southern Italy to Scotland and from Portugal to Romania (Nowell and Jackson 1996), clustered in five main genetic groups, representing distinct biogeographic units (Oliveira et al. 2018) (see Fig. below). It is listed in Appendix II (CITES) of the Bern Convention and on the EU Habitats and Species Directive (Annex IV) as a “Strict protected species” (Yamaguchi et al. 2015). As is often the case nowadays, habitat loss and fragmentation due to human activity are the major threats for the species across the European contemporary multi-use landscapes (Lozano and Malo 2012, Yamaguchi et al. 2015).

One of the major barriers to the effective conservation of the wildcat in Europe is the lack of information regarding its current status and population trends (Macdonald et al. 2004). There have been no recent large scale surveys or European regional reviews of the status of the species (Macdonald et al. 2004).

Fig. Description – Distribution range and the five biogeographic groups (BGUs) of the European wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris) (Oliveira et al. 2018): eastern and Dinaric Alps (BGU1); Italian peninsula and Sicily (BGU2); central Germany (BGU3); France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and southwestern Germany (BGU4); Iberian Peninsula (BGU5); eastern Europe (Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary) and Scotland, samples with highly admixed/introgressed individuals, therefore not assigned to any specific BGU (ADM).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kery, M., Gardner, B., Stoeckle, T., Weber, D., & Royle, J. A. (2011). Use of spatial capture-recapture modeling and DNA data to estimate densities of elusive animals. Conservation Biology, 25(2), 356-364;

Lozano, J., & Malo, A. F. (2012). Conservation of European wildcat (Felis silvestris) in Mediterranean environments: a reassessment of current threats. Mediterranean ecosystems: dynamics, management and conservation. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, NY, 1-31;

Macdonald, D.W., Daniels, M.J., Driscoll, C.A., Kitchener, A.C. and Yamaguchi, N. 2004. The Scottish Wildcat: analyses for conservation and an action plan, Oxford: WildCRU;

Nowell, K., & Jackson, P. (1996). Status survey and conservation action plan: Wild cats. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources;

Oliveira, T., Urra, F., López‐Martín, J. M., Ballesteros‐Duperón, E., Barea Azcón, J. M., Moléon, M., … & Monterroso, P. (2018). Females know better: Sex‐biased habitat selection by the European wildcat. Ecology and evolution, 8(18), 9464-9477;

Yamaguchi, N., Kitchener, A., Driscoll, C., & Nussberger, B. (2015). Felis silvestris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e. T60354712A50652361. En.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

The EUROWILDCAT project takes advantage from the experience of the existing the EUropean ROe DEER Information System (EURODEER). First of all, it is an open network of researchers who collaborate sharing data and knowledge to produce better science, based on a spatial database that stores shared movement data and a wide set of ancillary information. This spatial database, built upon open source software (mainly: PostgreSQL + PostGIS + R) and hosted at Fondazione Edmund Mach, can be connected to a large set of client applications (GIS, web interfaces, statistics) to help storing, managing, accessing and analysing tracking data from several research groups throughout Europe.

GOALS

The ultimate goal of the EUROWILDCAT project is to investigate ecological aspects that require the collaboration and data sharing of multiple institutes and researchers. Joining knowledge and information from different study areas and research projects open up many perspectives for scientists at both global and local scale. The final goal is to produce knowledge and in particular to support a science-driven sustainable management of environmental resources and conservation. In a nutshell:

EUROWILDCAT IS ABOUT COLLABORATIVE SCIENCE

Data sharing is only one of the elements. In fact, what is peculiar to EUROWILDCAT as compared to other data sharing project is that the collection, quality control, standardization and sharing of data and of the e-infrastructure to manage and analyze them is not an objective per se, for example to to make available raw data and tools to third parties, but  rather tasks needed to create a scientific network of scientists that collaborate to produce science.

The activities of the project that underpin the intense and motivating collaboration between researchers based on the shared data and tools can be summarized as follow:

  • Effectively store and archive roe deer location data across Europe
  • Encourage collaborations to work on several aspects of animal ecology jointly
  • Inspire discussions to identify research gaps
  • Promote accessibility of large scale datasets to address research questions at multiple spatio-temporal scales, as approved by data owners
  • Promote education of young researchers, particularly on topics related to data management, movement ecology and collaborative science
  • Promote an open approach to science, which include both data sharing and use and development of open source tools

EUROWILDCAT SPECIFICITIES

What is specific to EUROWILDCAT is that the main goal is not to share data per se or to make them available to the general public but rather to create a scientific network to investigate biological aspects that can be disclosed only analyzing data coming from different study areas and with the support of field knowledge gained by researchers working with animals in different conditions. As a direct consequence, data store in the database are species specific and are not limited to tracking data. Additional information like capture, study area, population, management regimes etc. are not seen as metadata of tracking data but as proper data sets with lots of information standardized among groups. Ultimately, the database and related tools for data management and analysis, are one of the tools needed for collaborative science but it is not the final output of the project.

BACKGROUND

After a productive workshop in the Bavarian Forest National Park in November 2018, inspired by the example and success of the EURODEER network, it was decided that a research network focused on European wildcat should be founded. With support of the EUROMAMMALS team we have been able to put together the infrastructure for the network together. For a list of current network partners, see here.

EUROWILDCAT is a dynamic project and we are all very open to new interesting perspectives and ways to explore the huge amount of data in the database. Any contribution and active participation to the project are very welcome! You are very welcome to contact us.