Forensics could be used to safeguard biodiversity

A new project led by Staffordshire University and funded by Horizon Europe aims to contribute forensic intelligence to help protecting endangered species such as wolf, bear, lynx, or sturgeon from remote parts of Europe. Over the next three years, the NATURE FIRST project will bring together 12 global partners to safeguard biodiversity and protect the habitats of many animal species that are currently threatened by human activities, by developing proactive and preventive capabilities for nature conservation and law enforcement through a combination of forensic intelligence and remote sensing technologies.

Spanning Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia and Spain, this project will focus on regions such as the Carpathian Mountains, the Danube Delta, the Stara Planina Mountains, the Os Ancares and the O Courel, by drawing upon real-time data from satellites, drones, cameras, and other technological devices to closely monitor these locations.

“The overall aim is to halt and reverse the decline of biodiversity in Europe. We want to improve natural habitats where certain species are an incredibly important part of the ecosystem. To achieve this, we need a better understanding of why and where biodiversity is declining and what the key triggers are,” explained Claire Gwinnett, a professor of Forensic and Environmental Science at Staffordshire.

“As most of the threats and pressures on biodiversity are man-induced, this project will combine ecology and forensic science. This novel approach will use remote sensing technologies, machine learning and wildlife forensic methods to detect and recognize traces of human activities that negatively affect the environment.”

The regions that the scientists will investigate cover vast land masses that can’t be easily monitored from the ground. Thus, the use of advanced technologies to detect biodiversity threats – such as poaching of flora and fauna, trafficking and trading of rare animals and plants, or setting fires to forests and other natural areas for agricultural and commercial purposes – is essential for preserving biodiversity.

“The aim of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 is to ensure that ecosystems are healthy, resilient to climate change and rich in biodiversity so that they can keep delivering the range of services essential to the prosperity and well-being of all of us. We are excited to be taking positive steps to help achieve this by working with such a fantastic group of global partners,” Gwinnett concluded.

By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer

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