Nores, C. & López-Bao, J.V. (2022). Historical data to inform the legal status of species in Europe: An example with wolves. Biological Conservation 272: 109639
Historical information is useful to set conservation baselines and, in turn, to inform the legal status of species and habitats. The conservation value of historic data has been acknowledged in international and national conservation laws, such as in the case of the implementation of the European Habitats Directive of 1992, and the guiding criteria for listing species and populations on the Spanish List of Threatened Species (BOE-A-2017-2977). We use the example of the debate on the appropriate legal status of wolves in Spain, and variation in wolves’ range over the last two centuries, to illustrate the value of historical data to objectively inform legal decisions on the status of species. We carried out a quantitative analysis, using different methodological approaches, of the evolution of the range of wolves in Spain using historical information available in the geographical dictionaries edited by Pascual Madoz, in 1846–1850, and Germán Bleiberg, in 1956–1961 (>5800 and >7500 wolf records, respectively), as well as recent information on the range of the species in the last decade (2012–2020). Regardless of the approach used, or the historical time period considered, we estimated that, overall, wolves in Spain have not suffered a reduction in their historic range of ≥50 % over the last 100 years. We draw attention, however, to interpretative uncertainties of the law in relation to the interpretation of the term “historic range”, which require clarification from the Scientific Committee advising the Spanish Government.