First Master’s thesis on the lanner falcon

Great achievements within the LIFE project

On March 25th, at the Universit√† degli Studi della Tuscia, Dr. Lucrezia Badalassi brilliantly discussed her Master of Science thesis. The title of her work is “A multidisciplinary approach to the conservation of an endangered species: the lanner falcon as a case study”. Research and analyses were conducted for several months under the guidance of Dr. For. Giuseppe Puddu, LIFE Lanner technical manager, and Dr. Carlo Catoni, of project partner Ornis italica. This was the first MSc thesis developed within the project, and others will certainly follow. The involvement of students and early career researchers is instrumental to the transfer of technical knowledge and passion, essential elements for the study and conservation of nature.

Lucrezia on her graduation day
Lucrezia just after discussing her MSc thesis on the lanner falcon

All project staff is sending their best wishes to Lucrezia, newly graduated in Forest Conservation and Restoration (LM-73) with full marks and honours.

The lanner falcon as a case study

Dr. Badalassi’s work approaches conservation from several points of view, integrating land use data for the Lazio region and GPS data from young specimens released in the summer of 2020. In recent decades, the areas historically occupied by breeding lanner couples in Lazio have undergone a change in land use in favour of forest and shrub areas. As a result, there has been a reduction in open environments. To hunt its prey, Lanner falcons needs wide open spaces. In fact, among the hypotheses put forward in the thesis we have that, in Lazio, the ideal habitats for the lanner falcon are increasingly rare.

Threats to the lanner falcon: thesis results

From the analyses carried out in the thesis, the change in land use appears as a concrete threat to the lanner falcon. Previously available large open areas, representing the ideal territory for hunting, are now covered by trees or shrubs. As you can read in our brief report on the species, this type of vegetation is far from ideal. In fact, for a bird of prey that prefers steppes, uncultivated fields, and also desertic areas, this change is a very difficult challenge.

Our commitment: safeguarding the lanner’s habitat

The safeguard of ideal nesting and foraging habitats for the lanner falcon is among the main objectives of LIFE Lanner. The aim is to bring the Lazio region back to supporting the population it used to host until some years ago. Another essential step in this direction is the securing of power lines in the project focus areas, as we have talked about here. Evaluating the flights performed by juvenile lanners is another critical element for understanding the needs of the species. This was possible for Dr. Badalassi thanks to the GPS tags the specimens released last year were equipped with. In the coming months we will go back to releasing young birds and monitoring them via satellite, enriching the movement ecology database of this otherwise little known species.

Front page of the master's thesis on lanner falcon conservation
The front page of the MSc thesis on lanner falcon conservation