Technology to Protect the Environment and Biodiversity

Published on Tuesday, 12 January 2016

In 1971, Paul R. Ehrlich and John P. Holdren summarised the impact of human activities on natural systems in an equation, in the book “Impact of Population Growth”. According to the study, environmental impact depends on three factors: population size, its well-being or quality of life (measured in terms of consumption or production per capita) and technology. According to the two scientists, an increase in pollution was registered when prosperity and population increased. Technology has a reverse effect, as it helps to reduce the emissions of production and consumption.

As emphasised at the recent COP21 in Paris, technological improvement and innovation can help offset the negative effects of demographic and economic growth. This view is firmly shared by Enel, a global leader in the energy sector, traditionally committed to the responsible management of ecosystems and natural resources in its activities.

In particular, the protection of biodiversity is a strategic objective in Enel's environmental policy. The Group's projects in this field include studies, inventories and monitoring plans on sensitive species, reintroduction programmes for native species, reforestation, work on power lines and plant infrastructures. In order to contribute to the objectives of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the 2011-2020  Plan for Biodiversity, Enel has developed a specific policy for all of the Group’s initiatives to protect biodiversity.

In Spain, Enel Green Power España, the Regional Council of Andalusia for the Environment and Protection of Land and Microsensory (a Spanish company specialised in GPS systems) signed an agreement regarding a species protected by the European Union, the lynx pardinus or Iberian lynx.

The initiative aims to develop a system to track and monitor felines through drones, replacing the current method which involves the use of radio tracking collars for the animals. Enel Green Power España will finance the creation of the drone by the company Microsensory, while the regional government of Andalusia will contribute with its scientific and technical know-how and will verify that the device is working properly.

To date, the lynx, which was reintroduced into forests as part of a programme to repopulate the species, was monitored with a radio signal attached to the felines collars. “The radios have so far offered valuable information on the territory, as well as the area inhabited by these felines, but monitoring activities highly depend on the type of terrain and require daily human supervision,” declares José Fiscal, Regional Minister of Andalusia.

Spain has made a huge effort to increase the population of the Iberian lynx – a “lesser cousin” of the Eurasian lynx – in its forests, after the species almost became extinct at the end of the last century. Among the causes that have threatened the extinction of these felines are poaching, the loss of their natural habitat and a plague that hit the rabbits, their usual prey. The species decreased in 2002 to just 94 animals, confined to two small areas in Andalusia. Thanks to controlled lynx breeding programmes and a sustained effort to protect the forests that are home to them, the number grew to 327 units by the end of 2014.

Last month, the return of the Iberian lynx in the Guadarrama valley forests near Madrid was confirmed by a team of researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), thanks to DNA tests on their droppings.

A success achieved through the joint effort of authorities, associations and companies, which has allowed the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to lower the threat category of the Iberian lynx from CR (Critically Endangered) to EN (Endangered) last July. There is still much work to be done  to ensure the survival of the species, but the results in raising the level of protection of the Iberian lynx show once again the importance of the role played by technology. A path along which Enel will continue to persevere. And continue to follow with determination.