Scientists map the ideal sites where Europe's bison can survive in the wild.

Bison used to roam in enormous herds across Europe, but they became extinct a century ago, with only three dozen remaining in captivity.

Conservation efforts have been successful in returning bison into Europe, and their numbers are increasing. However, in order to assure their long-term survival this time, we must first understand why they nearly became extinct in the first place. 

This is what a team of scientists has set out to do, as well as to identify places where rewilding efforts are most likely to succeed.

To accomplish this, the researchers developed a sophisticated simulation that "combined paleoclimate data, vegetation and habitat information, the population growth and expansion of Palaeolithic humans across Eurasia,

and bison population and dispersal dynamics," as stated in the article. "Historical records, fossil evidence, and ancient DNA were used to independently test the model's accuracy."

They then ran 55,000 simulations to investigate how climate, hunting, and land use changes influenced bison populations across Europe. 

"Toggling off different variables one at a time allowed [us] to test the importance of each variable," they wrote in their paper. 

"If human removal of forests was turned down to zero, for example, and there was no change in bison abundance and range, then [we] would conclude that land use change likely was not a factor in the species' demise."

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