The meadow viper Vipera ursinii includes four subspecies with five allopatric areas of distribution in Europe. It is currently considered one of the most threatened reptile species on the continent, mainly because of its patchy distribution and concurrent habitat loss. Taking advantage of a database composed of occurrence data from bibliographical sources and field observations, we present the first European-scale assessment of the historical knowledge and chronogeonemy of this species. In addition, we evaluate the habitat use and coverage of protected areas with regard to both actual occurrences and modelled potentially suitable areas. This was done for Vipera ursinii s.l. as well as for each of the four subspecies. Our results show different patterns of historical knowledge as well as different degrees of legal protection, depending on the country and subspecies considered. Furthermore, most of the occurrences are from habitats which are classified as vulnerable. A gap analysis reveals an inadequate protection status for modelled areas of potential suitability and a heterogeneous coverage of protected areas, again depending on the subspecies considered. Our findings assist towards a more focused conservation management of all V. ursinii subspecies in the next future, which could take place by connecting landscape-scale research with field studies to update management strategies of protected areas. For these latter, Europe-wide coordinated actions are required to promote plans targeting the same conservation goals.
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Vol. 2020 • No. 2