RI.CO.PR.I. Restoration and conservation of dry grasslands in southern and central Italy
The main objective of RICOPRI is the restoration and conservation of two priority habitat related to dry grassland having the following code: 6210 “Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia) ( * important orchid sites) and 6220 “Pseudo-steppe with grasses and annuals of the Thero- Brachypodietea”.
The project takes place in three sites of Community importance (SCI) belonging to Natura 2000 EU network: two of them are located in the Province of Rome (“Monti Ruffi – versante sud-ovest” in the town of Cerreto Laziale, and “Monte Guadagnolo” in the town of Capranica Prenestina) and the third is “Dolomiti di Pietrapertosa” in the town of Pietrapertosa (Province of Potenza) inside the regional park Gallipoli Cognato Piccole Dolomiti Lucane. The first habitat, Festuco-Brometalia grasslands,
present in almost all EU member states, are among the most species-rich plant communities
in Europe and contain a large number of rare and endangered species. The second habitat,
Pseudo-steppe of Thero-Brachypodietea has a typical Mediterranean distribution, with a
significant area located in Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta. An
additional objective is the conservation of the butterfly species associated with these habitats,
in particular Eriogaster catax and Melanargia arge.
The area with these two priority habitats is being constantly and dramatically reduced and for
this reason they are considered among the most threatened ecosystems in Europe (EC 2008,
LIFE and Europe’s grasslands: Restoring a forgotten habitat). In Italy there has been a
reduction of 38% of the total area between 1970 and 2000 (Ministero Politiche Agricole
Alimentari e Forestali 2005, Contributo tematico alla stesura del piano strategico nazionale.
Gruppo di lavoro “Biodiversità e sviluppo rurale”), while within the EU there has been a 12%
between 1975 and 1988 and of 12,8% between 1990 and 2003 (FAO 2006, FAO Statistical
Yearbook. – FAOSTAT). A situation which is reflected also in the Natura 2000 sites in which
the proposed project will take place. In one of the areas of intervention, just to furnish an
example, within the the Monti Ruffi site, the extension of the Pseudo-steppe with grasses and
annuals habitat has gone from 55% of the total area to 30%, since the designation of the site.
The reduction of total area is accompanied by a severe fragmentation of the remaining
grassland areas and by a decline in the species dependent on these two habitats: at the EU
level the population of some species has decreased by as much as 20-50% (EC 2008, “LIFE
and Europe’s grasslands: Restoring a forgotten habitat”).
A significant example is connected to butterflies. According to the ”European Grassland
Butterfly Indicator” grassland butterflies population has dropped drastically by almost 60%
from 1990 and is continuing to shrink (AEA, 2009). Out of a total of 436 species in Europe
274 are dependent on dry grasslands (“The European Butterfly Indicator for Grassland
species 1990-2007”, Van Swaay, C.A.M. & Van Strien, A.J., 2008).
Two provinces, one regional natural park, one university and one farmers union will share their
efforts to reach the following objectives:
– Apply best practice and demonstration actions to protect and restore the two habitats and
the butterfly species associated to them within the three Natura 2000 sites.
– Reduce/eliminate the threats to the habitats/species, in particular abandonment and/or
unregulated grazing and invasion of alien species.
– Establish a common approach for the long-term protection of these habitats based on
sound monitoring of the two habitats and of the butterflies species which depend on them
– Increase the level of awareness of local population and stakeholders on the importance of
– Estimation of the economic value of the two habitats, both in terms of products (milk, meat
and derivates) and of ecosystem services, taking into account the documentation
produced internationally, such as, for instance the System for Environmental and
Economic Accounting, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and the TEEB.
The project will take place in three sites on the Apennines, two within the Rome Province and
one within the Potenza province, both part of the Mediterranean biogeographical region.
Name of project: Monte Ruffi
the SIC “Monte Ruffi (southwest side)” is located in the south-west of the mountain range of limestone mountains and includes Mount Tossichi and Colle Sacrestia. In particular it is bounded by the Fioio Ditch to the north, from the Valley Figuzza east, Lazio to the south from the town of Cerreto and the valley of the River Fiumicino airport to the west. The site covers an area of 579.4 ha, for the most part privately owned, and falls within the towns of Latium and Ciciliano Cerreto, in the Province of Rome, and is included in the Mountain Communities Aniene X and IX Sabine Mountains and Tiburtina.
Name of project: Monte Guadagnolo
The SIC “Mount Guadagnolo” falls, for most of its extension into the territory of the town of Capranica Prenestina. Only small parts of the territory on the edge of the perimeter of the SIC are located in the territories of the five municipalities of Casape, Ciciliano, Pisoniano, Poly, San Gregorio from Sassola, all in the province of Rome. The neighboring town of Ciciliano is only a small portion of the perimeter of the SIC. The SIC falls within the territory of the Ninth Mountain Community – Sabine Mountains and Tiburtini.
The total area of the SIC is to have 569 acres with an average altitude of 1,033 m above sea level.
The area of SCI extends Prenestini Mountains, a complex of carbonate hills oriented NS and located near the center of Lazio.
Name of project: Dolomiti di Pietrapertosa
The SCI-SPA Dolomites Pietrapertosa falls in the municipalities of Pietrapertosa and Castelmezzano, in the province of Potenza. The area of the Dolomites Pietrapertosa SCI-SPA falls within a geological complex called “Lucanian Dolomites”, located in the Apennines where mountains dominate the central part of the Val Basento. The “Dolomiti”, so called because their tops are characterized by high peaks that recall some of the most famous peaks of the real Alpine Dolomites, emerge vertically in the heart of Basilicata, on the west bank of the river Basento, the longest river in Basilicata.
Actions and means involved:
The preparatory actions will include a number of studies in order to establish the state ex ante
of the two habitats *6210 and *6220 and their associated butterflies species. Surveys will be
carried out on the quality and state of pastures, number and type of livestock units, in order to
collect data useful for the grazing plan.
Three grazing plans will be prepared, one specific for each of the three Natura 2000 sites
object of the project.
The improvement of the conservation status of the habitats/butterfly species as a result of the
actions carried out will be evaluated through ex post studies.
Actions in section A include a study to esteem the economic value of the ecosystem services
provided by the two habitats. This is not limited to a calculation of the incomes connected with
the sale of products linked to grazing but will take into consideration the most updated
methodologies on establishing the value of ecosystem services suggested by international
organizations, such as The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), sponsored by
the European Commission.
Preparatory actions will include drawing executive projects for all actions to be carried out in
part C of the project and the signing of all agreements between beneficiary and partners.
Concrete conservation actions: the measures foreseen are aimed at the restoration,
improvement and the long-term conservation of the two priority habitats and their related fauna
species and in particular the butterfly populations. The concrete actions will include the testing
of restoration measures specified in the two management models “MANAGEMENT of Natura
2000 habitats” published by the European Commission for these habitats.
The main action is the implementation of the grazing plans in collaboration with local breeders.
This is aimed at developing a rational grazing in order to avoid over- and under-grazing and to
achieve multiple benefits for both habitats/butterflies and livestock. With this aim:
– 100 sheeps will be purchased in order to allow a mixed balanced grazing, which is,
according to recent literature, the best option to guarantee seminatural habitats
– 12 water troughs will be restored in order to distribute grazing load on a wider surface, to
reduce the overexploitation of grasslands and to re-establish grazing in areas where it has
– Wooded and electrical fences, realised during the project, will be used to regulate timing,
location and load of grazing.
The selective removal of shrubs (Rubus sp., Rosa sp., etc), the eradication of nitrophilous
ruderal species (Silibum marianum and Onopordum acanthum) and of invasive alien plant
species (Robinia pseudoacacia and Ailanthus altissima) will be carried out in order to recover
the surface of dry grasslands colonised by these plants.
Moreover, naturalistic engeneering work will be carried out to restore eroded areas belonging
to the two priority habitats.
Finally, a germplasm bank will be set up to guarantee the long term ex situ conservation of the
species charactersing the two dry grasslands.
Public awareness and dissemination of results: the project will be supported by a series of
communication actions. A communication plan will define the graphic identity that will be used
for the preparation of a brochure and the executive summaries of the grazing plans, which will
be distributed and published in the project’s website, opened during the project.
Raising awareness will be obtained also through 9 meetings with breeders, participation to
local fairs/exhibitions, didactic activity in local schools and placing of bill boards near all areas
where concrete actions will be carried out.
A final international conference will be organised to present the project results and to
exchange experiences with other beneficiaries/managers of Natura 2000 sites and to produce
comments integrations to the CE Management models for the two priority habitats.
A layman’s report will be produced and distributed.
Overall project operation and monitoring This will be carried out through a specific
management committee, to be set up at the start of the project, with representatives of all
partners, and an executive committee, with a project manager, who will be working full time for
the project’s duration, and three co-coordinators, in charge of the scientific, communication
and administration tasks. The project’s partners will also nominate experts in the different
fields – botanists, geologists, butterfly experts, agronomists, socio-economic experts and
experts in the field of communication and administration – to oversee in an integrated way
actions in the sites for which they are competent.
Management tasks will also include the production of a post LIFE conservation plan,
networking with other EU projects dealing with the same habitats and species, reporting to the
Commission and ensuring that all milestones and deliverables are observed within the agreed
time-table and that an independent audit of the final financial report is carried out.
Expected results (outputs and quantified achievements):
– Long term conservation of the two priority dry grasslands habitats and of the butterfly
populations dependent on them, resulting from the implemetation of the grazing plans on
about 420 ha of dry grasslands
– Recovery of 19 ha of the two *6210 and *6220 habitats through selective cutting of
removal of shrubs (Rubus sp., Rosa sp., etc)
– Recovery of 2,5 ha of dry grasslands surface through the removal of nitrophilous ruderal
species (Silibum marianum and Onopordum acanthum) and of 2.700 sqm through the
eradication of invasive alien plant species (Robinia pseudoacacia and Ailanthus altissima)
– Restoration of 6.000 sqm of the surface of the two priority habitats applying naturalistic
– Restoration of 12 water troughs
– Improvement of the conservation status of the two priority dry grasslands habitat and of
their farm animal biodiversity through the maintenance of the local Podolian cow race and
the purchase (100 units) and reintroduction of the local Sopravissana sheep race
– Long term ex-situ conservation of the germplasm of at least 20 structural plant species of
the two priority habitats
– Involvement of local breeders in implementation of the grazing plans of the two priority
– Increased awareness of breeders, local schools and tourists on the two priority habitats
and their related butterflies species
– Exchange of best practises and experiences with other beneficiaries/managers of Natura
– Increased knowledge on the *6210 and *6220 habitats and on their associated butterflies
– Acquisition of socio-economic value of ecosystem services offered by the two *6210 and