Biodiversity of the Gran Sasso

Biodiversity of the Gran Sasso


How agricultural biodiversity is protected in
Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park

The protected areas in Abruzzo (3 national parks, 1 regional, and about 100 reserves, in total 30% of protected territory) constitute an enormous naturalistic heritage that the communities and local policies are required to safeguard, under penalty of the irreversible process of degradation and impoverishment. of the whole socio-cultural-environmental system.

Therefore, in the last 10-15 years, various types of project activities have taken place within the protected areas aimed at safeguarding and recovering the most important and characterizing agro-forestry-pastoral resources: floral-landscape, zootechnical, agri-food, agricultural and forestry resources.

The territories of the Gran Sasso-Laga National Park (about 200,000 ha) are quite extensive, involving 3 regions, 5 provinces and 44 municipalities, many of which are located in almost inaccessible and unreachable areas such as to constitute true bulwarks of naturalness intended as a garrison of the mountain territory in which historical and ancient structures converge such as ruins of castles, churches, abbeys, farmhouses and abandoned and renovated villages, old stazzi and abandoned and still used shepherds' residences, villages with a few dozen medieval and Renaissance inhabitants where you can still breathe an atmosphere of ancient times and of forgotten flavors.

The agricultural landscapes of these environments have their roots in the Italic period.

They are characterized by: terraces, open fields of cicerchie lentils, potatoes and saffron, almond groves, vineyards and olive groves, high altitude pastures.

The typical products that derive from it and which have also conquered the PGI denominations are: the Lentil of S. Stefano di Sessanio, the Cicerchia of Castelvecchio Calvisio, the black and red chickpeas and the Saffron of Navelli, the Moscatello di Castiglionea Casauria and the Pecorino grape of hills of the Tronto river, the chestnuts of the Tronto valley.

The transhumant pastoralism of Abruzzo has represented a point of reference between southern Italy and northern Italy since since 700 the flocks transhumed from Abruzzo to the Tavoliere di Puglia and subsequently to the Roman countryside.

The pioneer breeds of Abruzzo transhumance are the Gentile di Puglia and the Sopravvisana with a dairy attitude and also for wool, especially the Gentile.

It is thanks to transhumance that villages and cities such as L'Aquila have formed, which have aggregated entire communities and which now build an attractive pole of strong appeal precisely for the intrinsic and almost untouched peculiarities of some realities.

Over the last few years, a network of collaboration has been established between various entities that revolve around the park such as the LAGs, L’ARSSA, 4 Slow Food presidents, producers' consortiums and associations; all this to make the complex system of the protected area more usable, even if it is rather heterogeneous given the coexistence of 3 regions and 44 municipalities that cover almost the entire protected area falling within central Italy.

The most significant project interventions carried out by the Park in recent years include:

  • the recovery of the germplasm of horticultural, cereal and native fruit varieties and cultivars for the recovery of ancient varieties at risk of extinction with the necessary contribution of the farmers who act as "protectors" of the same (var. of potato Turquoise, var. of potato Fiocco di neve, var. . of Solina soft wheat, var. of Renetta apples and local almond trees);
  • the recovery of wildlife species of valuable environmental value such as the Abruzzo chamois;
  • the recovery of the local flora (Apennine Genepì);
  • the valorisation, storage and marketing of treated and processed shear wool;
  • the enhancement and typification of honey from the protected area;
  • the enhancement of local pecorino cheeses (Pecorino di Farindola and Canestrato di Casteldel Monte).

All activities are carried out in collaboration with various entities: local LAGs, Universities of L'Aquila and Rome, FAI (Federation of Italian Beekeepers).

The tools through which the Parks intervene on the territory are:

1) the Park plan
2) the socio-economic plan of the Park.

It is noted how the extension of the areas affected by agricultural uses, identified in the classes "arable land in non-irrigated areas", "complex cultivation systems and parcels", "areas occupied by agricultural crops with the presence of natural spaces", "stable meadows" and " olive groves ”which overall occupy about 5.6% of the territory are reduced compared to the coverage of wooded areas which instead extends for almost 70,000ha equal to about 48% of the total protected area territory.

An area equal to about half of the wooded area are the "natural pasture areas and high altitude grasslands" which occupy 24% of the territory, mainly concentrated in the south-western side of the Gran Sassone massif where only the pastures of the he plateau of Campo Imperatore extend for more than 10,000ha and on the Monti della Laga they occupy all areas above 1700m.

The presence in the Park of some areas with a more marked agricultural vocation is evident due to the concentration of the various forms of agricultural use of the land and above all of arable land such as the Amatrice basin and the Capestrano plain.

In the more markedly mountainous areas, the prevailing form of agricultural activity is that of permanent pastures while that of arable land is completely marginal; this situation has led to an intensification of extensive animal husbandry mainly transhumant. However, currently we are witnessing a development of the sedentary one.

The side of the Park where professional agriculture is found is the Lazio one with particular reference to the Amatrice basin: here at the base of the Laga mountains a vast almost flat area intensely cultivated with cereals and fodder with the presence of numerous farms with zootechnical address with dairy cattle . Another interesting area is the plain of Capestrano where cereals and forage crops are grown in the plains and olive trees in the hills.

A particular connotation then have some municipalities such as Castel del Monte, Calascio, Castelvecchio, Calvisio and S. Stefano di Sessanio where there is a widespread system of open fields up to 1300-1400 m.

Here too we are faced with an extreme attempt to tear up spaces for cultivation from natural environments, thus giving rise to the formation of a system of fields that often coincide with snow valleys in which the rain has favored the accumulation of soil more suitable for growth of plants, which with the tenacious action of man has been transformed into soil suitable for cultivation.

In these fields cereals, minor cereals and small legumes (lentils, chickpeas) are cultivated alternately.

One of its specific features presents the whole northern and eastern side of the Laga mountains where professional agricultural activity has now completely disappeared and once cultivated spaces are now replaced by spontaneous vegetation.

In agriculture, the regions decide through the application of the PSR (Regional Development Plan) and related measures.

In addition to the Mandatory Acts and Standards relating to Cross-compliance, mandatory for farms since 2005) there is also law 394/91 (framework law on protected areas) which provides for the drafting of 1) Park Plan and 2) Socio-economic Plan of the Park.

Through national and regional projects in agreement with local LAGs, ItaliaLavoro and the Region, the Park has tried in the last 10 years to set up a system of relationships and infrastructures involved in the dissemination and protection of local interests.

A few years ago the agro-forestry-pastoral service was established.

Currently, all companies that want to use the logo of the Gran Sasso-Laga Park for the marketing of products must comply with environmental quality certification standards, ISO 14,000 or other national certification protocols established by the certification bodies.

The specifications issued by the park authority must be respected and their application is guaranteed by the companies through the control of the certification bodies.

The Park Authorities in general do not deal directly with agriculture but with the safeguarding of its biodiversity, through the development of the Park Plans and the implementation of all specific regulations relating to the maintenance of the protected areas within them such as:

  • Protection and safeguarding with respect to the ban on lighting fires
  • Protection and safeguarding with respect to the ban on free camping
  • Protection against the ban on cars
  • Protection against the prohibition of using the park logo without appropriate request for the marketing of products
  • Protection of companies through economic compensation for damage suffered to crops

There are examples, in past years, of failure or inadequate aggregation of the commercial offer of typical products such as pecorino Canestrato di Casteldel Monte and pecorino di Farindola (currently both DOP) for which the following was respectively neglected:

  • the main element of the supply chain, namely its craftsmanship to the advantage of a cooperative project which then failed due to its too incisively entrepreneurial characteristic (for the Pecorino di Farindola);
  • the element of protection of small producers by local administrations in the face of a single large specialized producer that had conquered its large share of the market.
    In both cases, there was little or no protection of products and producers by local institutions precisely with the consequent inhomogenization and disaggregation of the supply with failures of association and cooperative initiatives to the disadvantage of the total rural community and not.
    Their very delicate and very important role is obviously protected and supported both technically and economically by the Park Authority itself, by the Agricultural Development Agency (ARSSA) and by the Local Management Groups (GAL) through the implementation of national and international projects.

It is therefore desirable in Abruzzo that between the Park Authorities, the producers and the local institutions there is a continuous exchange and a continuous synergy so that the rural and agrosilvopastoral realities of the protected areas can be enhanced and improved.

In the last 10-15 years this effort has also been considerable given the amount of projects and initiatives both regional and national made available.

A further effort is now needed so that these potentials become reality in effect through the radicalization and development of the objectives set in a common effort to belong to the same heritage. National parks and SIC (Sites of Community importance) are the areas that mainly protect portions of territory with high biological values ​​and there are, however, also areas of high biodiversity, generally foothills that remain excluded from protection.

The recovery of local varieties and cultivars of vegetables and fruit trees is part of the various projects currently promoted and implemented by the Park Authority together with the University, GAL, ARSSA and aims to offer farmers the opportunity to use local native seeds and to market their final products thus becoming the “Guardians” of the Park's agricultural biodiversity.

Dr. Antonella Di Matteo

Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park

The Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park is a national park established in 1991 and is one of the three national parks in Abruzzo as well as being the third largest protected nature reserve in Italy by territorial extension, located for the most part in Abruzzo (province of L'Aquila, Teramo and Pescara ) and to a lesser extent in the adjacent areas of Lazio (Rieti) and Marche (Ascoli Piceno).

Agroecology explained by the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park

Navarra: "With the Valor project we want to promote the recovery, conservation and enhancement of ancient local cultivation techniques"

More than a third of the land is exploited, often irreversibly, while 62% of living species are threatened with extinction. These are the dramatic numbers of the impact of human activities, including those related to agriculture.

Researchers and scientists are committed to combining their experiences and their research to formulate some proposals and invitations to change the point of view and to reorganize the agricultural system in an ecological and sustainable way, to make it a strength and not a critical point of the revolution in progress. .

At the center of the discussion is agroecology, that is the application of the principles of ecological protection for the production of food, fuel, fibers and medicines, as well as the management of agro systems, according to the guidelines provided by the World Organization for Cooperation and economic development (OECD).

Agroecology, in fact, represents an agricultural production system which, drawing its fundamental principles from ecology, follows its criteria as faithfully as possible, transferring them to the agricultural, livestock and forestry sectors. It therefore represents an organizational model which, involving ecosystems, territories and socialities, unites them in a single vision, thus realizing, in a complete and integrated way, the concept of Sustainable Development.

In agroecology, therefore, the perfect balance of nature is achieved, definitively abandoning the use of chemistry and biocides, as regulators of production systems that are not in line with the principles of the ecosystem based on biodiversity, mutuality, subsidiarity and sharing of energy roles.

As claimed by the president of the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park, lawyer Tommaso Navarra: "With the project Valor - Enhancement of ancient agricultural techniques in a resilient and sustainable agriculture we want to promote the recovery, conservation and enhancement of the ancient local cultivation techniques. This promotes the implementation of a compatible educational model that leads to innovative study programs, to support the quality and preservation of ancient traditions and production as the main activity that leads to resilience and sustainability ".

The project combines complementary efforts and experiences in order to contribute to the improvement of skills to successfully address the specific needs of the sector. The pervasive and massive use of fertilizers and pesticides is now unsustainable and it is essential to start afresh from agricultural practices that first of all protect biodiversity and protect all species, starting with insects, without which no agriculture is possible.

Stopping the loss of species with biodiversity-based crops also means giving new life to protected areas, which could thus be connected to each other and not isolated and, for this reason, much less useful than their real potential.

Among other things, the species preserved in an entire sustainable system would be much more resistant to climate threats than those of today, and the research dedicated to them would receive new impulses.

Also with regard to the species to be cultivated, it is now crucial to use the greatest possible variety, including ancient or minor ones, to diversify and thus increase the resistance capacity of a system that has homologation, monocultures and genetic poverty of seeds. the real problem.

"No change can do without the human factor - concludes President Navarra - local populations and especially small farmers must be involved in every step and during every transition process".

The Valor project puts agroecology and the resilience of ecosystems at the center of its action in order to propose concrete initiatives and projects, which finally give substance to the many declarations of recent years, all in agreement on the need to radically change perspective, and which sanction a new, authentic restart for the world agricultural system, especially through the new generations.

The flowers of the Gran Sasso. Discovery of a plant never seen in nature

PESCARA. It has elongated green leaves and deep purple flowers. And despite being a legume, more precisely a pea, it is not eaten. They baptized it Lathyrus Apenninus, and it is a species of plant never seen before in nature and discovered by the Floristic Research Center of the Apennines in the Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga Park.

"This species" explains Fabio Conti, manager of the Center, "had always been confused with another species present for example in Umbria and which was thought to also exist in Abruzzo. In reality, by studying it and comparing the samples, we realized that it is new. So we baptized it Lathyrus Apenninus, a name that will be made official soon, when the news of its discovery will be published in Plant Biosystems, the magazine of the Italian Botanical Society ".

To confirm the richness of the Park's flora there is also another discovery made by the researchers of the Center, who found a flower never seen before in Abruzzo. "It is a particular type of Delphinium" explains Conti "behind which there is a small yellow. A botanist who lived in the 1800s called Tenore had identified another type of Delphinium in the Park area which has never been seen again. In our opinion, in reality the flower reported by Tenore is exactly what we found, but to be sure we will have to wait to make a comparison with the sample of this flower that is in the Tenore herbarium, kept in Naples ".

The fauna of the Park also appears to be in good health. According to the results of the annual monitoring, in fact, in the protected area of ​​Gran Sasso and the Laga mountains there are 400 chamois. In the thirty-one high-altitude trails on the Gran Sasso, the men of the scientific service of the Authority and the Forestry Service have seen twelve flocks, some of which are made up of over thirty specimens, and recorded 80 small ones.

The most numerous herds have been spotted on the ridge of the Brancastello and Bandiera mountains and on the walls that flank the Val Maone.

"The presence of chamois and the discovery of the new plant" says Augusto De Sanctis, coordinator of the WWF oases for Abruzzo "are a good sign and demonstrate that the biodiversity in the Park exists and by carrying out valid scientific activities and active management of the nature real conservation results can be achieved. But it takes commitment. The chamois, for example, in the Gran Sasso Park were no longer there: in the early 90s when the institution was established they were reintroduced and now the results are visible. These beauties and their uniqueness are then also transmitted, for example through the environmental education centers such as the one that the WWf has in Cortino, in the Teramo area. A structure that has hundreds of visitors and which is also of importance for the local economy ".

BIODIVERSITY / A “Bioblitz” on the Gran Sasso to get to know the ecosystems better

The Italian Pavilion of Expo 2015 is the right setting to discuss biodiversity, as researchers, administrators and interested public did yesterday, gathered by the CNR for the conference “Ecosystems and Biodiversity: research at the service of citizens”. The initiative, part of the CNR program for Expo, saw as promoters and protagonists the researchers of various CNR institutes (Ismar, Irea, Isafom, Ibbe), those of LTER and Life Watch as well as exponents of Italian universities and other bodies such as the Anton Dohrn Zoological Station of Naples and the State Forestry Corps. "The central idea - Giorgio Matteucci of Cnr-Isafom in Cosenza told - is to present to citizens, in a language that everyone can understand, the LTER network, or the network for long-term research on ecosystems and biodiversity , and Life Watch initiatives working on biodiversity data. We also wanted to present the new initiative, launched in recent months and particularly linked to Expo, of the "LTER walks" as an opportunity to observe and learn about ecosystems and biodiversity ».

The Italian LTER is one of the 24 European and 44 global networks: "ours - says Matteucci - is characterized by being truly multi-domain and multi-disciplinary, that is, it includes terrestrial ecosystems, both high-altitude and forest, lake, marine and transition situations (eg lagoons, coastal dunes and so on) so it is in the best conditions to study and understand how the different ecosystems are responding to the changes taking place ».

A chapter of this study and its dissemination are precisely the "paths", to be shared between researchers and citizens. Three paths have been organized this year, connecting long-term research sites. Matteucci describes them to us. The first, which already ended at the beginning of July, took place between the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian, as its name also indicates: Mesothalassia, between two seas it was an ecological cycle-relay that brought the participants from Molise dunes at the Anton Dohrn Zoological Station in the Gulf of Naples. Another will start on 22 August and will go from Monte Rosa to Lake Maggiore, with an eco-relay between the LTER sites launched with the slogan "Pink ... blue ... green!".

«Finally, the one that started just yesterday, simultaneously with the conference, and will target the high altitude Apennine mountain systems, with a very eloquent title:" On the Central Apennines from Velino to Gran Sasso, the adventure of biodiversity ". In all there is the possibility for citizens to participate in research activities, collecting samples and carrying out simple environmental analyzes. For example, the journey started yesterday will see a first activity on Monte Velino, with vegetation surveys and ornithological observations, the participants will be accompanied by botanists, ornithologists and geologists along the entire route. The final day of 1 August, on the Gran Sasso, will see researchers, amateur naturalists and volunteers united in an intensive field study (a "Bioblitz"), to determine in 24 continuous hours all the plant and animal species living in the area. , thus contributing to the definition of the state of biodiversity ».

Also in the first path, the Mesothalassia - which was dedicated to plankton, therefore to very small organisms but very important for their role in the marine ecosystem - every evening there was a moment of meeting with the local populations to explain the purpose and the importance, even socially, of those researches.

But what is the biodiversity situation in Italy like? Are there any reasons for alarm? Matteucci shows reasons for concern, without dramatizing. «Biodiversity in general deserves the right attention, and not only with regard to particularly sensitive or endangered species: it is all biodiversity that allows ecosystems to be vital and functional. Italy, within the Mediterranean basin, is one of the so-called hotspots, hotspots, biodiversity so it is an area where biodiversity is a little more critical, also following the phenomenon of climate change. Our country hosts a large part of European biodiversity, which obviously is greatly affected by the changed conditions due to global warming. Think of the problem of coastal areas and the effects on living systems of water heating, with the possible growth of algal production that can put other species at risk or with the introduction of non-native species (arriving, for example, through the canal of Suez) which can damage native species ».

In the terrestrial environment, the most critical situations are given by the fragmentation of ecosystems, that is, by the fact that there are not always adequate ecological corridors that can ensure continuity and allow species to move easily in case of need.

«Other environments to be kept under particular observation are the high mountains, with the snow cover which, from year to year, lasts less and less and has less extension. Then there are the Alpine glaciers which are almost all in regression, due to warming: this has a first immediate consequence on the availability of water resources ».

The reduction of glaciers could also pave the way upwards for some mountain ecosystems. Global warming also causes the melting of the permafrost, present at high altitudes, and this can generate landslides or rock movements, with obvious consequences. "However, direct repercussions of these phenomena on biodiversity are not yet quantifiable, even if the consequences may be felt over distance, both in space and in time".

Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park: lights out for "Earth hour"

L'AQUILA - The March 27, 2021 come back "Earth Hour " (Earth Hour), the largest global mobilization of citizens and communities across the planet to fight climate change, promoted by the WWF International and now in its eleventh edition. Earth Hour is a collective hymn to the beauty and fragility of the Planet and a cry to stop its destruction.

The Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park adheres to the initiative, which is based on the simplicity and significance of a gesture, turning off all the lights of the offices of the institution for an hour.

This initiative, which in last year's edition, despite the very serious difficulties deriving from the restrictions adopted by many countries due to the Covid 19 pandemic, recorded results beyond all expectations: 190 countries involved, 2.2 million shutdowns of monuments, institutional and private buildings, over 4.7 billion messages on social networks and on the web.

All this has a strong symbolic value that makes explicit the desire to feel united in the global challenge to climate change that threatens the ecosystems and biodiversity on Earth from which our well-being, our health, our safety and our development derive.

This year the lights of the Park will go out on Saturday 27 March for one hour from 20.30 to 21.30 to raise awareness on the fight against climate change, thus participating in an international event, a symbol of the struggle for sustainability.

The Park's adhesion to the initiative that the WWF has been promoting for more than ten years " declares the President of the Park Tommaso Navarra "is aimed at participating in the great international mobilization aimed at increasing public awareness of the value of nature and biodiversity by public opinion around the world ".

What to do in the park

The variety and naturalistic richness of its massifs and the different sides, the suggestive historical-architectural testimonies are reflected in a multitude of proposals, itineraries and visits for all seasons of the year. The endless network of paths in the park can be covered on foot, by bike and on horseback and it is possible to tackle excursions of all kinds, aimed at both beginners and experienced hikers.

The Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park represents a hinge area between the Euro-Siberian and Mediterranean regions, where the highest mountain in the Apennines is located, which contains the only glacier in southern Europe © Melanie Bateman / Flickr

Video: Il Gran Sasso post Covid