Seed-based Restoration Project Spotlight:
Pastures for Biodiversity in the Italian Alps
Project Name: BioPa
Location: Site of Community Interest (SCI) “IT2040027 Valle del Bitto di Gerola”, Lombardy, Italy, Europe
Partners/Funding: Fondazione Cariplo (Cariplo Foundation)
Year started: 2015 (running project)
Habitat type: Semi-natural Nardus stricta alpine grassland (Natura 2000 priority habitats 6230 Species-rich Nardus grasslands)
Surface area: The SCI size is 2,458 hectares. Restoration activities cover an area of 35 hectares.
Need for restoration: Industrialized dairy production has decreased the amount of grazing which historically maintained these grasslands and the diversity of herbaceous plants. Encroachment by shrubs and trees threatens these pastures and local livelihoods which produce traditional, artisanal Bitto cheese from the milk of summer grazing. Habitat restoration is tied to local economic activity and traditional food systems.
Restoration methods: Used a horse-drawn plow to cut a slit in the sod and interseeded by hand with seed mixture of 20 species. Restoration also done by transplanting plugs and mechanical clearing of woody vegetation.
Seed sourcing: Locally collected from near the site. Some seeds were sown and grown into plugs for transplanting by Flora Conservation, a local nursery and INSR partner.
Restoration goals: Learn which restoration methods are successful for recovering diversity in Nardus stricta pastures. Connect pastures which have been fragmented by the encroaching trees and increase the area for grazing and dairy production.
Monitoring: Vegetation (cover and abundance) and insect (butterfly) diversity data from replicated plots for 1 year.
Lessons learned: Plowing and harrowing previous sowing is fundamental for seed germination and seedling establishment in Nardus grassland. Learned how much time it takes to grow seedlings to a transplantable size in a nursery setting. Further understanding is expected from the monitoring which will take place in Spring 2017.
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Contributed by: Simone Orsenigo