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Conservation and management of the biotope 'S. Genuario Wetland' (San Genuario)
Date du début: 1 juin 2001, Date de fin: 31 mars 2005 PROJET  TERMINÉ 

Background The San Genuario marshland biotope is a small pocket of land in Vercelli province in an area that has been almost completely transformed into ricefields. The ponds of the former Alma fish farm, now abandoned and spontaneously reverted to nature, have been selected as a Natura 2000 network site (SCI and SPA). The different levels of water in the individual ponds have generated various habitats, including reedbeds, sedge fields, copses, meadows and stretches of open water, which are host to an abundant variety of birds and reptiles. Among the bird species present are European bitterns, marsh harriers, purple herons, little bitterns, and moustached warblers. One of the largest regional populations of marsh terrapins can also be found at the site. The hygrophilous vegetation is also significant, and includes Utricularia australis, Potamogeton sp., Callitriche sp., Chara sp., Nuphar luteum, and strips of Central European oak-hornbeam woodland. The main threats to the site are the possible resumption of fish-farming without taking conservation requirements into account, the destruction of reedbeds, the silting of wetlands, hunting, and the destruction of oak and hornbeam forest stands and wetland vegetation. Objectives The main objective of the project was to maintain and improve the conservation status of the site through active management. To this end, the site management body would purchase 4 ha of land and would apply management techniques aimed at expanding the stands of oaks and hornbeams, in order to create ecological corridors that would reduce the isolation of the site from the surrounding forest areas (the 500 ha Partecipanza Wood). Agreements with local landowners for the management of 36 ha were also planned. The ecological diversity of the site would be improved by regulating the water level in the various ponds and the areas littered by the vestiges of former land use would be cleaned up and re-naturalised. A description of the ecosystems and monitoring environmental values would make it possible to draw up a management plan for the area that could be exportable to similar situations elsewhere. The direct management actions would be accompanied by education and public awareness campaigns. Results The beneficiary has reached all the objectives foreseen. In total, 10 ha of land was reconverted to Sub-Atlantic and medio-European oak or oak-hornbeam forests of the Carpinion betuli and 0.46 ha of reed beds purchased. The area was restored through naturalistic engineering works, the removal of cement structures and invasive exotic plants, and the planting of authochnous shrubs and trees on 8 ha of land. The creation of additional marshes increased the availability of food and habitat for the little bittern and marsh harrier, as well as for other bird species. This is particularly important in an area surrounded by intensive agriculture which gives no space to natural vegetation. The expansion of the reed beds increased the presence of the birds related to this environment. An increase in number of individuals and species wintering in the area has also been observed. A management plan was elaborated for the SCI (the first one in Piedmont) and approved by the regional authorities. Structures were established for monitoring, surveillance and dissemination activities to increase public awareness of wetland conservation. Specific project achievements included: Increasing knowledge about the presence of habitats and species of EU interest at the project site. Previously unobserved species such as the butterfly Lycaena dispar and algae of the genera Chara were discovered at the site thanks to the project; Conservation and increasing of the habitats of EU interest through a reduction of threats, planting of local species, control of allochthonous species (in particular invasive plants and animals such as Coypu and Trachemis scripta), agreements for the use of sustainable management techniques for maintenance of land, monitoring; Protection of priority animal species by enlarging their habitats, signing agreements for the correct management of reed beds, undertaking surveillance, and eliminating threats. Ex post monitoring showed an increase in numbers of little bittern (Ixobricus minutus) and of passerines linked to the reed beds; Increasing public awareness on the importance of the Natura 2000 site through lessons and guided visits with local schools. Meetings with a local irrigation consortium were held to establish sustainable cutting practices inside the little channels with natural vegetation; Monitoring water using algae as indicators; this is one of the first implementations in Italy of monitoring practices based upon the requirements of the Water Framework Directive. The ex-ante monitoring showed that one of the main threats to the project area is the presence of intensive agriculture inside and outside the SCI, which causes water pollution. It is therefore necessary to promote more sustainable agriculture. According to the beneficiary the SCI is not yet protected sufficiently and during the project duration some projects that may damage the site have been proposed: a quarry, a power station and a capture area for game. Fortunately, in the last case the province assigned the management of the area to the Park. On the other hand, for the building of the power plant the Environment Ministry and regional authorities have granted all the necessary permits for the power station to be built. The beneficiary and some NGOs and other interested parties have presented formal complaints, which, however have been rejected. They are now preparing a further appeal to the Council of State. During the project, the personnel of the park made great efforts to prepare documentation and hold meetings with the local administration to raise awareness on the possible negative consequences of a power plant.


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