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Conservation of Tuscan Appennines mountain grasslands (Praterie Toscane)
Date du début: 1 nov. 2001, Date de fin: 31 déc. 2004 PROJET  TERMINÉ 

Background The project area, which extends over three proposed Sites of Community Interest, is a broad mountain ridge. The vegetation is characterised by primary summit grasslands forming the southernmost limit of some plant communities which are very widespread in European mountains. The area is host to one of the most extensive and well-preserved concentrations of Nardus grasslands (Nardus stricta) in the Northern Apennines. The site also contains one of the few priority species included in the Habitats Directive to be found in the Apennine zone, namely the Appennine primula (Primula appennina). Overgrazing, however, has vastly reduced the size of high-altitude grassland areas and poses a large threat to the scale of some plant species. Overgrazing has greatly altered the composition of flora in the area, and the abandonment of traditional practices for managing these environments has affected forest expansion. Objectives The project aimed to preserve the animal and plant communities of the mountain grasslands, which are dominated by Nardus grassland on the Tuscan Apennines at a height of about 1,400 m above sea level. The conservation objectives were to be achieved by drawing up and carrying out management plans aimed at more effective use of pasture. The project also aimed to achieve higher levels of biodiversity in the grassland areas and to restore abandoned areas in order to prevent shrub species returning to these areas. To this end, sylvicultural measures were planned in adjacent forest communities to favour the development of Nardus grasslands and attempts were to be made to ‘renaturalise’ the concentrations of junipers. Finally, initiatives would be launched to raise awareness and disseminate information through the organisation of workshops and seminars on pasture management. Results The main actions of the project were the: • Organisation of a workshop on pasture management to exchange experiences with other LIFE Nature beneficiaries of similar projects and botany experts. • Drawing up of management plans of the three pSCIs. • Purchase of 12 ha of mountain grassland surrounded by public areas and intervention areas. • Naturalistic engineer works on Nardus grasslands to halt slope erosion. • Construction of fences and watering places in order to control grazing, renew abandoned areas and maintain grasslands in areas subjected to bush cutting. • Protection of the exiting wet areas (with fences designed to keep out cattle) and creation of little ponds for amphibians and plants depending on wet areas. As a result of severe climatic conditions and wild fires, the project duration was extended allowing for the completion of the above actions. The overall aim of the project, the conservation of the grasslands of the Apennines ridge by means of the drawing up of the management plans, was achieved. In particular, about 300 ha of abandoned Nardus grasslands were restored by means of bush cutting (in around 115 ha of land), and an additional 32 ha were restored. About 12 ha of thin Juniperus formations were also restored. Moreover, the foreseen 12 ha of land were purchased in the Pratomagno pSCI and further 6 ha were purchased with the beneficiary's own funds. Grazing was facilitated on around 750 ha by means of the construction of fences and watering places in the three SCIs. Naturalistic engineering interventions with local materials were undertaken on about 1,350 m2 of land threatened by erosion. The delays, however, affected periodical management and the introduction of adequate monitoring activities after the completion of the works. Therefore, the success of the project interventions and of the adopted strategies of management by means of the monitoring of plant communities in the grasslands, breeding birds and the small fauna in wetlands has yet to be assessed. However, approval of management plans will result in the implementation of such monitoring activities in the future.


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