Habitat improvements with wildlife purposes in a grazed area on the Apennine Mountains

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Maria Paola Ponzetta *
Francesco Cervasio
Chiara Crocetti
Alessandro Messeri
Giovanni Argenti
(*) Corresponding Author:
Maria Paola Ponzetta | mikimos@mac.com


In many European countries, the abandonment of traditional practices in the last decades produced remarkable effects on agricultural land use. In marginal mountain lands, one of the most evident outcomes is the reduction of the surfaces occupied by open habitats, mostly represented by meadows and pastures. The ecological consequences of reduced grazing in the pastures concerned not only the vegetation structure but also the floristic composition and the biodiversity of the herbaceous component, which is modified by the progressive establishment of woody species. For these reasons, it is important to carry out specific programs of habitat improvements in order to restore and maintain herbaceous vegetation, both for faunistic purposes and biodiversity conservation. In this note we describe the effectiveness of agronomical intervention carried out to enhance pasture quality in a protected area, once grazed by domestic animals, now utilised exclusively by wild fauna. The study was carried out for five years in a Regional Park (Parco Regionale dei Laghi di Suviana e Brasimone, Emilia Romagna, central Italy), in an experimental area where the vegetation was characterised by a high presence of bracken fern. Agronomical operations consisted of the restoration of a pasture, using an appropriate forage mixture. After the restoration, data collection concerned botanical composition, floristic richness and biodiversity of vegetation. Moreover, the utilization of single species by wild fauna was assessed by means of the defoliation rate methodology in order to evaluate the real consumption of each plant species. The results obtained in the studied area confirmed the efficiency of the improvement in terms of botanical composition and pastoral value of the pasture and they provided detailed information about selection of different plant species by wild ungulates.

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