Natural Habitats and Ecosystems

Natural Habitats and Ecosystems

Within the “Tolfetano-Cerite-Manziate Region” Special Protected Area, there are numerous extremely precious landscapes and ecologies.



Amongst the devilish forests are extensive oak and beech woods.  The type of oak most representative of the region is the Turkey Oak, and although the Turkey Oak woodlands have been intensively exploited, they still add a strong character to the landscape by offering refuge to a rich variety of fauna.  Together with the Turkey Oak, we find the Italian and Downy Oaks -  the first evidence of eastern origins of the Tolfa Oaklands.  The Downey Oakland which once constituted a true vegetational band is now reduced to isolated individuals within the woods, or to small strips that link the Oakland to the Maquis Heathland.

Various species of hornbeam and maple accompany the Turkey Oak.  The more humid areas, more exposed to direct sunlight or where the wood is more open, other major players appear such as hawthorn, blackthorn and the flowering ash.  Among the mammals which frequent the forest are the fox, wild boar, badger, weasel, and many small rodents. Among the birds are the most significant black kite and red kite, buzzards, woodpeckers and jays. There are many insects, including such delights as the colourful butterflies like the European Peacock, the Brown Butterflies  and the small and colourful gossamer-winged butterflies or Lycaenidae.

The beech forests in the area are relics of cold bygone days.  Indeed, Apennine Beech Forests normally thrive only above twelve hundred metres above sea level, but the specific climatic conditions of this region have helped to conserve large patches of this type of woodland.

Accompanying the Beech trees we find the Sycamore, the Common Hornbeam and the Hop Hornbeam and isolated Chestnut trees.

In the undergrowth European holly and   Butcher's broom, and numerous plants with coloured flowers such as anemones and cyclamen grow.

The fauna of the Beech forest includes mammals such as the European Polecat and Edible Dormouse and birds such as the sparrow-hawk, the great spotted woodpecker and the green woodpecker, the Eurasian nuthatch and the Coal Tit.

In the warmer climbs, the Mediterranean “Maquis Heathland” has spread.  This is not the true type of forest which once covered these hills, but rather low heathland, populated by Mediterranean shrubs such as the mastic, the Phillyrea and the Strawberry Tree, sometimes interrupted by isolated Holly Oak and closer to the coast Cork Oak trees.

Centuries of logging, of fires, and of grazing have transformed the ancient Mediterranean woodland into a different habitat, albeit just as precious and characteristic.

The thick and often impenetrable heathland shelters many species of fauna such as the wild boar, the fox, the pine marten, and the Crested Porcupine.  Numerous Warblers nest in this environment, such as the Whitethroat, the Dartford Warbler, the Sardinian Warbler and the Blackcap.

The Cleopatra Butterfly and the  Two-tailed Pasha or Foxy Emperor are the most colourful and characteristic butterflies connected to the Maquis Heathland.

A complex water network has enabled the remarkable development of hydrophilic vegetation that sometimes runs through open areas and sometimes creeps through the woods following the paths of water courses.

In warmer areas, tree species such as Ash and Salt Cedar are present, whilst in colder areas willows, alders, poplars and elms, prevail; which often form wild and attractive galleries beneath their branches.  On the banks of the waterways we find horsetails, the butterburs, reeds and purple loosestrife.

The most common fish are chub, barbel, roach and eels which feed above all on aquatic insects and molluscs.  Amongst the amphibians the common toad, red frogs, green frogs, Italian Tree-Frogs, and the rare yellow-bellied toad.

Reptiles include the Grass Snake and the Dice Snake.  Still relatively common is the European pond terrapin.

It is possible to see birds such as moorhens, kingfishers and more than one species of heron, whilst the Nutria is typical of the mammals.  The freshwater Crayfish still lives in the cleaner and more oxygenated waters.

The cliffs constitute another valuable habitat in the district of Tolfa Mountains region.  Within their sun-baked walls, Holly Oaks, Tree Heath and Phillyrea grow.  Whereas on the colder slopes, chestnuts, Hop-hornbeam, flowering ash and beech trees find shade.

Natural rock walls are located along the Mignone valley, along the Vesca, in Ripa Maiale, in Sasso and artificially generated in the old abandoned caves, where tufa, alum and gypsum were once mined.  Today these habitats are slowly being recolonised by natural vegetation.   These areas, natural or re-naturalised, provide nesting grounds to the Peregrine Falcon, the Lanner Falcon, the owls and sparows.  Numerous bats are also found in the caves and fissures which are precious valuable refuges for their survival.

The pastureland, once considered “degraded areas” from an ecological point of view, are of fundamental importance for many species of birds as well as being an extraordinary charming landscape.

Here the atmosphere is dominated by blackberry bushes and hawthorn trees and rare Wild Pear, Judas Tree and Jerusalem Thorn.

Boundless expanse of daffodils in spring are adorned with long flower spikes.  Spectacular orchid flowers make the region famous among lovers of these wonderful species.

Cows and Tuscan Maremmana horses, who have never known cowsheds and stables, graze here all year long.  It’s the realm of moths and of butterflies who let us admire them, content to suck the nectar of the wild artichoke flowers.  Numerous types of birds are native to this landscape.

Amongst the rarest, we note the Stone-curlew, the Shrikes, the Black-headed Bunting, the Woodlark, the Calandra Lark, the Tawny Pipit, the Greater Short-toed Lark and the Great Spotted Cuckoo.  Many raptors come to these wide open spaces that are well suited for their hunting of small mammals and reptiles: the Common Kestrel, the Red Kite, and the Short-toed Eagle.

Amongst the typical landscapes of the Tolfetano-Cerite-Manziate region, we should finally mention the traditionally cultivated farmland.  These are humanised environments which constitute the habitat of choice for some species of community interest, amongst which we note the rare Montagu's Harrier.  The cultivated land in the region consists mainly of wheat fields separated by strips of natural vegetation.   The reduction of traditional agriculture and the consequent fragmentation of cultivated land, together with the use of pesticides and other chemical products, put this semi-natural habitat at great risk.  The Agricultural Cooperatives known as “Università Agrarie” in both Tolfa and Allumiere are strongly promoting the extension of Organic Farming in the area.


Questo sito utilizza cookies tecnici e sono inviati cookies di terze parti per offrirti il miglior servizio possibile e per mostrarti pubblicità in base alle tue preferenze. Nell’informativa estesa puoi conoscere come disabilitare l’uso dei cookies di terze parti; proseguendo nella navigazione accetti l’uso dei cookies.Informativa Cookie completa To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

I accept cookies from this site.

EU Cookie Directive Module Information