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Nature 2000 Network

The Nature 2000 Network is the most important European Union initiative for the protection of Natural Heritage.  It aims to reverse the decline of bio-diversity by integrating the needs of conservation with the development of human activities.  This ambitious project involves all twenty-seven nations of the European Union who must work together to protect hundreds of species and their characteristic habitats distributed in over twenty-four thousand areas identified as fundamental for nature conservation in Europe.

The sites that make up this great network are of two different types.   The Special Protection Areas (SPAs) which host significant populations of one or more species of bird found in Annex I of the Directive 2009/147/CE (the so-called Birds Directive) and sites of Community importance (SCI) which host a variety of habitats and animal and plant species, listed in Annexes I and II of Directive 92/43/EEC (also known as the Habitats Directive) that are considered as seriously threatened at European level.

At this moment, Italy has identified nearly six-hundred SPAs and more than two thousand two hundred SCIs.  The latter, when the process of identification and designation by the member states becomes completed, will then be referred to as “Special Areas of Conservation” (SAC).

The Nature 2000 Network introduces some important innovations of nature conservation: first is to manage in a uniform and coordinated way a number of areas very distant from each other forming just one coherent network.  Birds mammals and insects, as well as plants and other animals, do not understand regional or national boundaries and their conservation cannot be confined to limited or isolated areas.

The major project Nature 2000 has given full importance, not only to the maintenance of the best-preserved natural environments but also includes  the protection of semi-natural environments;  those that have become modified by humans over the centuries such as areas of traditional agriculture,  pasture lands, and forests subjected to certain forms of coppicing.  In this way, the value to conservation, of the biodiversity in areas that are the result of centuries of interaction between traditional human activities and nature, in which the Tolfa mountains are a most extraordinary example has been finally recognised.  From this prospective, the purpose of the project is to create a system that harmonises the development of human activities and natural conservation.

The “Tolfetano-Cerite-Manziate District” SPA

The “Tolfetano-Cerite-Manziate District”  SPA covers 70,000 hectares occupying all the area between Lake Bracciano, the Mignone river basin and the Tirennian sea.

The geographic position, protected on one side by the pre-appennines and mitigated on the other by the Tirrenian coast make this an almost unique area from a natural point of view.

One of the characteristics of this area is the rich environment resulting from the influences of vegetation, climatic and microclimatic, human and bio-geographic influences.  The traditional use of land has been essentially influential on the composition of vegetation resulting in characteristic environments, valuable in terms of landscape and nature.   Open pastures, meadows, bushes and traditional crops alternate with the rocky banks, recently colonised by pioneer vegetation, with waterways where the riparian vegetation forms a veritable forested gallery of willows and orchards.

Amongst the forest environments stand the so-called “cerrete” Turkey-oak forests, beech forests, and the Maquis shrubland.   The whole area hosts numerous threatened species of wild fauna, rare and even endemic – exclusive to central Italy.  Amongst the mammals, are numbered the presence of wolves, of marten, of wild cats, and several bats of notable interest.    The further presence of numerous precious and threatened species of insects, specifically Carabid Beetles, the Odonata (dragonflies), and Lepidoptera (moths both nocturnal and diurnal), and in the same way reptiles and amphibians.   But the Tolfa mountains  are above all famous for being one of the most important areas for bird conservation.  Also at international level, the area is very popular  and is visited by both Eurpean and American ornithologists and bird-watchers.   The Italian Peninsula is indeed the best place for observation of most of the Mediterranean species.  The area is located along a major migratory route and is characterised by the nests of seventy-five species of birds.  Among the most important species are the Black-eared Wheatear, the Black-headed Bunting, the Red-backed Shrike, the Lesser Grey Shrike, and the Woodchat Shrike.

The reproduction of the Sparrow-hawk, the Eurasian Hobby, and the Spectacled Warbler takes on regional importance.  Ten species of diurnal raptors reproduce altogether in the Tolfa Mountains.  Specifically the region hosts the last stable breeding ground of the Red Kite in Lazio.

The “Devilish woods of Allumiere” SCI

The “Devilish woods of Allumiere” site of Community Importance covers 628 hectares with an average altitude of 482 meters above sea level. Within the SCI is the priority habitat “Apennine beech forests with Taxus and Ilex” included in the European Union Habitats Directive. A true jewel of this area is in fact the "depressed beech " although it is placed below the normal altitude of the beech Apennine (1200-1800 meters above sea level).

Due to the specific climatic conditions of this area, located just 13 km from the sea there are cold relics of past ages. In the company of beech trees are the Sycamore Maple, the common hornbeam and hop hornbeam together with isolated chestnut trees. In the undergrowth growing European holly,   Butcher's broom, and in the early spring, anemones and cyclamen spring up. The fauna 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 . Toads live in the undergrowth along with the Agile Frog, while more rare is the Fire Salamander. Among the most important insects are the rare Rosalia Longicorn, a blue-gray beetle with black spots and long and characteristic antennae, whose life cycle is dependent on mature beech forests.

The “Macchia di Manziana” SCI

The Macchia di Manziana SCI covers an area of 801 hectares and includes inside the Grand Manziana Macchia forest - one of the greatest Oak forests in the highlands of Lazio.  The forest is located to the south-west of the town of Manziana and extends approximately 545 hectares on volcanic soil with an average altitude of about 317m above sea level. The dominant species of tree is the Turkey Oak, with specimens reaching up to 30 meters high and the associated Italian Oak  which is growing here at the northern limit of its range. The dominant species of the tall shrub layer is the wild medlar, and, in smaller numbers, the Common Hornbeam, Montpellier Maple, field maple, holly, and in even smaller numbers, South European Flowering Ash, the Checker Tree, the elm and crab apple trees. The forest has had a significant use in the past, both for the production of firewood, and for the construction of railway sleepers. For several years are maintained within the various forest animals, both cows, and donkeys, which have helped to degrade the shrub layer and have affected the natural renewal.

From the fauna point of view of the forest has many elements of interest:

Among the invertebrates are two beetles listed in the annexes of the Habitats Directive of the European Community: the great capricorn beetle and the stag beetle. Among the mammals are the hedgehog, European Pine Marten and the edible dormouse.

The presence of birds is remarkable. We recall, among others, the Great tit, Blue tit, Marsh Tit, the Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus), Goldcrest and the Common Firecrest, the Hawfinch, Eurasian Jay, blackbirds, Eurasian Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, the lesser spotted woodpecker, the great spotted woodpecker and green woodpecker.

Guido Prola

 

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