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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Monitoring Natura 2000 habitats: habitat 92A0 in central Italy as an example


The evaluation and the subsequent monitoring of the conservation status of habitats is one of the key steps in nature protection. While some European countries have tested suitable methodologies, others, including Italy, lack procedures tested at the national level. The aim of this work is to propose a method to assess the conservation status of habitat 92A0 (Salix alba and Populus alba galleries) in central Italy, and to test the method using data from the Molise region. We selected parameters that highlight the conservation status of the flora and vegetation in order to assess habitat structures and functions at the site level. After selecting the parameters, we tested them on a training dataset of 22 unpublished phytosociological relevés taken from the whole dataset, which consists of 119 relevés (49 unpublished relevés for the study area, and 70 published relevés for central Italy). We detected the most serious conservation problems in the middle and lower course of the Biferno river: the past use of river terraces for agriculture and continual human interventions on the river water flow have drastically reduced the riparian forests of Molise. Our results show that in areas in which forest structure and floristic composition have been substantially modified, certain alien plant species, particularly Robinia pseudoacacia, Amorpha fruticosa and Erigeron canadensis, have spread extensively along rivers. In the management of riparian forests, actions aimed at maintaining the stratification of the forest, its uneven-agedness and tree species richness may help to ensure the conservation status, as well as favour the restoration, of habitat 92A0.

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