Old-growth forests in Italy: towards a first network

Marco Marchetti, Carlo Blasi


Although the forest systems in Italy have been subjected to the influence of human activities ever since thousands of years, some remote areas maintained a high degree of naturalness, representing an important legacy both in terms of resources and biological diversity. In recent decades, the increasing costs of silvicultural practices has led to the concentration of timber exploitation in the most easily accessible zones and, consequently,to the abandonment of several stands. As a result, the interest in woodlands driven by
predominantly natural dynamics has been growing considerably.These general observations provided the starting point for the project Old-growth forests in Italian National Parks, which is promoted by the Nature Protection Directorate in collaboration with the Biodiversity, Plant Sociology and Landscape Ecology Interuniversity Research Centre of the Sapienza University of Rome. The first phase of this project was conducted between 2006 and 2009. It was aimed at gathering information on Italian forests with old-growth features, selecting those that satisfy the old-growth forest definition drawn up for the purposes of this project. The selected forests have been mapped,classified according to an old-growth scale and included in a geodatabase that stores structural and vegetation data. Although Italy does not boast forests that have never been touched or have not been disturbed for several centuries, numerous forests with old-growth features were identified and studied. The considerable variety of vegetation types that characterize these forests makes this sample an important starting point for a nationwide Old-growth Forests Network, which may become the object of important monitoring initiatives, taking into account also persistent woodlands.


National Biodiversity Strategy; Italian National Parks; old-growth features; vegetationn series; forest types; old-growth forests network

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