Target species of LIFE project “Ticino Biosource”

The primary targets of the LIFE project include various freshwater species: fish and amphibian species, that have always found in the Ticino River and in its connected dense network of waterways and wetlands the source areas relevant for their own conservation in nature.

Ticino Park is indeed the richest Italian fluvial Park in biodiversity, being home to many endemic and sub-endemic species; some of them are project target: the big and mysterious Adriatic sturgeon (Acipenser naccarii), really a living dinosaur, survived in the Po basin only with the Ticino landlocked population; the small loaches, Cobitis bilineata and Sabanejewia larvata, strange anguine fishes which stay buried in the sand or mud during the day; the elusive and funny Lombardy Lamprey (Letentheron zanandreai), Petromyzontes, aquatic vertebrate with cylindrical body, cartilage skeletons and a round sucking mouth;  the peculiar  Italian Agile Frog (Rana latastei), which finds its original habitat in semi-hygrophilous forest alongside the river and wetlands, breeding in permanent and temporary clean water in wooded areas. The target species include also other frogs: the Agile frog (Rana dalmatina) and the arboreal European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea).

Two other fish are targeted: the small and camo Bullhead (Cottus gobio), a minnow living in cool and well oxygenated water, a real indicator of ecological quality for its sensitivity to environmental conditions; and the ultimate target species, the highest challenge of the project: Beluga (Huso huso), the biggest freshwater fish ever existed in Italy and in Europe too, unfortunately locally extinct in Italy, that will be subject to the first experience of reintroduction in our Country, from just Ticino Park.

The project implements a number of actions and interventions aimed at preserving the target species, including structural interventions of water bodies requalification and restoration

as source areas for target species and faunal actions supporting native species (artificial reproduction, breeding, restocking)  and against alien invasive species, mainly against Silurus glanis.

With regard to birds, between the species that will benefit from the LIFE project we point out at first the ones that are related to wetlands, in particular for feeding activities. Between them there are some Ardeidae, like the large Great White Heron (Casmerodius albus), the elegant Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), the colorful Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), the Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) with twilight habits and the Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) strictly related to reedbeds. The creation of new wetlands (dead branches of the river, reedbeds, ponds) and the flooding of meadows in winter and during migration will furnish new sites for foraging during the delicate phases of breeding, migrating and wintering.

Other bird species that will benefit from the interventions related to wetlands especially during breeding season are Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca) and Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus). The first one is a diving duck with a typical rusty plumage, that likes water habitats not to deep and rich of submerged and floating vegetation, with thick vegetation along the edges.  In Italy there are only few tens of breeding pairs and it breeds in Parco Lombardo della Valle del Ticino since 2012.  The Black-winged Stilt is a medium-size species that belongs to the order of Charadriiformes, with an elegant black and white plumage and orange legs. It needs shallow standing waters, with flat bottoms and emerged hedges and islets.

Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus), Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) and Woodlark (Lullula arborea) are species that are present in the Park especially during migration and in winter. The first two species are diurnal raptors characterized by a particular gliding flight, with “V” shaped wings, a few meters above the ground, where they hunt birds and little mammals. The Woodlark belongs to the order of Passeriformes

and to the family of Alaudidae and is related to well preserved agricultural mosaics. These three species will benefit especially from the presence of flooded grasslands, particularly in winter.

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is one of the most colored European birds. The upperwing plumage is blue with metallic shades, while is orange below and the throat is white. It flies very fast just an inch above the surface of the water and has an amazing fishing technique, that include dives after flights  sur place. It is very methodical and tends to use always the same standing points.

Wet meadows are the favorite habitats of the Large Copper (Lycaena dispar), a small, orange colored, butterfly, strongly threatened and declining in all the European regions in which is present. It is considered one of the most threatened butterflies in Italy.

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