The Life Ticino Biosource project was implemented through actions of creation, restoration and improvement of the habitats of 17 target species, protected by the Community Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC) and Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC). The main goal is to preserve and increase the biodiversity heritage of specific areas in Ticino Park. Specific targets: conservation of 17 species belonging to different faunistic groups, from Insects (Lepidoptera) to Vertebrates (Fish, Birds and Amphibians) present in the Park.
The target species are all threatened by the loss or degradation of their habitats, especially the areas suitable for reproduction and for feeding activities: intensification of agriculture has played an important role in the decline of typical species of open habitats. The project interventions also affected 5 target habitats.
The project actions concerned 6 sites of the Natura 2000 network and contiguous areas, located along the course of the Ticino River, functional to the creation of a connection within the European ecological network.
Most of these areas are owned by the Ticino Park or located in state-owned areas.
- “I Geraci” locality, inside the SAC IT2080002 and SPA IT2080301, was involved in the restoration and creation of wetlands, woodlands, meadows and dryland, habitats particularly suitable for breeding, migratory and wintering Birds, Amphibians and Butterflies;
- The basins of the Arno stream were involved in the creation of floating islands, nesting, resting and feeding sites for waterbirds, as well as the planting of hedges and shrubs along the banks;
- Three aquatic environments of running water that are secondary branches of Ticino River, inside the SACs IT2050005, IT2080002, IT2010014, in terms of water flow, but relevant to consolidate the ecosystem and the secondary river network, crucial to the conservation of some target species of Fish and Amphibians;
- The forests and wetlands of Bernate Ticino, located in degraded areas and recovered in forest habitats and artificial wetland habitats (SAC IT2010014).
A Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for the protection of the “Spawning site of Acipenser naccarii” has been designated (Act. A3), approved by the Lombardy Region and by the Ministry of the Environment. In this site the active defence of Acipenser naccarii from poaching was carried out through the continuing activity of a task force of adequately trained volunteering fishermen coordinated by the technicians of the project team (A5; E2.1). This task force has carried out activities of containment of Silurus glanis, present in the reproduction area of A. naccarii: 3,3 tons of S. glanis were removed from the Ticino River (C7; D6).
To encourage the return of the Huso huso, 50 years after its disappearance from the Po basin, the Park has started its breeding, managing all the stages of growth of one of the longest-lived, late-reproducing freshwater fish (C8). In addition, 891 specimens were reintroduced into nature in the Ticino river; some specimens, followed with telemetry, have revealed a strong instinct to dismount towards the sea. Two of them were filmed downstream in the artificial fish passage of Isola Serafini (140 km away). A released specimen, marked with a microchip, was accidentally caught by a fisherman in the Adriatic Sea (more 450 km away), off the coast of Cesenatico and then released into the sea. In 230 km of monitored rivers 46 H. huso individuals were recorded (D7).
Interventions of ecological recovery of springs, ditches and secondary branches of the Ticino River have been carried out for the morphological diversification improving the conservation of the target fish species (C3): Letentheron zanandreai, Cottus gobio, Cobitis bilineata, Sabanejewia larvata. The morphological diversification and recovery of springs created suitable habitats also for the target Amphibians: Rana dalmatina; Rana latastei; Hyla arborea. Monitoring results (Action D3) showed that the interventions carried out have consolidated and increased the habitats available to batrachians: the area is populated by R. latastei and H. arborea. As regards fish fauna, there has been a shift from the complete absence of fish during the ex-ante fish monitoring, to 3 target species in only one ex-post monitoring campaign (2019).
The recovery and creation of fresh-water wetlands like habitat 3150 and a new reed bed at “I Geraci” in the SAC IT2080002 and at Bernate Ticino in the SAC IT 2010014 (C1; C6) allowed for the reproduction, migration and wintering of many bird species, including the target ones. These habitats also favour the widening of the distribution area of the target species Lycaena dispar. About 60 hectares of abandoned or degraded ‘Marcite’ have been recovered and restored thanks to the involvement of 15 farms that have signed specific agreements with the Ticino Park for the management of the flooded meadows (A.4; C4), after a specific training activity for farmers (E2.5). Experimental and innovative measures such as the realisation of lowland wet meadows (habitat 6510), the so-called “marcite”, created suitable habitats for the numerous bird species that use these habitats for foraging during winter (C4). These habitats and their experimental flooding in autumn and spring offer particularly suitable environments for the target species L. dispar and other Lepidoptera. In the basins of the Arno a total of 808 rafts, 792 with vegetation and 16 without, has been positioned. This intervention allowed for the creation of an overall surface of ca. 4.000 m2 in favour of the nesting and migrating aquatic avifauna. Post-operam monitoring recorded the nesting of 15 pairs of A. nyroca*, 16 pairs of H. himantopus and 2 pairs of I. minutus. With reference to the results of the ante operam monitoring, the number of breeding pairs of the three target species doubled (in ex ante (2017): 8 pairs, 7 pairs and 1 pair respectively). Overall, the bird monitoring carried out in actions D, registered 178 birds of community interest target of the project (2020): 19 Egrets, 38 Great White Herons, 7 Purple Herons, 32 Night Herons, 13 Ferruginous Ducks, 5 Hen Harriers, 51 Woodlarks, 7 Little Bitterns, 5 Marsh Harriers. 79 species of avifauna have been identified through nocturnal sound registrations (Song Meter). Compared to the ante operam monitoring in the post operam the number of species recorded has more than doubled. 85 individuals of L. dispar have been monitored in 7 project sites and 45 species of Lepidoptera have been monitored in the “marcite”.
The recovery and creation of new forest habitats (target habitat 91F0 e 91E0*) were carried out in two sites:
- in locality “La Piarda” (ZSC IT2010014), where the forest habitats have been expanded thanks to the reforestation of areas previously held as gardens, through the planting of autochthonous species, for a total of 4 ha of 91E0* and 12 ha of 91F0 (C5);
- in locality “I Geraci” (SAC IT2080002 and ZPS IT2080301), where requalification and ex-novo creation interventions were implemented for the reforestation with mesophilic autochthonous species, for a total of 3 ha 91E0* and 11 ha of 91F0 (C1). Post-operational vegetation monitoring has already shown an increase in habitats, but the situation is evolving. During the 5 years of the after-life phase it will be possible to detect the structuring of habitats.
The project promoted a wide campaign of environmental education that involved local primary and secondary schools, fishermen associations, farmers and birdwatching and butterfly-watching enthusiasts. The main results are: more than 10.000 students, 500 teachers and 450 classes involved in the environmental education activities; 11 educators involved in the activities of information and environmental education; 13.622 records (between temporary catches, photographs and sightings) and 60 volunteers involved in the monitoring and data collection for the Butterfly Atlas; 43 “campari” farmers trained in the management of “marcite”; 12 triennial agreements for the management of “marcite”; 9 triennial agreements for the management of flooded lowland wet meadows; 5 evening seminars and other raising awareness activities reaching more than 1.000 fishermen before the constitution of the operative task force for sturgeons; 3 butterfly-watching courses (2017, 2018, 2019) counting ca. 120 participants; 3 workshop for the Butterfly Atlas (2018, 2019); 2 “Sentiero Natura” paths implemented; more than 50 press releases; 10 newsletters (8 in Italian and 2 in English); 1 video trailer; 1 documentary video “Ticino, sorgente di biodiversità”; 5 project videoclips; 1 Butterfly Atlas; 1 Publication “The Marcita, History of an ancient farmer invention that speaks about the future of the Italian agriculture”; 1 Didactic booklet “The journey of a Ferruginous Duck in the Ticino Park”; 1 Best Practices volume “Best practice of biodiversity management in the Ticino Park and in Europe”; 1 Technical booklet on the results of the project; 1 Layman’s Report; 10.000 gadgets: posters, t-shirts, canvas bags, hats, stickers, pen-drives, keychains.