Among the multiple ecosystem services (ES) providing to meet the growing perception of human needs (Li et al., 2020), landscape is particularly involved, and mountain lands of central-southern Italy are under pressure as fundamental resources and opportunity for several aspects of social, economic, and cultural activities. Clean water, food, and raw materials used by people for all needs account the multiple benefits that environment provide to the humans in terms of ES (MEA, 2005; FAO, 2016). In this context, grasslands and livestock play a crucial role as ES, also referring to the function of carbon sink, to the animal and plant diversity, to the heritage knowledge sources, and to the recovery of marginalised lands. The protection of biodiversity implies several ES (Teixeira et al., 2021), aiming to preserve both animals and their environment considered crucial for a sustainable use of landscape (Fatica et al., 2019; Miraglia et al., 2020), limiting at the same time environmental impacts, such as soil erosion which increasingly affects Apennine areas (Rosskopf et al., 2020). The aim of this study is to investigate the potential ecosystem services that a grazing area of central-southern Italy could provide, analysing soil characteristics, and plant and animal diversity. Present study was developed in an inner area of Molise region (Frosolone municipality - 41°36′ N 14°27′ E, Italy) involved in the ancient transhumance practice acknowledged by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO, 2019). As a contribute to the ES provided by this area located at an altitude ranging between 1250 and 1350 m a.s.l. and characterized by continental cold-humid climate, pasture (300 ha) has been studied considering its biological functions, i.e., soil characteristics and biodiversity, and their evolution compared to data from 1990 (Di Rocco et al., 1992). During a two-year grazing period (May-July), several transepts (0.5 m2) representative of three sampling sites of pasture (named SM, CF, AQ) underwent biomass production evaluation and phytosociological investigation. Qualitative assessment of vegetation cover of sampling sites was carried out through orthophoto comparisons (QGIS ver. 3.10.2). Soil profiles of each site were sampled and classified according to USDA Soil Taxonomy (Soil Survey Staff, 2010). Grazing animal data were collected from the official recordings of Frosolone municipality for the period 2012-2020. Despite a relevant decrease in grazing species consistency, pasture areas showed localized overgrazing phenomena and a turf quality decline. Degradation phenomena negatively affected also soil conservation and landscape. Vegetation consisted in about 15 species where Gramineae family was the most represented in the studied areas, while Compositae and Legume families were found in CF more abundant than in SM and AQ. Due to the high variability of the turf, ranging between 1.5 cm and 40 cm, the average dry matter (DM) biomass production ranged from a minimum value of 1.87 t DM/ha in 2019 and a maximum value of 4.26 t DM/ha in 2020. Orthophoto comparison highlighted an increase of vegetal density due to progressive decrease of grassland and forest use. Soil profiles, with maximum depth around 70 cm, were characterized by low calcium carbonate content resulting in an acid and weakly-acid reaction in top and in subsoil respectively, slow permeability and high-water holding capacity, and siliceous skeleton in depth. On the peak of mountain, superficial and little undeveloped profiles were found. Soils were classified as Haplumbrets (SM and CF sites) and Hapludalfs (AQ site). Furthermore, some fire horizons were found in SM and CF areas. It is worth noting that during last nine-years period, the grazing population (about 2500 heads per year) has varied on this area showing a deep decrease of goats, horses, and donkeys. This multidisciplinary work involved soil, vegetation, and animals, within a rural area characterized by strong agricultural, pastoral, tourist, cultural and eno-gastronomic roots. Results suggested interventions focused to improve the potential ecosystem services linked to this UNESCO area. By improving the agricultural services (i.e., livestock and food production, pollination, invasive species control), pasture of Molise Region could expand the ecosystem services to crucial issues, such as hydrologic regulation, erosion and land degradation reduction, carbon storage and climate regulation, cultural and non-material benefits, within the frame of biodiversity preservation and sustainable rural development.

Apennine pasture as potential ecosystem services source: a case study

Antonella Fatica;Luana Circelli;Alessio Manzo;Erika Di Iorio;Claudio Colombo;Elisabetta Salimei
2021

Abstract

Among the multiple ecosystem services (ES) providing to meet the growing perception of human needs (Li et al., 2020), landscape is particularly involved, and mountain lands of central-southern Italy are under pressure as fundamental resources and opportunity for several aspects of social, economic, and cultural activities. Clean water, food, and raw materials used by people for all needs account the multiple benefits that environment provide to the humans in terms of ES (MEA, 2005; FAO, 2016). In this context, grasslands and livestock play a crucial role as ES, also referring to the function of carbon sink, to the animal and plant diversity, to the heritage knowledge sources, and to the recovery of marginalised lands. The protection of biodiversity implies several ES (Teixeira et al., 2021), aiming to preserve both animals and their environment considered crucial for a sustainable use of landscape (Fatica et al., 2019; Miraglia et al., 2020), limiting at the same time environmental impacts, such as soil erosion which increasingly affects Apennine areas (Rosskopf et al., 2020). The aim of this study is to investigate the potential ecosystem services that a grazing area of central-southern Italy could provide, analysing soil characteristics, and plant and animal diversity. Present study was developed in an inner area of Molise region (Frosolone municipality - 41°36′ N 14°27′ E, Italy) involved in the ancient transhumance practice acknowledged by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO, 2019). As a contribute to the ES provided by this area located at an altitude ranging between 1250 and 1350 m a.s.l. and characterized by continental cold-humid climate, pasture (300 ha) has been studied considering its biological functions, i.e., soil characteristics and biodiversity, and their evolution compared to data from 1990 (Di Rocco et al., 1992). During a two-year grazing period (May-July), several transepts (0.5 m2) representative of three sampling sites of pasture (named SM, CF, AQ) underwent biomass production evaluation and phytosociological investigation. Qualitative assessment of vegetation cover of sampling sites was carried out through orthophoto comparisons (QGIS ver. 3.10.2). Soil profiles of each site were sampled and classified according to USDA Soil Taxonomy (Soil Survey Staff, 2010). Grazing animal data were collected from the official recordings of Frosolone municipality for the period 2012-2020. Despite a relevant decrease in grazing species consistency, pasture areas showed localized overgrazing phenomena and a turf quality decline. Degradation phenomena negatively affected also soil conservation and landscape. Vegetation consisted in about 15 species where Gramineae family was the most represented in the studied areas, while Compositae and Legume families were found in CF more abundant than in SM and AQ. Due to the high variability of the turf, ranging between 1.5 cm and 40 cm, the average dry matter (DM) biomass production ranged from a minimum value of 1.87 t DM/ha in 2019 and a maximum value of 4.26 t DM/ha in 2020. Orthophoto comparison highlighted an increase of vegetal density due to progressive decrease of grassland and forest use. Soil profiles, with maximum depth around 70 cm, were characterized by low calcium carbonate content resulting in an acid and weakly-acid reaction in top and in subsoil respectively, slow permeability and high-water holding capacity, and siliceous skeleton in depth. On the peak of mountain, superficial and little undeveloped profiles were found. Soils were classified as Haplumbrets (SM and CF sites) and Hapludalfs (AQ site). Furthermore, some fire horizons were found in SM and CF areas. It is worth noting that during last nine-years period, the grazing population (about 2500 heads per year) has varied on this area showing a deep decrease of goats, horses, and donkeys. This multidisciplinary work involved soil, vegetation, and animals, within a rural area characterized by strong agricultural, pastoral, tourist, cultural and eno-gastronomic roots. Results suggested interventions focused to improve the potential ecosystem services linked to this UNESCO area. By improving the agricultural services (i.e., livestock and food production, pollination, invasive species control), pasture of Molise Region could expand the ecosystem services to crucial issues, such as hydrologic regulation, erosion and land degradation reduction, carbon storage and climate regulation, cultural and non-material benefits, within the frame of biodiversity preservation and sustainable rural development.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11695/99881
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