Nature protection and biodiversity (Italy)
Why should we care about this issue
- Nature and biodiversity
Part C - Italy - Commonality (June, 1st 2010)- Care
In terms of biodiversity, Italy is one of Europe’s richest countries, essentially on account of its favourable geographic position, as well as its extensive geo-morphological, microclimatic and vegetative variety, and the additional influence of factors of history and culture. Italy is included in biodiversity ‘hotspots’ on the global level and it is a recognised part of priority ecoregions.
The state and impacts
Part C - Italy - Commonality (June, 1st 2010) - State and Impacts
Italy possesses one-half of all the plant species currently found on European territory, together with a third of the animal species. There are more than 58 000 animal species in Italy and more than 6 700 species of higher plants with 15.6 % of endemic species. Italy has an especially rich stock of forests and its forest area index is constantly on the rise, mainly thanks to the natural expansion of forests.
Running counter to this trend, however, are forest fires, which continue to represent a serious problem, although mitigated in 2008.
However, biodiversity is seriously threatened. For example, the percentage of vertebrate species at risk fluctuates depending on the author consulted, from 47.5 % to 68.4 %. The situation is especially critical for freshwater fishes, amphibians and reptiles. The statistics on the threat faced by plant species in Italy show that 15 % of the vascular flora in Italy is threatened with extinction, while the situation is even more critical for the lower plants, with approximately 40 % of all known species found to be in danger.
In addition to natural environments, agricultural areas also play an important role. For instance, approximately 21 % of the UAA (Utilised Agricultural Area) presents characteristics of noteworthy naturalistic value.
 GIS NATURA Il GIS delle conoscenze naturalistiche in Italia, MATT, 2005; Biodiversity in Italy, Blasi et al., 2005
 An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Conti et al., 2005
 Libro rosso degli Animali d'Italia, Bulgarini et al., 1998; Application to the terrestrial vertebrates of Italy of a system proposed by IUCN for a new classification of national Red List categories, Pinchera et al., 1997; Condannati all’estinzione? Biodiversità, biologia, minacce e strategie di conservazione dei Pesci d’acqua dolce indigeni in Italia, Zerunian, 2002
 Libro Rosso delle Piante d’Italia, Conti et al., 1992; Liste Rosse Regionali delle Piante d'Italia, Conti et al., 1997; Atlante delle specie a rischio di estinzione (CD-ROM), Scoppola & Spampinato, 2005
 EEA, 2004
The key drivers and pressures
Part C - Italy - Commonality (June, 1st 2010) - Drivers and pressures
- Data source
Fullscreen image Original link
- Data source
Fullscreen image Original link
The primary threats to biodiversity are human activities and the growing demand for natural resources and ecosystem services.
For instance, for vertebrates, of all the indirect influences of human origin, the most frequent types of threats (50.5 % of the species at risk) involve the transformation or modification of natural habitats (A2), while poaching and illegal fishing (B7) constitute the primary type of threat among the direct influences of human origin (Fig. 1).
Other causes of impact are those tied to hunting, which can be practised in more than 62 % of the national territory, and fishing, with approximately 5 % of the total European catch.
Also wood supply constitutes a factor of pressure specific to forest ecosystems, but in recent years, with a reduced rate and a decreased average area of cuttings.
The introduction of potentially invasive alien species constitutes another threat to biodiversity. In Italy, data available report 2 029 alien species of which plants are about 50 %, followed by terrestrial invertebrates (33 %) and other groups (Fig. 2).
 ISTAT, 2007
The 2020 outlook
Part C - Italy - Commonality (June, 1st 2010) - Outlook 2020
Some initiatives have been carried out over the last few years, and many actions have been taken at various levels reaching and involving political decision makers, players and stakeholders in the common objective of defining a national strategy and thereby fulfil that required by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), including beyond 2010.
Italian experience based on solid and independent scientific information on matters related to biodiversity has led to the acknowledgement that an integrated management of nature conservation and development needs is the key to a new approach to sustainability in which economic, biological and cultural diversity play an essential
A post-2010 national strategy on biodiversity has been developed on this multi-disciplinary approach involving strong cooperation between political decision makers, administrations, agencies, the academic world and stakeholders.
In order to achieve these objectives, Italy has undertaken a direction in line with the federalism process under way, whereby regional councils are responsible for governing their territories and the state is responsible for Biodiversity.
The State-Region Conference is the institutional office in which the national biodiversity strategy has been definitely approved in October 2010 and officially presented during the First National Biodiversity Conference, an important opportunity to raise awareness of the year 2010, the World Biodiversity Year.
According to the horizontal nature of the topic, the national strategy has been structured into three main themes: biodiversity and ecosystem services, biodiversity and climate change and biodiversity and economic policies. There is a strong awareness of the fact that training, information, communication and sensitising public opinion are essential ways to involve local communities and all stakeholders in programmes and political actions. In order to implement virtuous mechanisms to involve all citizens and make them conscious participants in a national commitment to conserving biodiversity, a substantial part of the national strategy shall be based on including Biodiversity-related topics in wide-scale training, information and communication programmes.
Existing and planned responses
Part C - Italy - Commonality (June, 1st 2010) - Responses
Italy is part to numerous multilateral environmental agreements designed to safeguard biodiversity, first of all the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The Bird Directive was transposed into national legislation with Law 157/1992, while the Habitat Directive was fully transposed into Italian law under Presidential Decree 120/2003. At present, Italy’s Network Nature 2000 consists of 597 SPAs, with a surface area of 4 377 721 hectares, equal to 14.5 % of the national territory, and of 2 288 SCIs, with a surface area of 4 530 866 hectares, equal to 15 % of the national territory.
Another fundamental reference for the conservation of biodiversity in Italy is the Framework Law on Protected Areas 394/1991. There are 772 protected areas covering almost 3 million hectares of terrestrial surface (9.7 % of the national territory).
There are also 25 Marine Protected Areas and other protected areas of sea, including the wide International Marine Mammals Sanctuary.
51 sites of major ecological importance, covering a total surface area of approximately 58 800 hectares, are protected under the Ramsar Convention on wetlands of international importance.
Furthermore 12 ‘Action Plans’ have been implemented for threatened species of fauna, while 3 ‘Guidelines’ have been drawn up to limit species that damage native fauna and natural habitats.
Many other initiatives, including some undertaken at regional and local levels, are focused on the sustainable use of resources (e.g. fishing), on the monitoring of species and habitats, on environmental reclamation and restocking, on the creation of ecological networks, on the implementation of criteria of sustainability in production sectors, and on environmental education and certification. For instance, 748 065 hectares of forests are currently certified, more than 8 % of the total forest area.
The various actions listed up to this point to safeguard nature and biodiversity can be effectively applied only if they are supported with adequate funding. The available data show that spending by different government bodies (grouped by COFOG) on the defence of biodiversity and the countryside totalled EUR 4 357 million in 2007, with an increase of approximately 52 % from 2000, confirming the attention placed in the sector under public policies.
As for relations between agriculture and the environment, particular attention is focused on biological agriculture. In Italy, the surface areas involved in or being converted to biological agriculture in 2008 were equal to 1 002 414 hectares, representing 8 % of the national UAA.
Claudio Piccini, Giovanni Finocchiaro(ISPRA)
Convention on Biological Diversity - CBD
United Nations Conference on Environment and Development - UNCED
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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