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Fitosociologia 48 (2) S1 2011

pag. 137-143: Between global priorities and local urgencies: the Important Plant Areas programme in Italy

C. Blasi, *M. Marignani, M. Fipaldini & R. Copiz

Department of Environmental Biology, Sapienza University of Rome, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Roma

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Global priorities for the conservation of biodiversity assume a key role in determining the national priorities and the research agenda. The “Important Plant Areas in Italy” project, promoted by the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Nature Protection Directorate through a programme aimed at mapping the IPAs, represents an important contribution to the planning of strategies designed to enhance biodiversity conservation. The national working group, co-ordinated by the Inter-university research centre for “Biodiversity, Plant sociology and Landscape ecology” of the “Sapienza” University of Rome and composed of a network of 100 botanical experts was set up to obtain original information and draw up a detailed, nationwide picture of the situation in Italy.
Important Plant Areas were identified on the basis of a range of taxonomic groups (such as vascular plants, bryophytes, freshwater algae, lichens and fungi) and habitats in order to promote an integrated model of knowledge for the conservation of plant diversity. Each of the selected vascular plants and habitats was assigned a conservation value on a regional basis. An approach based on the overlapping of the species and habitat maps was used to identify the most important areas for plant diversity and to pinpoint any “hotspots” of richness and diversity.
Hence, polygons were defined within the cells of high conservation value and/or containing high vascular species and habitat richness (grid approach). A total of 320 IPAs were identified in Italy (including 8 fresh water algae community sites), covering approximately 15% of the country. Regional results highlighted the extreme heterogeneity of available data and the need for new basic research projects designed to integrate and update the information currently available on the distribution of plant species (vascular plants, bryophytes, freshwater algae, lichens), fungi and habitats in our country. Considering the global emerging issues but acting at local level, the results yielded by this project may be exploited for interventions of various kinds, ranging from the choice of protected areas to urban planning.


expert-based approach, Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, hotspots of botanical diversity, multi-taxa approach