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Plant Sociology 50 (2) 2013

pag. 79-91: The geosynphytosociological approach as a tool for agriculture innovation: the study case of saffron (Crocus sativus L.) cultivation suitability assessment in the Macerata district (central Italy)

A. Catorci1, S. Cesaretti2, F. M. Tardella1

1School of Environmental Sciences, University of Camerino, Via Pontoni 5, I-62032 Camerino (MC), Italy
2Terre.it, Spin-off of the University of Camerino, L.go Decio Filipponi 30/A, Palazzo Costa, I-62028 Sarnano (MC), Italy

doi: 10.7338/pls2013502/05

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The maintenance of open areas as grasslands and croplands has become a vital issue addressed to biodiversity conservation. For this purpose, innovation in agricultural activities may be a key factor. To achieve this goal, it is essential to identify the agronomic suitability and the most appropriate spatial pattern for the proposed cultivation. Therefore, the definition of land suitability classes and of their boundaries is a key step. For this purpose we used the phytosociological approach since it is based on an ecological definition and hierarchical classification of plant communities and landscapes and can be considered as an indirect way to assess the variation of the environmental conditions. Starting from the Marche Region vegetation geo-database, for each vegetation series a draft of the main ecological factors matching with the ecological needs of Crocus sativus L. was carried out. Afterwards, two intermediate maps were drawn: the “Climatic suitability map” and the “Soil suitability map”. Finally, the “Crocus sativus cultivation suitability map” was drawn by overlapping these two maps. Results were tested by agronomic experimentations. The synphytosociological approach proved to be a very valuable method. In fact, the areas belonging to the highlighted different suitability classes (that is the different vegetation series) showed substantial differences in the saffron productivity. Moreover using the vegetation mapping procedures also the definition of the borders of each suitability class has been easily solved at the landscape scale.


Geographic Information Systems, landscape ecology, landscape homogenization, suitability map, vegetation series