Palo Laziale 30 Years After - Monitoring The Situation Of Birds’ Population Of  Palo Laziale Wood (1982-2012)

Project location: ITALY, Palo Laziale
Project start date: December 2011 - Project end date: October 2012
Project number: 2011-37
Beneficiary: Associazione Alsium


The Palo Laziale forest, located in the municipality of Ladispoli is a hygrophilous dunal woodland, which is part of an SCI (Site of Community Importance, IT6030022 41° 56'N-12°05'E) and has a surface area of about 120 hectares.
The site is one of the last remnants of floodplain forest along the Tyrrhenian coast. Over the last few years, climate change has affected the status of the forest, in particular by causing stress which led to the death of many plants. About three years ago, the forest was subject to selective phytosanitary cutting, a necessary measure against the pathology that had affected the forest. After the selective cutting and a period of temporary closure to allow for the regeneration of the undergrowth and the re-establishment of natural conditions, the Bosco di Palo nature reserve was re-opened to the public.
The re-opening of the reserve comes on the heel of a major habitat restoration effort targeting the entire area and supported by the Fondazione Nando Peretti, within the framework of the project "Improvement of the Bosco di Palo nature reserve".
The work also included improving infrastructure for visitors and the nature trail, parts of which are now accessible for the disabled. The nature trail, which features information panels focusing on typical specie, is about 2 kilometres long and crosses all of the reserve's habitats, from the butterfly garden to the frog pond. The bird community was studied about 30 years ago, and has not been studied with a similar methodology (mapping) since.
The aim of the project is to assess structural changes in the forest's vegetation compared to the past, and the extent to which these changes impacted the avian community.

The first survey of the breeding birds of Palo Laziale forest took place in 1982 (Fraticelli F. & Sarrocco S. 1984. Avocetta, 8: 91-98). The study area comprised 16 hectares within a 60 hectare woodland, whose dominant species were Turkey Oak Quercus cerris and, to a lesser extent, Downy Oak Quercus pubescens and Holm Oak Quercus ilex.
The aim of the current project is to assess the changes that took place within the Palo Laziale forest's breeding bird community thirty years after the first survey.
Vegetation structure will be examined using the same sampling methodology used in the 1982 study, namely Range Finder Circle method (James & Shugart 1970), in order to evaluate the changes that took place in the vegetation using comparable data.
This method calls for surveying an area of 0.04 hectares per each hectare, using a measuring stick divided into segments of 0.5 meters each to measure herbaceous and shrub layers, and a camera with a 300 mm lens to estimate the height of the canopy.
The bird census will be conducted through mapping (IBCC 1969, Bibby 1992), which methodology calls for 12 surveys, once about every ten days, between early March and mid-July (for Mediterranean habitats). Surveys will be conducted from dawn until 10-11 AM and not later, since birds become more difficult to find both by sight and by ear after that time.
The mapping methodology makes it possible to obtain data on absolute density (n. di pairs/10 hectares) (Blondel 1969).
During the breeding season, birds become territorial, and defend their breeding grounds, especially through intensive singing. This makes it easy to record two or more individuals simultaneously, and to establish the boundaries of neighbouring territories. Birds seen or heard singing during each survey will be mapped on a 1:2000 scale map.
The mapping method involves creating a grid of equidistant paths that can cover the entire study area. All records of birds made along these paths will be mapped, with particular attention paid to cases in which two or more birds are recorded simultaneously. By overlapping all the partial maps completed during each individual survey and the contact points identified for each species, on can obtain a map of the distribution of each individual of the species being surveyed (in particular songbirds, woodpeckers, and pigeons and doves).
In order to analyze and confirm the results obtained with the mapping method, the following validity test will be used:
- for any given species, a territory will be considered STABLE when at least three valid records are made during the monitoring period, with at least 20 days between the first and the last record. Value 1;
- for any given species, a territory will be considered MARGINAL when it falls only partly within the nature reserve. Value 0.5
- for any given species, a territory will be considered DISTINCT, when two valid records are made simultaneously, with at least 20 days between the first and the last. Value 2.
- finally, for any given species, a territory will be considered NOT DISTINCT, when there are less than 3 valid.
The ecological parameters that will be taken into consideration include:
- Species richness (S): Number of breeding species;
- Density (d): N. pairs/10 hectares;
- Abundance (A): Number of individuals / linear km;
- Number of dominant species (nd): the number of species in which pi (frequency) is higher than 0.05;
- Diversity (H): obtained using the Shannon Index: H =  pi log pi, where pi proportion of the i-th species (Shannon & Weaver 1963);
- Species evenness (J): J = H/H' max, where H' max = log and S. Species evenness measures the homogeneity of the distribution of species within the community . J can vary from 0, when only one species is present, to 1, when all species present are exactly evenly distributed; that is, they all have the same abundance index (Pielou 1966);
- Percentage of non-passerines (nP): the percentage of non-passerines gauges the complexity of the avian community;
- Percentage of migrants (%migr): this parameter assesses the presence of long-distance migrants as a percentage of the breeding bird community;
- Brute Biomass (BB): overall weight (in grams) of the total individuals of a given species. Weights for individual species were drawn from the literature (Brichetti et al. 1986).

These parameters, which are the same as those that were used in 1982, should make it possible to pinpoint the changes that took place in the Palo Laziale forest's vegetation structure (especially in light of the significant changes that took place in recent years) and avian community.


Anticipated achievements or outcomes of the Project
Indicators of success: case study of changes in vegetation structure and avian community after 30 years; description of the changes in a breeding bird community (n. pairs/10 hectares) in a floodplain forest between 1982 and the present; updated information on a breeding bird community in an SCI (Site of Community Interest) in Latium.

The project will be implemented by Associazione Alsium, through a partnership ruled by a Memorandum of Understanding between Associazione Alsium and LIPU (Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli)

Associazione Alsium
The Associazione Alsium was founded to protect and preserve Palo Wood, one of the last remnants of lowland forest and an unspoilt portion of the Tyrrhenian coast.
The mission of Associazione Alsium is to protect the estate from the impending real estate development, replanting the forest following the epidemic of 2000, to protect it from drought and replant the flora of the place as well as protecting the environment and marine life threatened by pollution. Also, the Association wishes to make it accessible to the public and plan to create an area for civic and nature education for future generations.

LIPU is the Italian partner of BirdLife International, the most important network of organisations for the conservation of birds. LIPU strives to protect wildlife with a particular focus on wild birds and their habitats, and through this works for the conservation of biodiversity, the growth of public awareness and environmental education, and the sustainable use of natural resources. LIPU has about 30,000 members.
LIPU's programme is organised into the following areas: Species protection; Sites and habitat conservation; Public awareness and education; Lobbying and policies.
LIPU manages 29 nature reserves situated in Italy, ranging from wetlands to steppic habitat. About 100,000 individuals a year visit LIPU's reserves (we call them "oases") and education centres, which play a key role within the conservation education programme. National events and intensive press campaigns play a major role in spreading LIPU's message countrywide. Conservation projects have been carried out on many endangered species among which, White Stork, Red Kite, Lesser Kestrel, Audouin's Gull and White-headed duck. National campaigns on legislation have gained the support of hundreds of thousands of Italians and have obtained: more rigorous hunting laws, a reduced list of hunting species and a shorter hunting season; a new law on Protected Areas; and gazetting of new Reserves and National Parks, including many IBAs (important Bird Areas). Recent work on IBAs has led to designation of many Special Protection Areas. Conservation measures for these areas have been issued by the Italian Ministry of Environment based on LIPU scientific work. Habitat work is focused on agriculture and EU policies.

Associazione Alsium

Via del Corso, 267
00186 Rome – Italy

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