An Orchid for the Future

Project location: ITALY
Project start date: June 2001 - Project end date: December 2001
Project number: 2000-03
Beneficiary: University of L’Aquila

Survey in the Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo
The field research has been made in the space of 8 days, divided in two periods: 29-31 May and 12-16 June; in the first of these periods research has been carried out in the Camosciara area and in the second it has been extended also to the upper Valle Iancina.
As for the repopulation of the upper Valle Iancina at the moment it doesn't seem that there are any problems for the Cypripedium exemplars. Rossi has detected here 30 plants and 14 flowers. As for the vaster population of the Camosciara, on the other hand, the problems are several and necessitate intervention, some of which urgent.

A first problem is represented by the numerous tourists that leave the pathways and regards especially the Cypripedium exemplars on the banks of Scerto stream. Here the damage caused by the footfalls of those who bathe in the stream is very evident and is showed by the presence of pathways that don't allow the growth of any plant, in our case not allowing the growth of seedlings in an environment theoretically favourable. A second kind of problem, on which it is possible to intervene, is represented by the excessive growth of the arboreal vegetation. In many cases it is shown evident how plants once luxuriant have turned into weak plants, unable to flower anymore. This problem regards all the Camosciara area, but shows to be particularly serious for a group af plants located on right side of the street that leads to the square. In this area plants that in the previous years used to flower, are today barely visible and in poor light condition.
A third problem, for which at the moment no remedy has been found, is represented by the decrease of water availability, that is quite evident in the higher areas of the camosciara. here, at the date of this year's survey some streams where dry, contrary to what observed in the past years during the same period. this has direct and indirect effects reducing number and vigour of the plants, and favouring the growth of arboreal species, that in their turn contribute in increasing the adverse conditions for the orchids' growth. The fourth problem is linked to the third: never like this year could it be documented such a high number of scapes eaten by herbivores, probably chamois; it has to be underlined that this fact regards all orchids (Corallorhiza, Epipactis, etc.) and could be due to pasture shortage at high altitudes.

The interventions that Prof. Rossi proposes regard only the first two problems. Concerning the footfalls by tourists, it is necessary to limit or forbid the flow of tourists in the plants growing areas. If one would want to leave the possibility to those interested to observe and photograph the orchid, the area could be entirely fenced, leaving a single access, eventually equipped with a gangway, that would lead to a vigorous exemplar with many scapes that flower every year, properly labelled, could work as an attraction or for educational purposes.
As for the excessive growth of arboreal vegetation, a "cleaning" intervention is absolutely necessary to return space and light to the various exemplars.

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University of L'Aquila (Italy)
Environmental Sciences Department

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