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An ecological analysis of the riparian vegetation for improving the riverine ecosystem management: the case of Lombardy region (North Italy)

This research aims at finding the potential plant successions in riparian vegetation along gravel-bed streams of Lombardy (Northern Italy), investigating the influence of exotic species and proposing a more sustainable and efficient management planning for habitats conservation. To characterise the riparian vegetation, 65 phytosociological relevés were carried out along four rivers in Lombardy (Pioverna, Staffora, Ogliolo and Grigna). We evaluated a series of ecological indexes to assess the ecology of plant communities. A clustering analysis detected five different plant communities characterised by specific ecological traits. On the basis of such results, we discuss about a model of plant succession describing: (i) the typical native species succession representing the riverine forests of the study areas; (ii) a succession with moderate presence of exotic species; and (iii) a succession dominated by alien species with an unclear development. To preserve the natural heritage and landscape with a small rate of alien species, it is important to plan vegetation management actions, which limit the presence of new empty space. For containing the exotic species, mechanical and chemical measures could lead to good results, but they can be expensive and cause adverse effects. Otherwise, biological control, combined with other actions, has the potential to bring results with low environmental and economic impact. Ecological restoration measures using fast-growing and spreading native species could restrict alien plant colonisation. In this regard, a better comprehension of the invasive alien plants behaviour is necessary, especially in terms of their competition mechanisms. Nevertheless, the application of long-term vegetation management of river ecosystems is crucial for a continuous monitoring and for addressing the goals of the 2030 global agenda concerning biodiversity conservation.


Autori

Fogliata P., Cislaghi A., Leoni V., Sala P., Giupponi L.

Anno
2021
Rivista
Landscape and Ecological Engineering
Abstract

This research aims at finding the potential plant successions in riparian vegetation along gravel-bed streams of Lombardy (Northern Italy), investigating the influence of exotic species and proposing a more sustainable and efficient management planning for habitats conservation. To characterise the riparian vegetation, 65 phytosociological relevés were carried out along four rivers in Lombardy (Pioverna, Staffora, Ogliolo and Grigna). We evaluated a series of ecological indexes to assess the ecology of plant communities. A clustering analysis detected five different plant communities characterised by specific ecological traits. On the basis of such results, we discuss about a model of plant succession describing: (i) the typical native species succession representing the riverine forests of the study areas; (ii) a succession with moderate presence of exotic species; and (iii) a succession dominated by alien species with an unclear development. To preserve the natural heritage and landscape with a small rate of alien species, it is important to plan vegetation management actions, which limit the presence of new empty space. For containing the exotic species, mechanical and chemical measures could lead to good results, but they can be expensive and cause adverse effects. Otherwise, biological control, combined with other actions, has the potential to bring results with low environmental and economic impact. Ecological restoration measures using fast-growing and spreading native species could restrict alien plant colonisation. In this regard, a better comprehension of the invasive alien plants behaviour is necessary, especially in terms of their competition mechanisms. Nevertheless, the application of long-term vegetation management of river ecosystems is crucial for a continuous monitoring and for addressing the goals of the 2030 global agenda concerning biodiversity conservation.

Keywords
Stream ecosystems, Vegetation management, Plant succession, Ecological index of maturity, Exotic species
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