A large part of the project area in the Apennines is covered by beech forests (about 21%), widely represented by habitat 9210* (7% of the SCI) and habitat 9220* (2% of the SCI). In recent decades (1955-1990) major changes occurred. In particular, a general increase of forest areas was recorded, especially in the mountain areas, where agricultural lands and pastures declined. The forest habitats targeted by the project are characterised by the rare occurrence of three species: European yew (Taxus baccata ), European holly (Ilex aquifolium ), and silver fir (Abies alba ). The main threats to the conservation of such species are non-sustainable silvicultural practices, grazing, and plant gathering.
The FAGUS project targeted beech forests habitats in the Apennines, aiming to enhance their biological value and biological diversity whilst maintaining revenue for the local population. The general objective of this project was to ensure the long-term conservation of the priority for conservation Apennines beech forests habitats in two Italian national parks: Cilento and Vallo di Diano, and Gran Sasso Laga. The specific objectives were:
- To develop and implement a strategy of sustainable habitat management for the priority habitats by integrating biodiversity conservation and socio-economic issues;
- To enhance biodiversity levels in beech forest habitats;
- To monitor beech forests habitats in the Apennines in the long term; and
- To promote the participation of all relevant public and private stakeholders and raise their awareness about the benefits associated with the sustainable management of the forests.
The FAGUS project enabled the recovery of wood production at sustainable levels by local communities in two protected areas, the National Parks of Gran Sasso and of Cilento, in Italy. This was achieved by increasing the heterogeneity of forest structure and tree species composition, through a number of concrete actions which are expected to provide long-term benefits to the target habitats.
The project team implemented a series of techniques aimed at preserving the biodiversity associated with Apennine beech forests. They replaced the traditional management of forests, which just aims at production and the exploitation of the wood resources, with techniques that promote the multi-functional importance of forests. For example, a number of techniques were implemented to retain and manage deadwood in the forest to increase the diversity of saproxylic organisms. Other techniques also increased the number of microhabitats available to forest species. The potentialities of such techniques were tested and the monitoring activities confirmed the positive impact of the actions for conserving the priority habitats of Apennine beech forests (habitat types 9210* and 9220*).
Many non-target species also benefitted from the project actions, such as the Rosalia longicorn beetle (Rosalia alpina), and the longhorn beetle Morimus asper (Annex II of the Habitats Directive).
The project also offered the opportunity to launch "community contracts", which represent agreements between different stakeholders in relation to the use of mountain forests as an economic and cultural resource (with a focus going beyond biodiversity). The After-Life Conservation Plan, to be used in synergy with the project’s Best Practice manual, will ensure the maintenance of the measures implemented, along with the long-terms agreements established with landowners in the National Park of Gran Sasso.