The southern slope of the Gran Sasso mountain massif, which is located in the Natura 2000 network site Gran Sasso, is characterised by the landscapes of the high plain of Campo Imperatore and the higher alpine regions (Campo Pericoli, Corno Grande, Monte Camicia, Monte Prena etc.). Its alpine features and broad grasslands and pastures create a unique environment incentral Italy. This area hosts different habitats (grasslands, rocky habitats and mires) listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive and priority dry grasslands. The same habitats are present also in the Natura 2000 site Monti della Laga e Lago di Campotosto. Uncontrolled tourism and extensive livestock raising and rearing are the main threats to the two SCI areas.
The LIFE PRATERIE project's goal was to restore the quality of several habitats listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive, including various types of mountain grasslands, transition mires and quaking bogs, and eutrophic lakes. Some species within these habitats that had been affected by tourism, excessive grazing or the abandonment of grazing were also expected to benefit, specifically the meadowviper (Vipera ursini), the Italian crested newt (Triturus carnifex) and the Pyrenean chamois subspecies Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata. The project's key objectives were:
LIFE PRATERIE improved the overall conservation status of the targeted grasslands and related habitats, and in turn improved the quality of life of farmers in the area. This was achieved thanks to the endorsement of a regulation on managing pastures by seven municipalities, which was supported by involving hundreds of local actors in the process. The approval process is under way at a further four municipalities, which will mean the project surpasses its goal of at least nine municipal administrations officially adopting grazing practices to preserve habitats. These methods will ensure that farming activities are carried out in a way that is fully compatible with biodiversity conservation, and at the same time do not disappear from the project area which would create problems in managing the mountain habitats targeted. Systematic use of the project's participatory approach is expected to favour a more collaborative relationship between the park and the local population in the future. Other key accomplishments of LIFE PRATERIE include the distribution and placement of livestock fences specifically designed for different types of animals, the restoration of drinking troughs and the protection of lakes from livestock, the distribution of livestock guardian dogs to farmers, and the restoration of paths and parking lots to mitigate the impact of tourism. These actions helped improve the quality of life of farmers and reduced the mortality rate of livestock, with a clear benefit in terms of productivity. The tourism sector should also benefit in the longer term. Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).