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Research findings in coastal park leads to special protection
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Scientific research makes a notable contribution towards policy and conservation ...

Field research by a joint University of Malta team and a Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) team, at Collelungo, within the Parco Regionale delle Maremma, has led local conservation authorities to consider special protection for the population of endemic Limonium etruscum.   

The University of Malta’s International Environment Institute, together with colleagues from CNR’s Istituto per lo Studio degli Ecosistemi, have been conducting research on the flora and fauna, as well as on the geomorphology and conservation of the coastal dunes at Parco dell’Uccellina for the last five years. This was carried out through two EU-funded projects.  Following an initial study of the seven kilometer dunal coastline, carried out between 2002 and 2005, the two teams focused their work on a particular location some six kilometers from the mouth of the river Ombrone.  Dr Louis F Cassar, Director of the Institute, who coordinates the team’s research efforts, explained that the area in question is extremely important because it supports a relatively large but somewhat vulnerable population of the endemic Limonium etruscum.  'This was one of the main reasons why we selected this spot as our field research station,' he said.

Sandro Lanfranco, whose responsibilities include research on the interannual stability of vegetation and characterization of the seed bank within the wetland area at Collelungo also expressed satisfaction at the decision by local authorities to consider the site for further protection: 'This species survives in saline coastal wetlands along the coast of Tuscany and does not exist anywhere else on Earth.  As such, if the integrity of the existing population were to be compromised, the species would be probably lost for good.'  Dr Cassar noted that this was clearly a case where scientific research made a notable contribution towards policy and conservation. 'Working within a multi-disciplinary team has created synergy between empirical methods and coastal management,' he added.  

The University of Malta team is also monitoring temporal erosion trends within the sand dunes at Collelungo, as well as investigating potential wildlife corridors and fragmentation in the landscape, with a focus on riparian elements. Moreover, the ecologically and culturally diverse park area is the subject of a landscape assessment, which another member of the team, Elisabeth Conrad, is using to develop a landscape appraisal methodology.  

Apart from carrying out research in the area, the Institute also uses the park and its precincts as venue for its post-graduate students undergoing courses in environmental planning and integrated resource management. 'Since the park offers numerous opportunities for field research and in view of the fact that we are quite familiar with its environment, also collaborating closely with local research and management entities, we had decided to use this location as field laboratory for coastal management,' added Dr Cassar.  The Institute is planning on taking its current students following the Master in Integrated Resource Management to carry out fieldwork within the park later this year.  

IEI Research

IEI Research 

Team effort: joint University of Malta and CNR personnel at the research site

IEI Research 

Detail of the inflorescence of the endemic Limonium etruscum


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