History of the Project

The Mercantour and Argentera massif, thanks to the richness and uniqueness of its flora and fauna, is considered a biodiversity hotspot. This richness derives from its particular biogeographical location, high altitude and climate influences, both Mediterranean and Continental at the same time. These aspects make the area one of the few in the alpine environment characterised by the presence of a large number of species, particularly those which are endemic. The Parc National du Mercantour and the Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime, both institutions that have the task of managing a large part of this territory, have therefore a responsibility to preserve this natural heritage of great value. You cannot, however, properly protect what you do not know!

Fortunately, following the creation of the EDIT (European Distributed Institute of Taxonomy) in 2006, a network of taxonomic excellence founded through the 6th Programma Quadro Ricerca e Sviluppo , the two parks have had the privilege of selecting them as a pilot area for the European All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory + Monitoring, ATBI+M).

Collection and processing of data. In the picture malacologist Stefano Birindelli in Park Alpi Maritime (F. Tomasinelli)
Collection and processing of data. In the picture malacologist Stefano Birindelli in Park Alpi Maritime (F. Tomasinelli)
Together with EDIT, since the beginning of the precious support of Gouvernement Princier, of Fondation Albert II de Monaco and Ministère de l'Écologie et du développement durable. Two prestigious science museums, over the years, have consolidated their involvement in the project, so that they can show and keep the many findings of the Organic Inventory: the Muséum National d'Historie Naturelle in Paris and the Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali in Turin.

The Organic Inventory aims to make a catalogue of biological diversity of an area in a precise and limited time in order to prepare monitoring in space and time. In the territory of the two parks, most of the species of vertebrate animals are well known; there are between 200 and 280 identified species (about ¼ of the vertebrate species present in Italy and France). However, this cannot be said for invertebrates … Just consider that for invertebrates (insects, arachnids, molluscs…), after a few years of research for the Inventory, 1,800 species were recorded just in the Parc national du Mercantour. This number suggests the possible presence of some 8,000 invertebrate species in the park!

Augusto Vigna Taglianti, a specialist in Coleoptera Carabidae, sifts the soil in search of insects (F. Tomasinelli)
Augusto Vigna Taglianti, a specialist in Coleoptera Carabidae, sifts the soil in search of insects (F. Tomasinelli)
Much more remains to be discovered!

The scientific community has been heavily involved in this project, allowing the identification of a large number of species, mainly focusing on the previously less studied. In addition, those who manage protected areas often have a fragmentary knowledge of their natural heritage: vertebrates and vascular plants are generally well known, while some groups of arthropods and non-vascular flora are rarely studied in depth.

The first inventory of this kind was start in 1998 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Discover Life in America, United States, and still in progress. The project has allowed this protected area to considerably increase the number of known species in its territory (about 8,000 new surveyed species) and led to the discovery of 922 new species for science!

All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory Marittime Mercantour aims not only to create a long list of species. In fact, in addition to the knowledge of their wealth of nature, the two parks aim to include the management and conservation of their heritage (natural and cultural).

Throughout many years of activity, scientific collaboration has allowed the weaving of an important network of work between researchers and public and private institutions involved in the study and conservation of nature. Real protectors of present and past biodiversity, the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris and the Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali in Turin have been heavily involved with the parks to ensure the success of this initiative. These institutions are, in fact, directly aimed at increasing the knowledge of nature, in the management of collected data through the inventory and tools for molecular analysis made available to the scientific community. Their involvement has also resulted in the development of outreach activities through the creation of photographic exhibitions, helping to improve the available information on the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory Marittime Mercantour to the public.

From 2010, to support the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, the "Piano Integrato Transfrontaliero" (PIT) Alpi Marittime Mercantour, programma ALCOTRA Italia – France for the European Community was created. Within PIT, the parks have continued the work begun by EDIT and committed, for the future, to expanding their knowledge of their natural heritage in order to better protect it.


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