Results

The inventory has garnered the enthusiasm and participation of many experts, taxonomists and ecologists who have scoured the Maritime Mercantour area in search of the life forms that inhabit it, from high altitudes to the depths of subterranean caves.

Between 2007 and 2012, more than 350 taxonomists from 88 European scientific institutions have shown interest in the project and actively participated. More than 200 have directly research in the Parks of the Mercantour and Maritime Alps.

In total, since 2007, about 61,000 pieces of data have been collected on 20,000 locations with more than 10,000 species! Among these, several dozen are new to science! Hundreds of new species have been reported for the first time in the French and Italian territories, but also in the regional and the parks. The full range of taxonomic data acquired in the inventory is included and made available to the public through the website of the Inventaire National du Patrimoine Naturel.

To give an idea, we can mention the increase in the number of data of the presence of the species of arthropods known to the two parks: less than 2,000 before the inventory... 6884 today! This strong growth stresses the need to invest in a project of this type in order to have a more complete view of the biological richness of the area and the important role of the community of taxonomists involved, together with the managers of protected areas in the consolidation of knowledge of our natural heritage.

As an example, there is the work done on lichens by the Association Française de Lichénologie in the Parc du Mercantour. The experts found 1,200 species of lichens including at least a dozen species which are new to science, while sixty new observations were collected for the French territory ... considering that two of the seven valleys of the park have yet to be explored, this is a respectful result!

At the same time the Italian territory, with 101 species of lichens known to the Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime, researchers at the University of Turin and their collaborators have added 41 new reports, including Lecanora conferta (Fr.) Grognot and Lecidea commaculans Nyl., reported for the first time in Piedmont, and Cyphelium notarisii, a species listed on the Red List of Italian lichens, which has been observed in the park for the first time!

Martin Nebel, an expert on mosses, Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime (M. De Biaggi)
Martin Nebel, an expert on mosses, Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime (M. De Biaggi)
Even the world of bryophytes (taxonomic group that includes the mosses and non-vascular plants), there were plenty of new features. For example, for the territory of the Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime, there were 183 identified specifies, of which 39 are rare and interesting from a conservation point of view and 7 specifies of moss observed for the first time in Piedmont!

The relatively unknown subterranean aquatic and terrestrial environments have also been explored. The study of these environments implies a quite complex organization (collaboration between cavers for the study of underground earth) and very specific collection techniques for both environments, carried out by a relatively small number of taxonomists. Several species of crustaceans and aquatic beetles have been identifies in the Parc National du Mercantour, of which 9 species are new to science. For example, the description of the beetle Duvalius magdelainei tordjmani, in 2010 in a hollow of the Roya Valley from the Biospeleologia terrestre group.

//Troglocheles lanai//, the new species of mite found in a cave in the Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime (F. Tomasinelli)
Troglocheles lanai, the new species of mite found in a cave in the Parco Naturale Alpi Marittime (F. Tomasinelli)
In the Parco delle Alpi Marittime, among the many findings from years of research, there was the discovery of the palpigrade, Eukoenenia bonadonai (Condé 1979), an extremely rare and very small (2-3mm) arachnid with no pigmentation and characterized by a long flagellum to the end of the abdomen. Also in 2011, a new species of troglobite mites (which exclusively live in caves), Troglocheles lanai (Zacharda et al., 2011) was described for the first time.

Surface water environments, much more popular than those underground, have been the subject of numerous studies focused on all biological components: benthis insects, macrophytes (higher plants), and algae. This comprehensive study on the aquatic will permit further understanding of the operation as a whole and therefore help in the adaptation of best suited management strategies.

With regard to vertebrates, some quite specific investigations have been financed which have further enabled the collection of large amounts of data on groups that are not well-known as they are often difficult to study.

Serotino bat (Epetesicus serotinus) in the Parco Alpi Marittime (M. De Biaggi)
Serotino bat (Epetesicus serotinus) in the Parco Alpi Marittime (M. De Biaggi)
This is the vase with bats (taxonomic order: Chiroptera) for which the Parco Natural Alpi Marittime has launched a specific study, recording 20 species, accounting for ¾ of those recorded in the Piedmont Region and more than half of those in Italy. This great diversity in species is linked to the rich variety of habitats and microhabitats that characterize the whole of the Maritime Alps, as described in the atlas-nature. Moreover, there presence of agglomerations, of limited size, increase the receptivity of the territory for species preferring anthropized environments.

But the Biodiversity inventory does not only include a long list of species! There have been many studies to correlate this data with land management techniques, particularly within agro-pastoral and forest environments. In fact, the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory represents an important starting point for understanding the functions of eco-systems and their conservation status, which may be affected by climate change and exploitation from human activities (such as tourism, agro-forestry-pastoral activity, exploitation of natural resources for energy purposes) affecting the border region.

Over the years, the generalized biodiversity inventory has created an important and extensive network of collaborations between professionals, and public and private entities engaged in the study and conversation of nature.

Stefano Birindelli and Federica La Pietra show the malacology collection of the Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali of Turin (F. Tomasinelli)
Stefano Birindelli and Federica La Pietra show the malacology collection of the Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali of Turin (F. Tomasinelli)
The great science museums, in particular the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris and the Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali in Turn, have formed an important collaboration with the two parks and have formed many research activities both in the field and the laboratory.

Among these, the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle has applied modern techniques of molecular analysis of taxonomic groups (especially in animals), a technique known as barcoding. This analysis supports the traditional methods of cataloguing species, meant to isolate a sequence of DNA fragments to show levels of similarity between individuals of the same species and more diversity between those in different species. The DNA sequence represents the “bar code” characteristic of each species and is used to compare the sequence of other species, allowing a better understanding of evolutionary links. The results of these surveys are posted on the Barcode Of Life Data website. (http://www.boldsystems.org/).

After years devoted to this project, the parks are currently in the process of collecting and analysing the gathered information, to integrate the various data management systems (databases and geographical information systems): this analysis has, as its objective, the development of protocols monitoring habitat priorities, realized in the long term and returning information about the evolution of ecosystems, in relation to human activities and climate change, thus allowing to optimize the management of the territory, in collaboration with all the “players” in the game.


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