Habitat modifications of anthropogenic origin and some intrinsic threats are the main causes of the extinction risk that the 29 plant species are facing.

The specific threats are innumerable and can vary from species to species and from site to site for the same species. Therefore, it is essential to understand the specific threat, or combination of threats, for each of the 29 species and for each of the 139 translocation sites.

A detailed and specific assessment has already been carried out and SEEDFORCE has planned specific actions for site and species to remove or mitigate the threats.

Find below the main threats that apply across translocation sites, with a brief explanation of how they can be removed or mitigated.

Change in land use – including change of traditional land management practices such as grazing, regular haymaking and periodical clearing of trees and shrubs

In the last 50 years there has been a progressive abandonment of traditional agricultural/ land-use practices – such as coppicing, haymaking in wild habitats and limiting the number of grazing cattle – because they are no longer economically profitable for farmers and breeders. 

The change in land-use mainly affects species occurring in secondary grassland habitats on both wet and dry soil and occasionally species growing in rocky outcrops shaded by trees and shrubs. Grazing could negatively impact all habitats, but is naturally more common in secondary habitats and grasslands in particular. Except for grazing, this threat cannot usually be removed, but can be mitigated with:

• regular haymaking, cutting and removing the grass, preferably late in the season after seed dispersal;

• clearing and removing shrubs and trees in varying degree depending on the specific requirements.

Grazing can be mitigated with fences or completely removed from the affected area with specific agreements with regulatory bodies and land managers.

This threat affects 25 sites in different ways.

Habitat destruction by means of building, infrastructure development, land reclamation for farming or tourism, drainage

All SEEDFORCE translocation sites are of Community Importance (SCI) or Special Conservation Areas (SACs) of the Natura 2000 network. However, some actions can be subtle and could lead to the habitat destruction without being evident, such as footfall caused by high impact recreational or tourism activities, drainage or disturbance of the hydrology of an entire area that could affect wetland sites.

As natural vegetation dynamics naturally lead to long-term drought conditions, subtle drainage actions might go unnoticed. For wetland sites, particular recommendations will be issued to managing authorities, requesting special site surveillance to ensure no draining or hydrology disturbances occurs in or close to the site.

Increased nutrient input

Modern agriculture uses large quantities of mineral nutrients – which are usually concentrated at lower altitudes due to the draining action of the soil – and disperses them into the environment. On the other hand, many target species thrive precisely in nutrient-poor soil.

This threat affects species whose growing site is close to farmed land and at low altitude in accumulation sites, and can be mitigated by planting shrubs and trees in an external buffer zone, acting as a barrier to nutrient spread.

This threat affects 7 sites and 4 species: E. carniolica, L. loeselii, G. palustris and M. quadrifolia.

Habitat fragmentation, isolation and small population size

This threat is an intrinsic one – related to small, fragmented and often declining populations – and affects all translocation sites.

This inner threat can be addressed increasing population size by plants translocation to establish a larger and more viable population. Depending on the population dynamics and on the outcome of the genetic diversity assessment, there might be different strategies to mix the propagation material.

However, in all cases, a given percentage of the mix will include different genotypes, other than the one present in the local population: this will mimic natural gene flow which, in small and fragmented populations, is usually blocked by isolation.

This threat affects all sites.

Invasive alien species

Invasive alien species (IAS) can completely destroy a pre-existing ecosystem replacing the original components. This is one of the most dangerous threats and one of the most difficult to control: eradication is not always possible and, in many cases, only mitigation with the regular IAS removal can be put into practice.

This threat affects 6 species: C. sabatia, L. nicaense, S. hicesiae, K. pentacarpos, L. strictissimum and L. flava in 8 SACs.

Uncontrolled plants collection

In the past, a severe threat to rare and endemic species was the uncontrolled collection by botanists for herbarium specimens and for nursery cultivation. This risk is much less significant today, thanks to the widespread conservation concern in botanists, education, and the many plant protection regulations issued in Italy on a regional basis.

Picking flowers and removing plants of the target species is not permitted in all translocation sites and is enforced by forestry surveillance.

This threat affects 21 sites and 9 species: A. liliifolia, C. pusilla, E. alpinum, G. ligustica, G. palustris, H. adriaticum, P. palinuri, S. tombeanensis, W. radicans.

Climate change

This threat is probably the less significant at the moment, but is likely to play an increasingly important role in the future years and affects all sites. With the action A2 SEEDFORCE will assess the climatic requirements of each species and define their bioclimatic envelope, taking into account the extent of the climatic variation tolerated by the species.

Once this data is adjusted and integrated with the information delivered by the genetic analysis (A3) and the bio-dependence analysis (A4), it will give a valuable indication of the suitable climatic conditions and habitats wherw the species could still thrive now and in future years.

Conservation action, therefore, could adopt predictive sourcing to anticipate climate change, including propagation material from lower altitude populations, collecting (C1) and preparing the best propagation mix (C2) to maximize the chances of success to the plant translocations carried out in action C5.

This threat affects all sites.