The Regional nature biotope Torbiera Selvote was instituted in the SCI (LR 42/1996). Within the biotope there are norms in force that protect the environments and species that are most vulnerable and of higher naturalistic value, they create incentives for activities of environmental restoration, allowing in any case agricultural activities to be maintained.
The SCI represents one of the fresh-water humid zones in the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region which survived the simplification of the hydro-graphic grid and the drainage carried out in the Friuli plain during the XX century. The area, situated at an average height of 14 meters above sea level and about twenty kilometres from the Adriatic Sea, is characterised by the rising to the surface of groundwater tables which, having gone underground along the Southern feet of the Alps and flowing towards the South in deep detrital deposits of fluvio-glacial origin, rise to the surface in correspondence with individual springs of rather small size or with vast depressions and flow freely with no regime inside the alkaline fens, before joining the artificial channels that feed the resurgence rivers, which are characterised by a considerable volume of water. The water that emerges is very clear and has a nearly constant temperature.
The sites are characterised by a complete series of humid habitats, with specimens of aquatic habitats presenting populations of Utricularia spp., springs with Cladium mariscus, natural humid grassland characterised by Molinia caerulea,alkaline fens characterised by Schoenus nigricans and providing refuge for many animal and plant micro thermal species (glacial relicts).
Due to the continuous reduction of these habitats in the plain, the following are also of great interest: the dry grassland, the meso-hygrophilous hedges, the strips of plain micro thermal woodland with Quercus robur, the alluvial forests with Salix cinerea and Alnus glutinosa, the closed meadows (bocage, an agricultural landscape that was once typical of the lower Friuli plain).
The sites host some of the extremely rare populations of endemic and steno-endemic species. In particular, the SCI hosts Armeria helodes Martini & Poldini, a species that is a priority interest of the European Community, and Erucastrum palustre (Pirona) Vis and Euphrasia marchesettii, two species that are also of Community interest. The SCI also hosts the endemic species Centaurea forojulensis Poldini.
There are also many other species to be found, that are endangered or in any case rare because of the big reduction of humid environments, among which: Allium suaveolens, Cirsium canum, Gentiana pneumonanthe, Hottonia palustris, Orchis palustris, Plantago altissima, Senecio fontanicola, Sesleria uliginosa, Utricularia australis.
All the species of flora listed so far are included in the Red Book of the Plants of Italy, since they are considered as endangered species, even if with different levels of protection (from threatened to vulnerable to rare), for a total of 13 botanical species.
There are also numerous zoological emergencies in these spring environments, and those belonging to the reptile and amphibian groups are particularly important.
Among the reptiles it should be remembered that there is a conspicuous presence of important relict populations of Zootoca vivipara, a micro-thermal prairie lizard that in these environments represents a glacial relict from the post-Wurmian era. In this zone Vipera aspis francisciredi is still widespread in different populations, locally abundant, even though they are mostly isolated from each other. Elaphe longissima, Coronella austriaca and Natrix tassellata are other reptiles that populate the sites. Coluber viridiflavus is frequently found at the margins of the cultivated areas surrounding the humid habitats where it actively preys on Anguis fragilis, Podarcis muralis and Lacerta bilineata (mentioned as Lacerta viridis in the Habitats Directive). In this area Emys orbicularis, a species of European Community interest, is still quite common.
Among the amphibians Rana latastei is particularly widespread. In the stagnant waters Triturus carnifex lives, together with considerable populations of Bombina variegata and Rana esculenta. The Hyla intermedia (mentioned as Hyla arborea in the Habitats Directive) is widespread in all the environments within the sites.
From the ornithological point of view the area is interesting due to the presence of aquatic birds, in particular during the migration period. The presence of herons should be noted, with Ixobrychus minutus (nesting locally), Nycticorax nycticorax, Egretta garzetta. The area hosts places for the reproduction and hibernation of Circus pygargus and Circus cyaneus.
Species such as the Lanius collurio, Alcedo atthis, Porzana porzana have also been sighted.
Among the mammals, Mustela putorius is relatively frequent.
The site represents a part of the main surviving area of the habitats that characterised the springs of this Region before the great drainages carried out in the Thirties and Fifties. In 1930 the surface of these habitats, between the Tagliamento River and the Isonzo, was estimated to be over 6000 hectares, while the present habitats summed all together do not amount to more than 200 hectares, fractioned into many areas of limited extension.
The SCI (according to a census taken in 2005) hosts 5% of the world’s population of Armeria helodes Martini & Poldini, a species of priority interest for the European Community, and 1% of Erucastrum palustre (Pirona) Vis (Annex II). These species, due to the continuous reduction in their number and in the areas where they live, are to be considered as in danger of imminent extinction. The SCI also hosts a considerable population of Euphrasia marchesettii (Annex II).
With regard to many other species of flora, cited in the previous part, the three sites that are the subjects of this project represent the only places in the Veneto-Po valley plain where they are present.
The habitats of the site are very important for the conservation of different species of amphibians and reptiles, such asTriturus carnifex, Bombina variegata, Rana latastei, Rana lessonae, Rana dalmatina, Hyla intermedia, and Emys orbicularis that in the more intensely cultivated agricultural areas have by now practically disappeared because of the destruction of humid environments.
On the site the rare Zootoca vivipara carniolica is present, a subspecies that is present exclusively in the plain. Even though it is not mentioned in the Habitats Directive, the populations of this oviparous lizard in the Po valley are of extraordinary scientific and biogenetic importance.