Life Friuli Fens - Conservation and restoration of calcareous fens in Friuli

Life Friuli Fens ©











Nursery improvement

Because the survived natural habitats are nowadays limited to small areas and they are isolated in a densely populated area, LIFE project includes the creation of new habitats starting from landfarms, in order to reconnect isolated conservation interest species populations.

Lands have been cultivated for decades, so a regeneration of the natural vegetation starting from the ground seed-bank cannot be expected.

Therefore, the project includes the management and the development of the existing nursery - actually managed by the Regional Service- with the aim of directly growing all reproductive materials for scheduled restoration future use.

The long experience proved that, for many species and especially for the rarest and most endangered species, it is better to use seedlings grown in pots (that are more suitable for natural sod transplants) than seeds picked up in the appropriate habitats.

Moreover, actions include the building of a new nursery that will support the existing one. It will be equipped with appropriated facilities as the irrigation plant, the heating system and overhead pallets.

There are also land parcels for the growing of seeds of some species with good germinative capacities and with a high competitiveness when sowed directly on ground. The seed used in the nursery is picked up directly - with due care to avoid local seeds bank depauperation - inside the SCIs habitats of the Friuli lowland.


The nursery

The activity followed two different work-lines: the production of seedlings in pots for successive in situ transplant and the seed production for direct usage on opportunely prepared grounds.

All the species which are rare and interesting for conservation (92/43 EEC Directive, National Red List, Regional Red List), and all species that have particular germination or growth problems, as they need several seasons (3-4) to reach flowering and fructification (ex. Iris, Gladiolus, Gentiana, Leucojum, etc) will be grown as seedlings in pots.

Furthermore, all the alkaline fen species that are able to resettle themselves on the oligotrophic primitive substrata - created by top-soil removal excavations – will be grown in pots. Some characteristic showy and coloured species (ex. Iris sibirica, Hemerocallis lilio-asphodelus, Primula farinosa), which contribute to the immediate recognizability of the restored habitats will be grown in pots as well.

The wet meadow species that in previous projects demonstrated good capacities of taking root and competitive capacities when used directly on ground, will be produced as seeds. Those seeds will integrate the seeds directly collected on wet and dry meadows with the combine harvester.

The nursery is located into the “Volpares” regional property, in the Palazzolo dello Stella municipality, few kilometres from the project area. The nursery is composed of two greenhouses built with steel tubes and covered with plastic material, equipped with irrigation plant, heating plant, overhead pallets, two tunnels for the acclimatization of the seedlings before transplant and 15,000 square metres of parcels.

Presently, 23 species successfully passed the experimentation stage and are produced in pots; 10,000 seedlings or group of seedlings are already produced and are ready to transplanted.

(1) the nursery - Life Friuli Fens ©(2) the nursery - Life Friuli Fens ©(3) greenhouse - Blason ©(4) greenhouse - Blason ©(5) greenhouse - Taverna ©(6) acclimatization tunnel - Blason ©

(7) greenhouse - Blason ©(8) greenhouse - Blason ©(9) greenhouse - Life Friuli Fens ©(10) Globularia vulgaris - Rocco ©(11) Euphorbia villosa - Rocco ©(12) Irisi sibirica - Life Friuli Fens ©

(13) Irisi sibirica - Life Friuli Fens ©(14) Armeria helodes - Rocco ©(15) Life Friuli Fens ©(16) Primula farinosa - Rocco ©(17) Tetragonolobus maritimus - Rocco ©(18) Genista germanica - Rocco ©

(19) Iris sibirica - Life Friuili Fens ©(20) Life Friuili Fens ©(21) Life Friuili Fens ©(22) Primula farinosa - Life Friuli Fens ©(23) Pulsatilla - Rocco ©(24) Cirsum canum - Life Friuili Fens ©



The planned construction of the nursery has been completed. Now the nursery supports the existing one built up with other funds.
A modular greenhouse has been purchased using LIFE funds. It has automated openings, wind and rain security and ventilation system,  it is covered by an air cavity plastic film and it has movable pallets on which are placed the plants containers. This equipment allowed the technicians work and the optimization of space usage.
The greenhouse has been equipped with a hot-air generator. The heater produces a jet of hot air thar circulating inside the greenhouse prevents the freezing of seedlings during winter. The two tunnels, used to complete the growth of plants in situ before the transplant, have been provided with irrigation system consisting of two lines of PVC pipes that run the whole length of the tunnel, set about two meters above the ground. These lines are made of rubber tubes inserted vertically down to about 1.50 m from the surface of the tunnel. Rods are provided with a the spray tip at their ends. The water passing through the nozzles is dispersed into fine sprayed droplets. This way excludes damage caused by the beating of rain systems and uniformize the irrigation. The advantages result in a higher proportion of sprouted seeds and a higher quantity of plants produced. There was also a significant labor savings as workers were no longer committed to a manually irrigation.

A first experimental phase started in 2004 (before the start of this project) and completed in 2007, led to the distinction of two reconstitution ways of the original flora present in the restored areas. In fact it was noticed that in the restoration, the sowing of flowers (Trifolium montanum, Anthyllis vulneraria, Filipendula vulgaris, Centaurea scabiosa, Centaurea jacea, Hypochaeris maculata, Bromopsis erecta, Koeleria pyramidata, Briza media, Onobrychis arenaria, Buphtalmum salicifolium, Dianthus carthusianorum, Biscutella laevigata, Lotus corniculatus, Euphorbia verrucosa, Polygala forojuliensis, Silene nutans, etc.) obtained by the threshing of mesophilous and hydric meadows, did not give all the desired results because the specimens of the species were overwhelmed by the less competitive species more competitive at the earliest stages of growth. Flowers of late flowering species and of smaller ones (such as Primula farinosa, Parnassia palustris, Anagallis tenella, Drosera rotundifolia, Tofieldia calyculata, Pinguicula alpina, Gratiola officinalis, Gentiana verna, all orchids, etc. .) were found without seeds and they cannot be selected by the threshing apparatus screeners. It was so decided to direct the nursery seedlings cultivation to the production of the seed of more competitive species or to the cultivation of specimens for transplantation. Thanks to the in-the-field experience was drawn up a list that distinguishes species grown in the plot from those suitable for transplant.

During the in-the-field observations, in the nursery, techniques and materials suitable for the seed propagation of selected species were tested. Tests are actually directed to the farming techniques refinement, to the identification of cultivation methods for species whose nursery propagation has been found wanting and to the cultivation of new specimens.
Currently, in the nursery there are approximately 45,000 individuals belonging to 64 different species.

When seedlings are six months/one year old - depending by the species and their growth rate - they need to be transferred in larger containers. The transfer promotes root development and strengthens the growth of aerial organs.
When plants are about one year old, they are transferred from the LIFE nursery to the Regional one, with the exception of some species whose growth is especially rapid, such as Taraxacum palustre and Crepis slovenica that can be transplanted in situ in the same year of planting.

Part of the seedlings produced in the nursery has been transplanted into field plots created along the side of the nursery, in order to obtain monospecific seed to sow directly on the bare surface of the restored lands. The preferred species for seed production are those that have high germination rate combined with rapid growth, good tillering capacity and coverage. In fact, the main function of these species, as part of remedial measurestaken, is to prevent the growth of weeds commonly found in particular crops.
New plots have been made ​​and existing plots have been refurbished. Currently there are 24 parcels of land dedicated to the cultivation of individual species. The total surface plot is about 1500 square meters on which species were alternated.
Up-to-date about 56,000 plants of local species have been transplanted on restored lands.

The species being cultivated for seed production are: Plantago altissima, Tetragonolobus maritimus, Betonica officinalis, Knautia drymeia, Filipendula vulgaris, Dorycnium herbaceum, Iris sibirica, Molinia cerulea, Scorzonera villosa, Centaurea scabiosa, Succisa pratensis, Salvia pratensis, Scabiosa columbaria, Prunella laciniata, Carex distans, Carex lepidocarpa, Carex panicea, Carex tomentosa, Carex umbrosa, Carex flacca, Carex davalliana, Carex hostiana.

The experimental cultivation of wild species is very advanced and for almost all species the ideal planting and cultivation methods have been identified.

For each set of seeds, called batch, has been arranged a numbered tab that reports the whole history (collection, sowing, germination stages, treatments made until the final transplant).