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Pecetti L.,Italian Agricultural Research Council | Johnson R.C.,U.S. Department of Agriculture | Romani M.,Italian Agricultural Research Council | Bassignana M.,Institute Agricole Regional | Della Marianna G.,Fondazione Fojanini di Studi Superiori
Grass and Forage Science

A collection was carried out in the Italian Alps to gather local genetic resources and acquire information on the ecological adaptation of supina bluegrass (Poa supina Schrad.), a cool-season grass native to the Alpine region in Europe. It has potential for pastures and a growing interest for turfs, owing to excellent traffic, shade and cold tolerance. Available germplasm for research and breeding is scant, and extensive collections are needed to enable further development of adapted materials. Alpine germplasm has already proved valuable for breeding at lower altitude in pioneering selection work carried out in Germany. Extensive exploration throughout different environments, mostly above 1600m elevation, yielded fifty-five novel populations. Collections largely occurred in environments exposed to heavy disturbance by livestock, but it was also frequently found on very poor substrates along mountain paths and dirt roads, or around buildings. Some populations were present locally in shaded environments. Preliminary ex-situ observations indicated likely among-population variation to occur for important traits of breeding relevance such as disease and drought tolerance. Genetic variation for adaptive traits, although unproven, is hypothesized given the diversified habitats where the species was collected across the Italian Alps. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Source

Parolo G.,University of Pavia | Abeli T.,University of Pavia | Gusmeroli F.,Fondazione Fojanini di Studi Superiori | Rossi G.,University of Pavia
Grass and Forage Science

In Europe, the decline in agriculture in traditional mountain farming areas has caused abandonment, or irregular grazing, of less accessible pastures. In the Italian Alps, we studied plant diversity, forage value and trophic traits in six large-scale heterogeneously grazed Nardus pastures, in their central and peripheral parts, and across the montane, lower and upper subalpine zones. Seventy cover-abundance floristic relevés were performed in randomly located permanent plots, half at the pasture edge (M-plots) and half in their central part (C-plots). Plant diversity varied significantly with respect to the distance from the edge, being higher in M-plots because of shrub invasion as a consequence of reduced cattle pressure. Nardus cover was slightly higher in C-plots and negatively related to plant diversity. Forage value was lower in M-plots and negatively correlated with the cover of Nardus and woody species, implying that different grazing pressure was negatively influencing sward productivity. Differences in trophic traits of swards between C- and M-plots existed mostly as trends. Forage value significantly decreased in the lower subalpine and montane pastures, which are further grazed in late summer. Heterogeneous grazing management was therefore exerting positive effects on plant diversity and negative effects on forage value. Results are discussed in the context of future management recommendations. © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Source

Gusmeroli F.,Fondazione Fojanini di Studi Superiori | Della Marianna G.,Fondazione Fojanini di Studi Superiori | Fava F.,University of Milan Bicocca | Monteiro A.,Euro Mediterranean Center for Climate Change | And 2 more authors.
Grass and Forage Science

Due to decades of loss of grassland diversity across Europe, there is a need to identify factors affecting species composition and diversity in managed meadows. The aim of the current study was to assess how ecological, landscape and management factors may affect plant species composition, biodiversity and forage value in Alpine hay meadows. Species composition, Shannon index and forage value were obtained from phytosociological relevés. Twenty explanatory variables were selected from a set of ecological, landscape and management factors. Their effects on plant species composition, Shannon index and forage value were analysed by applying the variation partitioning approach. Plant species composition was related to sixteen factors, explaining 35·6% of the variability. Shannon index and forage value were related to eleven factors, explaining 47·8 and 40·8% of their total variation respectively. Ecological factors were the main set explaining species composition and diversity, whereas none of the three individual groups of factors (ecological, landscape, management) significantly explained variability within forage value. Overall, the effects of the three groups of factors accounted for 70% of the total variability in plant species composition, but less than half that of Shannon index and of forage value. © 2012 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Source

Monteiro A.T.,University of Milan | Fava F.,University of Milan | Fava F.,University of Milan Bicocca | Hiltbrunner E.,University of Basel | And 2 more authors.
Landscape and Urban Planning

The loss of permanent meadows in the lowlands of the European Alps due to land use/land cover changes is a major underestimated process, which affects the status of these habitats and their provision of ecosystem services. In the Italian Valtellina valley (80km 2) change detection analysis estimated meadows loss and spatial bivariate analysis and GIS-based logistic regression model analysed the spatial environmental drivers behind meadows loss in the period 1980-2000. A strong decrease in meadows (-18.5%) was found, in a context of agricultural land decrease and human settlements increase. This was the land cover type with highest loss and conversion rate during the study period. Meadows were converted to human settlements (urban, industrial and roads), other agriculture uses (cultivation, orchard, vineyard), bushland and uncultivated land. Meadows loss occurred mainly in soils with good land capability, low slope, exposed to south and in proximity of roads, urban settlements and bushland. Densities of urban, industrial and bushland and land capability were the only significant drivers for meadows loss, while distance to meadow edge, meadows density, distance to roads and soil degradation were the only significant drivers for meadows preservation. The conflict by land in locations densely occupied by other land cover types with good land capability is the major threat to meadows and avoidance of fragmentation may be a good strategy for its preservation. The meadows habitat needs a well-designed landscape and farming planning, which should account the economic value of the ecosystem services provided by this habitat. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. Source

Battaglini L.,University of Turin | Bovolenta S.,University of Udine | Gusmeroli F.,Fondazione Fojanini di Studi Superiori | Salvador S.,University of Udine | Sturaro E.,University of Padua
Italian Journal of Animal Science

The 2006 FAO report concerning the environmental impact of the livestock sector has generated scientific debate, especially considering the context of global warming and the need to provide animal products to a growing world population. However, this sector differs widely in terms of environmental context, production targets, degree of intensification and cultural role. The traditional breeding systems in the Alps were largely based on the use of meadows and pastures and produced not only milk and meat but also other fundamental positive externalities and ecosystem services, such as conservation of genetic resources, water flow regulation, pollination, climate regulation, landscape maintenance, recreation and ecotourism and cultural heritage. In recent decades, the mountain livestock, mainly represented by dairy cattle, has been affected by a dramatic reduction of farms, a strong increase of animals per farm, an increase in indoor production systems, more extensive use of specialised non-indigenous cattle breeds and the increasing use of extra-farm concentrates instead of meadows and pastures for fodder. This paper firstly describes the livestock sector in the Italian Alps and analyses the most important factors affecting their sustainability. Secondly, it discusses the need to assess the ecosystem services offered by forage- based livestock systems in mountains with particular attention to greenhouse gas emission and its mitigation by carbon sequestration. In conclusion, comparison between the different elements of the environmental sustainability of mountain livestock systems must be based on a comprehensive overview of the relationships among animal husbandry, environment and socio-economic context. © L. Battaglini et al., 2014. Source

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