Parco Italia aims to recognise the state of the green infrastructure throughout Italy and to identify critical areas for afforestation.

Discovering Italy's natural capital

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Discovering Italy’s natural capital

Italy is a geographically unique country, as it stretches from the Alps to the southern Mediterranean Sea. It boasts distinct natural landscapes that have been shaped by human civilization over the centuries. This first section aims to assess Italy’s natural capital by identifying areas with high ecosystem and biodiversity value based on the current land cover and protection systems in place.

These areas include forests, grasslands, and other natural areas, as well as a variety of protected areas. These protected areas encompass those listed in the EUAP (Official List of Protected Natural Areas), the EU Nature 2000 program, the Important Bird Areas, RAMSAR areas (Wetlands of International Importance), the 58 properties inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List, and the slow mobility networks, which consist of hiking paths and a network of long-distance cycle routes. These networks range from a large European scale to local tourist routes. The data used for this reconstruction was gathered from several open databases, including Italian ministerial and EU sources.

By means of this activity, the team was able to establish a baseline (covering national, regional, and metropolitan areas) regarding protected and forested areas, and identify hotspots for biodiversity conservation. The mapping exercise involves different sections, including Thematics maps showing criticalities and territorial features, the Natural Capital of Italy, and Priorities for Afforestation.

Mapping criticalities and territorial features

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Mapping critical territorial features

The research team developed a set of large-scale thematic maps of the Italian territory addressing specific features such as human geography, natural systems, mobility infrastructures, and critical territorial features, based on data gathered from a range of sources. This analysis has the objective of supporting the definition of solutions to different strategic themes for the research in the following phases.

Defining priorities for afforestation interventions

The team identified priorities for afforestation through a nationwide spatial assessment in order to determine areas where forest restoration and tree planting are most urgently needed. To assess and compare the potential benefits of afforestation across Italy and determine the most pressing needs, the team conducted a multicriteria analysis of various natural and societal factors that can be addressed through afforestation. This involved assessing the severity of each factor in all locations in Italy and assigning a relative weight to each category, reflecting its importance to society. The identified variables include population density, forest fragmentation, distance from protected areas, rivers, wetlands, proximity to hiking trails and to transportation infrastructures such as highways or railways, temperature trends, hydrogeological risk, and tree cover loss in areas affected by forest fires.

As a result of this activity, the team produced a comprehensive map of the entire Italian territory on multiple scales, highlighting areas where forestry activities would be most effective. The aim is to contribute to the enhancement of Italy's natural landscape and provide guidance to stakeholders in selecting suitable places for forestry activities.