Recovery and safeguard of ancient mines for bats and Strinatii's cave salamander conservation

This conservation activity takes place in SAC IT1180026 "Capanne di Marcarolo”. The habitat is related to hypogeum environments of ancient mines that were active from the 16th to the mid 19th century, but that have since naturalized over time acquiring the ecological value of “caves”- a habitat type (8310) listed in Annex I of Dir. 92/43 / CEE..This ecological value is even more important for the species present, as the Site’s geology would not have allowed the natural formation of such environments. The target species (Annex II Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC) are the cave salamander Hydromantes (Speleomantes) Strinatii and the bats Rhinolophus ferrumequinum and Rhinolophus hipposideros. The Mines, abandoned for a long period of time, are now completely naturalised. Many were in a precarious state of preservation (risk of collapses and landslides) and easily subjected to uncontrolled disturbance. Unauthorized access caused significant disturbance to the protected species. This can be especially lethal for hibernating bats in winter. The underground habitats have since been secured and consolidated, and the entrances have been closed off using special gates which allow the bats through. The increasing trend of the winter presence of bats shows the success of this restoration work. The recovered mines were officially presented to the public in June, 2019; the Site Management Plan regulates the management of these environments, allowing strictly regulated access only for scientific purposes. Also educational initiatives are planned for small groups led by official guides and for a very short period of the year, so as to make this habitat available for education and awareness-raising purposes on Natura 2000 issues, thereby reinforcing their acceptance among the local community.

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