An updated inventory of the native vascular flora of Italy, providing details on the occurrence at regional level, is presented. The checklist includes 8195 taxa (6417 species and 1778 subspecies), distributed in 1092 genera and 152 families; 23 taxa are lycophytes, 108 ferns and fern allies, 30 gymnosperms and 8034 angiosperms. The taxa currently occurring in Italy are 7483, while 568 taxa have not been confirmed in recent times, 99 are doubtfully occurring in the country and 19 are data deficient. Out of the 568 not confirmed taxa, 26 are considered extinct or possibly extinct.
The Vegetation Prodrome of Italy was promoted in 2012 by the Italian "Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea Protection", in collaboration with the "Italian Society of Botany", to provide a comprehensive and systematic catalogue and description of Italian plant communities. The Prodrome that is presented in this paper is the first full organic synthesis of the vegetation of Italy at the alliance syntaxonomic level. It fulfils several needs, the main one being a unified and comprehensive national framework that may make an important contribution to the definition of the European Vegetation Prodrome. Syntaxonomy, as well as taxonomy, is sometimes based on considerations that may in part diverge: several authors tend to favour models that are divisive or aggregative to a greater or lesser extent in terms of flora, biogeography and ecology. These different points of view stimulate the scientific debate and allow the adoption of a framework that is more widely supported. The Prodrome includes 75 classes, 2 subclasses, 175 orders, 6 suborders and 393 alliances. The classes were grouped into nine broad categories according to structural, physiognomic and synecological elements rather than to syntaxonomic criteria. The rank, full valid name, any synonymies and incorrect names are provided for each syntaxon. The short declaration highlights the physiognomy, synecology, syndynamics and distribution of the plant communities that belong to the syntaxon. The Prodrome of the Italian Vegetation is linked to the European Strategy for Biodiversity, the European Habitats Directive and the European Working Groups related to the ecosystems and their services. In addition to basic applications, the Prodrome can be used as a framework for scientific research related to the investigation of the relationships between plant communities and the environmental factors that influence their composition and distribution.
An updated inventory of the vascular flora alien to Italy, providing details on the occurrence at regional level, is presented. The checklist includes 1597 species, subspecies, and hybrids, distributed in 725 genera and 152 families; 2 taxa are lycophytes, 11 ferns and fern allies, 33 gymnosperms, and 1551 angiosperms. 157 taxa are archaeophytes and 1440 neophytes. The alien taxa currently established in Italy are 791 (570 naturalized and 221 invasive), while 705 taxa are casual aliens, 4 are not assessed, 7 are of unknown regional distribution, 47 have not been confirmed in recent times, 3 are considered extinct or possibly extinct in the country, and 40 are doubtfully occurring in Italy. This checklist allows to establish an up-to-date number (9792) of taxa constituting the whole (native and alien) Italian flora.
Ecological regions or ecoregions derive from ecological classification of land and represent broad and discrete ecologically homogeneous areas within which natural communities and species interact with the physical elements of the environment. The aim of this paper is to define the ecoregions of Italy, southern Europe, based on a robust methodological process for classification and mapping. The ecoregions of Italy comprise 2 Divisions, 7 Provinces, 11 Sections and 33 Subsections and constitute the first comprehensive ecological classification of the country that integrates accurate and updated cartographies and knowledges on climate, vegetation, land units and biogeography. This classification has the strength to be adopted as a proper framework for ecological modelling, biodiversity conservation policies and sustainable territorial planning at the national and subnational level.
In this article, we discuss the relationships between plant sociology and ecology and highlight the potential of plant sociology for ecological modelling and environmental assessment. The classification criteria for plant communities (characteristic combination of species, specific relationships with the physical environment, particular chorological and dynamical features) assign strong indicator value to phytosociological units. Moreover, the modern approach of plant sociology, which spans from individual communities to vegetation series and geosigmeta, offers the opportunity to interact under a landscape ecological perspective. Within this general context, we particularly refer to the field of ecological land classification and present a research project on the ecoregions of Italy, which is based on the National Map of Vegetation Series and on bioclimatic, biogeographical, lithological, and geomorphological data.
A concise methodological and conceptual overview of the present state of phytosociology, 100 years after its foundation, is presented. The fullness of phytosociology as a synecological science is highlighted. This scientific approach, which was inherent in phytosociology from the very beginning, has made great strides forward thanks to the detailed analysis of the conditions of vegetation populations, from the community level to that of dynamic successions found in landscape contexts. This has led to the creation and development of several integrated areas of analysis that have helped to produce highly predictive models based on the distribution of environmental gradients, which thus act as valid bio-indicators that can be used in environmental and planning management. The development of phytosociology has led over time to the need to reconsider the basic concept of association. In this article, we propose a new definition of association, updating the one drawn up by Braun-Blanquet in 1928, so that it reflects the conceptual evolution of the discipline more closely. In this new definition, the concept of "characteristic species" is replaced by the concept of "preferential species" in statistical and structural terms, even in territorial terms. Taken together, these species constitute the "characteristic composition of species", which expresses the "particular and autonomous ecology" of the association referred to in Braun-Blanquet's definition. The new definition also considers the greater knowledge we have gained of dynamic processes, which are no longer regarded as marginal aspects in the study of communities but are considered to be of fundamental importance in the transformation of plant landscape. The introduction of the concept of ecological value in the definition expresses, in quantitative terms, the response and the field of existence of an association according to the change in an environmental factor. As regards dynamic phytosociology, which is related to the concept of vegetation series (sigmetum), we suggest replacing the concept of climax, which is used to define the more mature stage of the serial trial and expresses the vegetation potential within the area of the series (tesela), with that of "current potential vegetation", by which we mean the vegetation that is identified at present and that is interpreted according to the historical study of successions. We also present the phytosociological approach to plant landscape, which leads to the definition of the landscape unit named geosigmetum, made up of an integrated system of vegetation series that is repeated in an area with the same edaphic, bioclimatic and biogeographic conditions. Nowadays such models express the distribution of vegetation according to environmental gradients; they allow the ecological meaning of different communities and serial successions to be assessed thoroughly, providing qualitative and quantitative values of the cenocline model that the geosynphytosociological analysis represents at the plant landscape level for every bioclimatic belt. Modern technologies in a GIS environment have led to huge progress being made in the cartographic representation of vegetation (vegetation map), of vegetation series (syndynamic vegetation map) and of the representation of plant landscape (plant landscape map). Lastly, some implementation issues are addressed within the context of the objectives of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), concerning the recognition of habitats and the definition of management plans. Furthermore, phytosociology has numerous applications in the agricultural sector thanks to the identification of High Nature Value (HNV) farmland areas and, more generally, to the new European Community Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is due to be implemented in 2013 and represents a radical reform of agricultural politics in favour of quality production and the environment.
In this paper we present a comprehensive inventory of the non-native vascular flora of Italy, which was produced within the project "A survey of the Italian non-native flora", funded by the Italian Ministry for the Environment. Previously published floristic accounts were the main source of information. Historical records were critically revised and integrated with recent literature, data from herbaria and some unpublished information, so as to obtain a complete, up-to-date catalogue of the non-native vascular plant species that occur spontaneously in Italy. The inventory lists 1023 non-native species and subspecies, which account for 13.4% of all the Italian flora. The Italian non-native flora was divided, according to its residence time, into 103 archaeophytes and 920 neophytes. According to its current invasion status, it was classified into 437 casual (42.7% of all non-native) and 524 established taxa, the latter being divided into 361 naturalized non-invasive (35.3%) and 163 invasive taxa (15.9%). The inventory includes a group of 62 species (6.1%) that lack recent records (i.e. since 1950). By combining local expertise into a unified, nationwide scheme using a standardized method and terminology, the inventory provides the essential scientific basis for the development of plant invasion research and management in the country.
We analyze the spatial patterns of natural dune cover patches and their plant richness, comparing coastal sites with different levels of human pressure in central Italy. We created a detailed land cover map of dune sites. The spatial pattern of natural dune cover types was characterized by computing a set of patch-based metrics. To quantify patch plant richness, we used 16 m 2 vegetation plots, randomly distributed on coastal dune cover types. For each patch, the richness of the entire pool of species and of three guilds (i.e., typical dune, ruderal, and alien species) was considered. We compared different levels of human pressure on coastal dunes focusing on pattern metrics and floristic information by using the nonparametric Kruskal-Wallis test. In sites with high human pressure, we have observed a general simplification in the natural dune spatial pattern and a decline of plant richness but with a specific response for each cover type. Alien and ruderal species presented low richness in all patches. In coastal dunes, the harsh ecological conditions and the strong sea-inland gradient shape the distribution of human activities and control the number of ruderal species. The approach effectively describes fragmentation and biodiversity in dune ecosystems.
Specific root length (SRL, m g −1 ) is probably the most frequently measured morphological parameter of fine roots. It is believed to characterize economic aspects of the root system and to be indicative of environmental changes. The main objectives of this paper were to review and summarize the published SRL data for different tree species throughout Europe and to assess SRL under varying environmental conditions. Meta-analysis was used to summarize the response of SRL to the following manipulated environmental conditions: fertilization, irrigation, elevated temperature, elevated CO 2 , Al-stress, reduced light, heavy metal stress and physical disturbance of soil. SRL was found to be strongly dependent on the fine root classes, i.e. on the ectomycorrhizal short roots (ECM), and on the roots <0.5 mm, <1 mm, <2 mm and 1 - 2 mm in diameter SRL was largest for ECM and decreased with increasing diameter. Changes in soil factors influenced most strongly the SRL of ECM and roots <0.5 mm. The variation in the SRL components, root diameter and root tissue density, and their impact on the SRL value were computed. Meta-analyses showed that SRL decreased significantly under fertilization and Al-stress; it responded negatively to reduced light, elevated temperature and CO 2. We suggest that SRL can be used successfully as an indicator of nutrient availability to trees in experimental conditions.
Biological invasions have become one of the main drivers of habitat degradation and a leading cause of biodiversity loss in island ecosystems worldwide. The spread of invasive species poses a particular environmental threat on the islands of the Mediterranean Basin, which are hot spots of biodiversity and contain rare habitats and endemic species, especially on small islands, which are highly vulnerable to biodiversity loss. Following a recent survey, in this paper we aim to provide an overview of the present-day non-native vascular flora of small Mediterranean islands based on a sample of 37 islands located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Italy. By comparing the current data with those gathered during a previous survey conducted in the same study area, we also aim to highlight the main changes that have occurred in non-native plant species diversity, establishment and distribution in recent years and to present a first general overview of the most prominent plant taxa in the island's introduced flora, focusing on those most responsible for these changes and those that pose the greatest environmental threats. We recorded 203 non-native plant species, 147 of which have established on at least one of the islands investigated. Overall, we detected a sharp increase in the number of species, in their levels of establishment and in the extent of their distribution within the study area in recent years. This may be explained by the intensification of research on plant invasions, as well as to new introduction, escape, establishment and invasion events on the islands in recent decades. The most remarkable plants detected include acacias and succulents, two groups that appear to be emerging very rapidly and to be posing new threats to the conservation of the islands' natural environment, especially the genus Carpobrotus, whose spread into natural habitats containing rare and endemic taxa is seriously threatening biodiversity on both a local and global scale. On the whole, our results show that the plant invasion phenomenon in the study area has in recent years intensified considerably. As this process seems likely to continue, we should expect more establishment events in the future and the further spread of species that are already present. This is of particular conservation concern on the islands investigated in this survey, which are rich in endemisms, but have been facing deep socio-economic and environmental transformations in these last decades as a consequence of the abandonment of traditional management practices and the development of tourism. Our study thus confirms that plant invasions on Mediterranean islands are a serious environmental problem that threatens biodiversity conservation not only in the Mediterranean biogeographic region, but also on the global scale, and highlights the need to further increase efforts aimed at preventing, controlling or mitigating the effects of plant invasions in island ecosystems.
We drew up a checklist of the Italian vegetation ( http://www.prodromo-vegetazione-italia.org/ ), up to the syntaxonomical rank of alliance. During the compilation of this checklist, we observed that some syntaxa were invalidly published. For this reason, in this article we validated some syntaxa names and, at the same time, described new syntaxa of different hierarchical levels. Therefore, 10 new orders, 1 new suborder, 18 new alliances, 3 new suballiances and 5 new associations are described here. These new syntaxa belong to the following classes: Adiantetea capilli-veneris, Parietarietea judaicae, Thlaspietea rotundifolii, Artemisietea vulgaris, Stellarietea mediae, Galio aparines-Urticetea dioicae, Mulgedio alpini-Aconitetea variegati, Trifolio medii-Geranietea sanguinei, Festuco-Seslerietea, Salicetea herbaceae, Festuco valesiacae-Brometea erecti, Molinio-Arrhenatheretea, Cisto cretici-Micromerietea julianae, Rhamno catharticae-Prunetea spinosae, Salici purpureae-Populetea nigrae, Salicetea purpureae, Quercetea ilicis and Querco roboris-Fagetea sylvaticae.
Reactive oxygen species (ROS, partially reduced or activated derivatives of oxygen), are highly reactive and toxic and can lead to oxidative destruction of the cell. ROS production increases when plants are exposed to different kinds of stresses. The chief toxic effect of O 2 − and H 2 O 2 resides in their ability to initiate cascade reactions that result in the production of the hydroxyl radical and other destructive species such as lipid peroxides. These dangerous cascades are prevented by efficient operation of the cell's antioxidant defenses. However, in addition to their role as toxic byproducts of aerobic metabolism, recently, a new role for ROS has been identified, i.e. the control and regulation of biological processes, such as growth, cell cycle, programmed cell death, hormone signaling, biotic and abiotic stress responses, and development. This review discusses the biochemical properties and sources and sites of ROS production, ROS-scavenging systems, and the role of ROS as signaling molecules.
Higher Basidiomycetes and Ascomycetes mushrooms possess various immunological and anticancer properties. They also offer important health benefits and exhibit a broad spectrum of pharmacological activities including antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, cytotoxic, immunomodulating, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, antiallergic, antidepressive, antihyperlipidemic, antidiabetic, digestive, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, nephroprotective, osteoprotective, and hypotensive activities. This minireview summarizes the perspectives, recent advances, and major challenges of medicinal mushrooms with reference to their nutraceutical properties and dietary value, the production of mushroom biomass on various substrates, and the purification, characterization, and pharmaceutical effects of biologically active compounds from medicinal mushrooms.
Controlled conditions were used to investigate how salinity maintains the salt tolerance of seeds and seedlings of the euhalophyte Suaeda salsa. Seeds were harvested from S. salsa plants that had been treated with 1 or 500 mM NaCl for 113 days in a glasshouse. The results showed that high salinity (500 mM NaCl) increased chlorophyll concentration and oxygen production in embryos of maturing seeds. At 500 mM NaCl, the phosphatidylglycerol and sulfoquinovosyldiacylglycerol levels and the digalactosyldiacylglycerol/monogalactosyldiacylglycerol ratio were higher in young seedlings derived from seeds whose source plants were cultured in 500 mM rather than in 1 mM NaCl. When seeds were incubated with 600 mM NaCl, the conductivity and malondialdehyde concentration in the embryos was greater if the source plants had been cultured in 1 mM rather than in 500 mM NaCl. The opposite pattern was evident for seedling survival and shoot weight. In conclusion, salinity during seed maturation may increase the salt tolerance of seeds and seedlings by increasing the oxygen production in the embryos of the maturing seeds and by changing the lipid composition of membranes in the seedlings.
Vegetation Science is a scientific discipline devoted to the study of vegetation at all levels of complexity spanning populations, plant communities and biomes. It attempts to explain vegetation patterns and the processes governing vegetation assembly and dynamics in all temporal and spatial scales. Vegetation analysis serves to record anthropo-zoogenic effects and portrays similarly structured vegetation formations with characteristic vegetation complexes and plant communities. These plant communities consist of recognisable and reproducible associations of plant types which are subject to natural laws under the same ecological conditions. Wherever one finds similar habitat conditions in comparable bioregions or floristic zones on the planet, similar communities exist and can be typified. Such determinative plant community-habitat-type systems possess high bioindicator value for different biotic and abiotic habitat conditions. The floristic compositions and structure of plant communities and biotope-types can be categorised, and such vegetation units can be abstracted as elementary types, marked by their characteristic species combination under certain habitat-dependent conditions. Phytosociology provides the scientific background and method to address these questions. It was established by Josias Braun-Blanquet (Braun-Blanquet J. 1918. Eine pflanzengeographische Exkursion durch Unterengadin und in den schweizerischen Nationalpark. Beitr Geobot Landesaufnahme 4: 1-80.) and promoted for example in Germany by Reinhold Tüxen (Tüxen R. 1937. Die Pflanzengesellschaften Nord-Westdeutschlands. Mitt. Flor. Soz. Arbeitsgemein. Nieders. 3, Hannover, 170 p.). The Flora-Fauna-Habitat-Guideline (FFH-Natura 2000), enacted on 21 May 1992 established homogenous criteria for endangered biotypes throughout Europe, founded on a modern phytosociological basis. Phytosociological terminology also forms the basis of biotype-differentiation in the UNESCO Convention on Biodiversity (COP9). Vegetation science is a socially and politically critical discipline, serving to benefit and progress human society and sustainable usage of its natural resources.
Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) is an ancient Andean crop that produces edible seeds and leaves. Quinoa's tolerance to salinity and other types of abiotic stresses provides it with high potential in a world where scarcity of water and increased soil salinization are important causes of crop failures. Due to its traditionally broad cultivation area (from Colombia to southern Chile), there is a wide range of quinoa cultivars adapted to specific conditions displaying a broad genetic variability in stress tolerance. In addition, being practically unique as a halophytic seed-producing crop with amazing nutritional properties, it is ideal as a model species for investigating morphological, cellular, physiological, and bio-molecular mechanisms of salinity tolerance. This review summarizes current knowledge of genotype-dependent variability in salinity responses and adaptive salt-tolerance mechanisms in quinoa. These include anatomical features and physiological aspects, such as osmotic adjustment through accumulation of ions, osmoprotectants, and sodium loading, transport, and storage, including the activity and gene expression of plasma and vacuolar membrane transporters. Finally, current knowledge regarding the effect of salinity on the nutritional properties of quinoa is discussed.
Time is a key factor to understand the effects of disturbance on natural communities or ecosystems. In Mediterranean landscapes, where nature and humans have been strongly intermingling since mid-Holocene, the relationships between plant ecology and palaeoecology and their role for the interpretation of natural and anthropogenic changes still needs to be clearly understood. Ecology and palaeoecology are both investigating such problems, but each of them cannot disentangle the specific role played by nature and by humans in shaping the present plant communities and landscapes. A new age of cooperation among researchers in ecology and palaeoecology is needed, and the integration of these closely related but separated research fields is necessary to explain the resulting dynamic puzzle. Plant ecologists should avoid the oversimplification of the actual causes as the exclusive drivers of plant communities and landscapes and force the exploitation of the available data to generate and test new hypotheses for past, present and future environmental reconstructions and management. Even when planning for the future biodiversity conservation, we need to properly use the existing information about millennia of human effects on the natural biotas, to properly set landscape management and conservation priorities.
Cichorieae, one of the six tribes of the sub-family Cichorioideae (Asteraceae), produces a well-recognisable fenestrate pollen type. In the Mediterranean area, the significance of high percentages of Cichorieae pollen from archaeological layers is still questioned. We assessed the presence of Cichorieae as indicators of open habitats and pasturelands in current plant communities by comparing data on vegetation composition with pollen spectra from two Hellenistic sites of Basilicata (southern Italy): Difesa San Biagio in the low valley of the river Bradano and Torre di Satriano in the Lucanian Apennines. We also analysed the pollen morphology bringing to the discrimination of size classes within the fenestrate type of Cichorieae. Pollen spectra from the considered archaeological sites have low forest cover (7% on average); Asteraceae and Poaceae are prevalent; Cichorieae account to ca. 23%; coprophilous fungal spores are varied and present high concentrations. In surface soil samples collected near the sites, Cichorieae pollen is about 12%. In current vegetation types, an increasing abundance of Cichorieae was observed from salt marshes, forests and shrublands to open habitats and grasslands. This is coherent with the actual land cover around the study sites and the findings of the archaeological sample that point to an open landscape dominated by pastures and cultivated fields. Our integrated approach confirmed that today Cichorieae are common in secondary pastures and in some types of primary open habitats of southern Italy: hence, high percentages of this pollen can be considered a good indicator of these habitats even in past environment reconstructions.
Leaf epidermal anatomy of tribe Trifolieae L. has been studied with the objective to assess the characteristics that can be used to reevaluate the circumscription and systematic position of tribe. Using light and scanning electron microscopy, leaf epidermal characters of 17 species belonging to four genera of Trifolieae (Medicago L., Melilotus Mill., Trifolium L. and Trigonella L.) are investigated. The placement of Melilotus and Trigonella in one section Grammocarpus was also reassessed on the basis of leaf epidermal characters. Presence of characteristic anomocytic stomata with great variation of size and short, unbranched, unicellular, non glandular trichomes with acute apex are diagnostic characters for delimitation of species in Trifolieae. The distributional density of trichomes varies greatly between genera and found to be highest in genus Medicago. The value of stomatal index ranges between 24.6% (Trifolium dubium) to 83% (Trigonella foeno graceum). In general, present study concludes that the variations of all traits are mostly sustained and intrinsic to the species and of promising taxonomic value. The combination of leaf epidermal characters in correlation with other traits has potential for taxonomic resolution at species level. Further phylogenetic studies on tribe, based on more comprehensive sampling will probably explain intrageneric relationships in Trifolieae.
Since effects of alien invasive free-floating plants can be relevant in aquatic ecosystems, we investigated the non-native Lemna minuta impact on four aquatic animal groups: Hydra vulgaris (Coelenterates), Asellus aquaticus (Arthropods), Gambusia affinis (Fish), Bufo bufo tadpoles (Amphibians). An indoor experiment was conducted keeping animals in water held in tanks with L. minuta mats of 0.5 (WI1), 1.5 cm thick (WI2) and without mats (WOU). Water parameters (DO, DO%, pH) and animal responses (survival rate, vitality) were measured every 48 h (0-288 h). Treatments with mats showed significant impacts on animals which were more severe with increasing mat thickness. Strong decreasing of oxygen and pH associated with mat occurrence had a large impact on animals. In WI2 all individuals died within 144 h (H. vulgaris, B. bufo within 96h), while in WI1 there was a higher survival rate and vitality (excluding B. bufo died within 96 h) and in WOU no deaths. This evidence suggests L. minuta thick mats (≥1.5 cm) could have a high impact on animal biodiversity, especially reducing oxygenation level in aquatic ecosystem.