Campo dei Fiori Park contains habitats and species of Community interest which are under increasing threat. Dry meadows are very important feeding grounds for the Honey buzzard and are undergoing a significant reduction because of the abandonment of some traditional forms of agriculture. Bat populations of the three species present in the park are steadily decreasing in numbers as are their sites for nesting, wintering reproducing and giving birth. The aging of the forests and periodical illegal sewage dumps are seriously threatening underground ecosystems, to the detriment, among others, of the local bat fauna. There is no adequate forest exploitation zoning plan, and a production-oriented management of the forests would result in a serious impact on the local biological communities.
One of the main targets of the project was to prepare and apply a model for the management of forests and dry meadows comprehensive of the necessary measures to preserve the ecological balance of caves and to recover and preserve the existing bat populations.
The measures foreseen included a comprehensive mapping of the site, in which the correct location of all the caves was to be determined and the assessment of the status of the various bat species.Three hundred boxes were to be installed for bats to use as breeding quarters.
A forest-exploitation zoning plan was to be drawn up in order to start the re-conversion to long-trunked forest from coppices. This would allow the old trees and those with cavities,of fundamental importance as bat habitat, to be preserved. The possibility of some "sustainable" timber harvest by local people was also be considered. Some sections, requiring particular care, would be purchased on the slopes where the largest concentrations of caves occur. As for the oligotrophic grasslands, a model for differential mowing was to be tried out in pilot areas. The model would be applicable for this type of habitat both in the Campo dei Fiori park and in other similar Alpine foothill zones. The project included an education programme on the function and significance of bats, aimed at schools and local residents.
The main success of the project was the increase in knowledge of the bat population of the karstic caves and of the dry meadows in the entire campo dei Fiori park.
Monitoring of bats, which involved over one hundred voluntary guards, lead to the discovery of 4 species listed in the Annex II of the Habitats Directive, not included in the pSCI's Natura 2000 form.
The purchase of about 36 ha of private land by the park guarantees a future correct management of the most sensitive karst areas within the site.
Another important result was the identification of the technique for managing the dry meadows. The results of the studies carried out have been used for the elaboration of specific management plans for the entire pSCIs interested by the project. The beneficiary produced a plan for the geological and hydrogeological protection (not with LIFE funds), for forestry and for dry meadows management.
This will favour a correct, sustainable management and fruition of the Natura 2000 sites, together with the conservation of habitats/species of EU interest.
An intelligent public awareness campaign, which included the production of a special game for children, an educational booklet for teachers, the organization of a special seminar for regional forestry guards, numerous public presentations and the production of leaflets, has resulted in a greater understanding by the general public of the importance of bats.
The good results of the project favoured the financing of several other interventions/studies aimed at bats, forestry and dry meadows conservation.