Mapping the extinction debt in the Chaco

Although my heart beats for temperate forests, collaborating with Asunción Semper-Pascual took me for once (alas, only figuratively) to the tropical dry forests of the Argentinian Chaco, to do research on a very important questions:

Given the high rate of deforestation currently observed in the Chaco, what proportion of the mammal and bird diversity we currently observe in the landscape is deemed to go extinct in the near-future? In other words, is there an Extinction debt? And can we map it to highlight areas where a high extinction rate is expected, so to priotize areas in urgent need of restoration?

In the paper just published on the Journal of Applied Ecology, we showed we can.

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Of Beta-diversity and its decrease with increasing elevation

Credits – Valerio Giacomini (1958) La Flora – Conosci L’italia, Touring Club Italiano. Milano

It’s a fact. Biodiversity is not uniformly distributed over the Earth’s surface. Some regions are lush with a rich, heterogeneous flora, others are homogeneously covered by only a few plant species. A recurrent pattern is the decrease of the number of animal and plant species from the equator to the poles, as well as from to low to high elevation. What happens when rather than considering the number of species, one focuses on the variability in species composition (=beta-diversity) and compares this variability across geographical regions?

We have just published a new study in Ecography to understand how beta-diversity varies along elevation gradients. There is evidence that, similarly to species richness, beta-diversity also decreases with increasing elevation and latitude. But what are the mechanisms behind this pattern?

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Thanks for your invitation to review – but…

What if I told you that there’s an industry that relies on the customer’s free-of-charge labour for the selection of products to be sold, the production itself as well as quality management, and that this industry is even able to sell the ‘products’ produced this way to the same customers for an exorbitant price and earning a huge profit?

You would say that something is wrong.

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LIFE+ FAGUS – Project of the month

Venacquaro Valley, Gran Sasso National Park. Ph. D. Di Santo

Here’s another piece of news relative the LIFE+ project – FAGUS, a project I collaborated with from 2013-2015. The Italian Ministry of the Environment elected FAGUS as Project of the Month – Jan 2017, and published a long press release summarizing objectives, actions and achievements of FAGUS.

The press release can be found at the url (only in Italian, unfortunately):

Congratulations to all the staff of FAGUS!

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Afforestation, Common Agricultural Policy and Biodiversity

Tuesday 11 Oct 2017, the staff of Radio Colonia, the show in Italian language of the German Radio station Funkhaus Europa, interviewed Sabina Burrascano our colleague from Sapienza, University of Rome, on the content of our latest paper titled: ‘Current European policies are unlikely to jointly foster carbon sequestration and protect biodiversity‘.

Listen to the interview (in Italian) on Radio Colonia:


 See also the description of the study in a recent blog post.

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Conflicting EU policies may hamper biodiversity conservation without mitigating climate change

Photo credits: Sabina Burrascano

We’ve just published a new paper: ‘Current European policies are unlikely to jointly foster carbon sequestration and protect biodiversity‘ on ‘Biological Conservation’ together with an international, interdisciplinary research group from five universities.

Is there the risk that European carbon policies may threaten grassland biodiversity? In the paper we raised the concern that carbon centered policies favouring one land-use (i.e. forest) over another (e.g. semi-natural grasslands) may not only fail at delivering the expected environmental benefits, but also create severe shortcomings, when biodiversity or other unique ecosystem services are considered. Given the context of high scientific uncertainty, we asked, what’s the situation in Europe? Do the current environmental policy acknowledge these uncertainties and balance coherently different environmental goals?

Err… not exactly…

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Look who’s back! A visit from Rosalia alpina

Photo Credits: Daniele Di Santo

I have already mentioned the FAGUS project in a previous post (“The mess of sampling biodiversity”, where I described the results we obtained when analyzing the pre-intervention biodiversity data, as they are published in the paper (open access):

One taxon does not fit all: Herb-layer diversity and stand structural complexity are weak predictors of biodiversity in Fagus sylvatica forests

I just got a great news today from the staff of the LIFE+ project – FAGUS, Daniele Di Santo (Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park) and Sabina Burrascano (Sapienza, University of Rome). A pair of individuals of Rosalia alpina were found in one of the intervention areas of the project. Read below!

Continue reading “Look who’s back! A visit from Rosalia alpina”

Thanks for your contribution

The Questionnaire phase of FORESTS and CO is now over.

FORESTS and CO is a collaborative project in which forest researchers and experts work together to make relevant, European-scale analysis on the potential trade-offs between multiple objectives of forest management. In this first phase, we collected information on the spatial distribution of primary forest remnants in the European region (continental Europe with the exception of Russia). Click here for the definitions of ‘Primary forest remnant’

What a better occasion to thank all the participants that contributed with their expertise and helped us understand what kind of data exists how to gather it!

In total we invited 134 people from 32 different European countries. The countries with the the highest share of people contacted were: Germany, Romania, Finland, Czech Republic and Italy.


Pie chart showing the breakdown of the nationalities of the forest scientists and experts invited to fill out the questionnaires

The rate of response was impressive. When accounting for both the responses to the questionnaires and the informal feedbacks, we were contacted by 65 forest researchers and experts, a ratio of response close to 50%. The countries from which we received the highest share of responses were Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Germany and Romania.
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Who came first? Wild boar effects in a Mediterranean forest

Cover Photo by Tim Clifton / CC BY


I am happy to announce that a new paper I contributed to is now out in Community Ecology © Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest. This work is the result of couple of years of work of a great team of vegetation scientists and animal ecologists, with whom I had the luck to work for the last 4 years, and to whom I wish all the best.



Why focusing on wild boar in a blog that talks about forests?

The point is that the populations of wild boar (Sus scrofa) in Europe have grown substantially in recent decades, not to mention Central Italy, where the study is focused. Indeed, this species is able to adapt to different environments, and for sure, it was highly favoured by a combination of reintroduction for hunting purposes, increasing tree mast frequency (climate change?), insufficient hunting pressure, and lack of predators.

Continue reading “Who came first? Wild boar effects in a Mediterranean forest”