Special Area of Conservation: Ecosystems, microclimate and habitat in the Tassaro river valley


Some explanations regarding the ecology of the Special Conservation Area (SAC), of the Site of Community Importance (SCI) of the Rio Tassaro.

Some terms:

An ecosystem is a naturally delimited portion of the biosphere, i.e. the set of animal and plant organisms that interact with each other and with the environment that surrounds them

The term microclimate refers to the climate of a local geographical area in which the average atmospheric parameters differ characteristically and significantly from those of the surrounding areas due to topographic, orographic, geomorphological and environmental peculiarities.

The habitat is the place whose physical or abiotic characteristics can allow a given species to live and develop, guaranteeing quality of life, which can decrease or increase based on certain conditions.

Variations in the sub-mountain oak forest belt

The territory of Val Tassaro falls within the so-called “sub-mountain oak forest belt”; However, the vegetation varies considerably in relation to the different types of soil and the exposure of the slope, determining from time to time the prevalence of some species to the detriment of others.

Mixed woods

In the cooler hillsides facing north and in the presence of calcareous soils with good water availability, there is in fact the Carpeneto made up of almost pure groups of Black Hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia); more often, however, the forest is made up of a typical association of arboreal plants in which, alongside the dominant oaks (oak, turkey oak, downy oak) there are the black hornbeam, the field maple, the common ash, the field elm, the Mountain maple, wild cherry and manna ash.

At the bottom of the valley near the Tassaro river

At the bottom of the valley there is a cooler microclimate, being more shaded and with high humidity. In this particular environment there is a well-developed undergrowth. (The undergrowth is that part of the woodland environment that develops in the shade of tall trees in situations of poor lighting and high humidity.) In these cool areas, where the woods are not steep or rocky, the accumulation of humus and high and creates the ideal habitat for many species of animals, microorganisms, mosses, etc.

Ridge woods oriented towards the south

In correspondence with the sunniest positions, on arid soil facing south, the oak forest takes on a marked xerophilous character, with the dominance of Downy Oak associated with Manna ash and common Juniper.

Chestnut groves

In the areas richest in water and in the torrential valley bottoms, there are hydrophilic species represented mainly by black poplar, white willow, black alder, white poplar and aspen, while in the higher areas large expanses of chestnut groves appear, often made up of centuries-old trees large circumference at the base. The chestnut, introduced for some time as a food plant, gives rise to the only forest formations with the characteristics of a tall forest: the remaining woods present in the area are coppice in nature, having been used for centuries for the production of firewood.

Pine forests and Scots pine

The territory of Val Tassaro is also included within the extreme southern limit of diffusion of the Scots pine, present here in the form of tree nuclei dispersed within the broad-leaved woods or, although less frequent, extensive almost pure pine forests.

Small Fields

The small fields within the woods or on the terraces of the Reggio Emilia Apennines often reflect the ancient agricultural practice of using every possible available space for cultivation. These fields are characterized by generally poor soil, but are home to a variety of wild herbs, flowers and sometimes orchids that grow wild.

Some characteristics of these small fields:

Poor Land: Due to the difficulties of farming in mountainous terrain, farmers have traditionally had to deal with poor, rocky soil. However, this land can be surprisingly rich in biodiversity, with a wide range of wild plants adapted to these conditions.

Natural ecosystem: Many of these fields have been abandoned over time or are only used occasionally to harvest hay to feed livestock, such as cows. The abandonment of these areas can lead to the creation of real natural ecosystems, offering habitats for plants, insects, birds and other organisms.

Spontaneous flora: The spontaneous nature of these fields means that many varieties of native grasses, flowers and orchids can thrive. These areas can become important habitats for local biodiversity, contributing to the conservation of plant and animal species typical of the Apennines.

Resources for traditional agriculture: Even if they are not intensively cultivated, these small fields can still play an important role in traditional agriculture. For example, they can be used for harvesting hay, a common practice for feeding working or dairy livestock.

Dry stone walls

Dry stone walls are constructions made without the use of mortar or cement. They are made of local stones carefully stacked on top of each other to form a solid structure. These walls serve to contain the soil and create agricultural terraces that can be used for cultivation. This technique has been passed down from generation to generation and represents a form of traditional architecture linked to the mountainous landscape.