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Ten years of wildlife census activities

The contribution of Dolomiti Bellunesi to the knowledge of biodiversity

( 08 July 10 )In order to manage a protected area correctly, it is essential to know in detail the composition and consistency of the animal and vegetable populations living in it.
For this reason, since its establishment, Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park Authority has decided to organize annual census activities of the most important animal species living in the protected area.
Thanks to the collaboration with the University of Padova, a standard monitoring technique has been developed. This technique has been used over the years thanks to the collaboration of the staff of the Environmental Territory Coordination of the National Forest Service and the collaboration of many volunteers: students, enthusiasts, hunters. The latter have also provided dogs, essential to carry out the summer census of some species, like for instance the Black Grouse.
The species of which a census has been taken are: Black Grouse, Western Capercaillie, Rock Partridge, and Rock Ptarmigan among birds; chamois, mouflon, and deer among the Ungulates.
The data collected during the spring, summer, and autumn census activities (according to the involved species) have been elaborated and included in the database of the Park Authority. These data give the opportunity to know, year after year, the state of health of the most precious animal populations, are used to draw up the Park planning and management instruments, and are object of scientific publications.
The census methods are different according to the studied species. In the Park, we have found out a series of sample areas, where the surveillance staff has to go through more than once during the year: in this way, it is possible to count the number of specimens, evaluate their state of health, and identify the composition of the population (number of males, females, young specimens).
Therefore, we collect not only quantitative information (on the number of animals), but also qualitative information, that is information on the composition of the population.
The repetition of the census activities every year is important, because the collected data can be subject to chance variations linked to the climatic conditions and to the objective difficulties of data collection in harsh and difficult environments.
The chamois of which a census has been taken in the three sample areas of Vette Feltrine, Erera-Brendol plateau, and Schiara massif: despite the unavoidable changes linked to chance factors, the growth of the population of this species over the latest 15 years is evident in the area of the Vette, the area characterized by the lowest initial density of animals. In the other sample areas that had started with higher initial densities, the growth of the population is more modest.
For the mouflon, the growth of the population concentrating in the area of Erera Campotorondo is slow, but constant.
In the Park area, also the deer is showing a progressive increase in the number of specimens. In the sample area of Campotorondo, in 2006, less than 80 animals had been recorded, while last year they were over 100.
The populations of Ungulates in the Park are thick, but so far there have been no problems linked to an excessive presence of the animals in the territory.
The presence of a good number of animals is also important to promote the return of the big predators that in these years have been periodically and repeatedly seen in the Park.
As far as birds are concerned, the Black Grouse is subject to spring census activities, while Western Capercaillie, Rock Partridge, and Rock Ptarmigan are subject both to spring census activities, during the reproduction season, and to summer census activities, to evaluate the consistency of the clutches and therefore the successful reproduction of the species.
The data of the spring census of male Black Grouses in the sample areas of La Vareta, Pinea, and Col dei Cavai: after a decline of the populations, recorded above all in the second half of the 1990s, in the latest five years there has been a weak recovery.
Tetraonidae are experiencing a gradual reduction of the populations all over the alpine chain, and for this reason it is very important to constantly check the number of the animals.
"Scientific research and the monitoring of the territory are among the main institutional aims of protected areas – has declared the Director of the Park, Nino Martino – the data we have been collecting for over 15 years witness the good state of health of the animal populations entrusted to the Park. However, it is important not to lower our guard and continue with the monitoring activities. Moreover, the surveys carried out in the Parks are very useful to improve the wildlife management also outside the protected areas, since they give the opportunity to understand how the situation is evolving when there are no human activities like hunting".
"The fact that several hunters are collaborating with us to carry out the census activities within the Park – has commented the President of the Park, Benedetto Fiori – demonstrates as the need to take away some areas to hunting, also with the aim to better manage this activity in the adjacent areas, has become a common cultural heritage".
 
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