Translocation of Dianthus rupicola subsp. rupicola to the Lachea islet, Catania, Sicily

06 December 2017

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Dianthus rupicola Biv. subsp. rupicola is a perennial plant growing on the sea-facing cliffs and rupestrian environments of southern Italy and Sicily. More common on the carbonatic substrates rather than on the volcanic ones, it behaves as a true chasmophyte chiefly linked to thermophilous stands. It is one of the few “policy-species” occurring in Sicily, being listed in Annex II of Directive 92/43/EEC (Habitat) and currently classified as LC in the Italian Red List (Rossi et al. 2013).

Its very scattered distribution together with some severe threats, especially habitat modifications (chiefly caused by cliff cleaning for safety reasons) and invasiveness of alien species, induced us to establish a new population of Dianthus rupicola subsp. rupicola within the Nature Reserve “Isola Lachea e Faraglioni dei Ciclopi” (Catania), owned and managed by the University of Catania (CUTGANA).

As a first action an almost complete eradication of the alien species occurring on the islet Lachea, i.e. Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. (Prickly pear) and Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle (Tree of Heaven), was carried out between April and September 2017. This operation involved the Sicilian team, the staff of the CUTGANA, and a specialized company able to operate in extreme conditions (e.g. cliffs, unstable substrates, etc.). All the green waste was manually removed and evacuated with the support of a shuttle-boat. Eradication of alien species will be followed by 1) natural vegetation restoration (January 2018), by planting Rhamnus alaternus, Euphorbia dendroides, Matthiola inacana subsp. incana, Phyllirea latifolia, Pistacia lentiscus and Pistacia therebinthus and 2) translocation (February 2018) of the seedlings of Dianthus rupicola subsp. rupicola (all species have been multiplied by the UNICT team).

Nature Reserve "Isola Lachea e Faraglioni dei Ciclopi", site where translocation of Dianthus rupicola subsp. rupicola will take place

Eradication of alien species, Opuntia ficus-indica and Ailanthus altissima

Seedlings of Dianthus rupicola subsp. rupicola produced by the University of Catania team

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MAVA Foundation

Mediterranean Plant Specialist Group (IUCN/SSC) Sóller Botanical Garden Foundation, Balearic Islands Office of the Environment of Corsica - National Botanical Academy of Corsica Hortus Botanicus Karalitanus, Sardinia University of Catania, Sicily Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania, Crete Agricultural Research Institute, Cyprus Department of Forests, Cyprus