Influence of grazing, topography and climate change on the biodiversity of the National Park Asinara

Global biodiversity is particularly threatened by the non-sustainable use of ecosystems. The Mediterranean region is the area with the highest biodiversity in Europe and due to the intensive land use and climate change it is at risk.

It is known that highly textured landscapes provide a variety of habitats and are, therefore, characterized by a high biodiversity. These highly structured landscapes can result from topographical differences (e.g. hills and valleys), but also from the influence of large grazing animals. Thus, grazing may contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, as long as the grazing is not intensive.

In the Mediterranean, the Italian island of Sardinia is one of the regions with the highest biodiversity, especially in the flora. For example, on the island Asinara (52 km2) in the Northwest of Sardinia, 700 plant species have been recorded. This high biodiversity is caused by a highly textured landscape (undulating topography inland and coastal zones) and, also, by a variety of grazing animals, e.g. horses, donkeys, which have shaped the vegetation of the island of Asinara for centuries.

This project aims to investigate the interrelations between climate, topography, grazing and biodiversity. Furthermore, it aims to estimate how these interrelations could be affected by the climate change. The project is conducted in collaboration with the Institute of Geography, the University of Bozen-Bolzano and the Nationalpark Asinara. The results of this project will establish a protection concept for the Nationalpark of the island of Asinara.