1. Introduction

Today the relict population of the Marsican brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus, Altobello 1921) numbers about 50 individuals, mostly concentrated in the core area of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park (ALMNP) and in its buffer zone. For this reason, the Marsican brown bear is included in the IUCN’s Red List of the Italian Vertebrates as a critically endangered subspecies. A recent genetic research has highlighted the uniqueness of this brown bear subspecies. The persistence of the Marsican bear strictly depends on the quality of its habitat, on the decrease of threats from the man – such as habitat fragmentation, poaching and conflicts with rural activities – and on its own capacity to reclaim suitable lands outside of the refuge area of ALMNP and its buffer zone. In the last years, this expansion process is going on from the Marsican and La Meta Mountains to Ernici-Simbruini, Majella-Morrone, Sirente-Velino and Gran Sasso-Laga-Sibillini massifs, and its proper conservation measures must support it, as a 2016’s research on the update of the PATOM (Action Plan for the Protection of the Marsican Bear) cartography confirms.

Sadly, the disastrous forest fires of summer 2017 affected just a part of the natural connection areas between these mountain massifs and the refuge area of the ALMNP, destroying the vegetation cover and the relative food sources, so vital for the stable presence of the bear.


2. Purposes

The main purpose is the environmental recovery of a side of Mount Morrone, in the municipal territory of Pratola Peligna, that a huge fire devastated in summer 2017, through the restoration of the local plant communities, in order to favour the presence of the Marsican brown bear in the medium-long period. We intend to achieve this purpose through the essential contribution of pollinating insects, such as the Italian bees (Apis mellifera ligustica, Spinola 1806), which are fundamental for the ecosystem balance and the welfare of species that belong to it, including human communities.


3. Goals description

The project goals are:

  1. Involve local communities, young generations in particular, in the field monitoring (through a citizen science approach) of the areas affected by fires, checking the change of the vegetation cover over time and identifying the species. This initiative reduces the nature deficit, which affects new generations, giving them an opportunity to practice outdoor activities promoting movement and sociality.
  2. Enhance the ecological quality and the biodiversity of the study area through the dissemination of bee-friendly seeds and the provision of pollinating insects such as the bees.
  3. Recover the territory through the valorisation of its natural environments, of the wild animal and plant species that identify it.
  4. Make a 5-minute-audio visual in Italian language with English subtitles to educate to respect for the environment and the landscape.


4. The project actions

The proposal aims to involve citizens, with particular reference to children and young people, in the floristic and wildlife monitoring of the area affected by the fires and in the possible solutions for their naturalistic recovery.

More in detail, the project actions are:

  • Using beehives with Italian bee families (Apis mellifera ligustica, Spinola 1806) near the areas to restore in the territory of Pratola Peligna, to improve pollination processes.
  • Educational field activities (direct observation and classification of species, vegetation transect etc.) dedicated to students from Pratola Peligna, aiming to sensitize young people to the ecological impact of fires, to disseminate together bee-friendly seeds to accelerate the restoration of some areas close to those affected by fire, and perform transects to monitor the evolution of vegetation over time.
  • Divulgation field activities dedicated to the community of Pratola Peligna to raise the citizens’ awareness on the threats of fires either from an eco-systemic perspective or from a human health one.
  • Creation of a high quality audio visual in Italian as a communication strategy to reinforce the sense of belonging of a community to a specific geographical area and to promote the adequate valorization of its distinctive elements through the comparison with external and different realities. The audio visual will include landscape shots, videos of wildlife and spontaneous plant essences, a dedicated soundtrack and English subtitles. The public will know about it from the social channels, YouTube and Vimeo of Salviamo l’Orso, Abrussels and of the institutions involved.
  • A final event to publicize the results of the project and present the video produced.

Salviamo l’Orso will make some of its skilful members available to follow the field activities involving citizens and pupils in terms of scientific monitoring of the flora and fauna and in the recolonization phase of the burnt area. Moreover, in order to give continuity to the successful project “The Bear’s Honey[1]”, and to spread it even to the territory of the Majella National Park, the Association will involve a local beekeeper in handling and managing the beehives to use for the restoration of the burnt area through the provision of pollinating insects.


5. Parties involved
  • Salviamo l’Orso, through the action of its volunteers, intends to push local and national administrations to show greater courage and determination in promoting and implementing initiatives to protect the bear.
  • The people and the pupils from the municipality of Pratola Peligna in particular, as main targets of this initiative.
  • The municipality of Pratola Peligna, which will produce the necessary authorizations to operate on the state soil.
  • The Majella National Park, through the involvement of its staff in the cultural and educational activities.
  • A local beekeeper who will manage the project beehives for the vegetal restoration of the burnt areas.



 6. Description of the enviromental context

The intervention area is the side of Mount Morrone in the Peligna Valley affected by the fires of August-September 2017 in the municipality of Pratola Peligna, at an elevation between 500 and 900 metres above the sea level. From a phytoclimatic perspective, the most of the Peligna Valley belongs to the mesaxeric bioclimatic region. Before the fires, these environments were made up of scrubs of downy oaks (Quercus pubescens), shrubs of brooms (Spartium junceum) and common juniper (Juniperus communis), reforestations of black pines (Pinus nigra), mixed with uncultivated lands with aromatic plants, such as the winter savory (Satureja montana), the oregano (Origanum majorana) and the ironwort (Sideritis italica). There were also many endemic species widespread in the Apennines (Cerastium tomentosus, Helleborus bocconei subsp. bocconei, Linaria purpurea, Erysimum pseudorhaeticum, Centaurea ambigua, ecc.) or limitated to Central Italy (Dianthus ciliatus, Campanula fragilis subsp. cavolinii, Trisetum villosum, Stipa dasyvaginata subsp. appennicola, Seseli viarum ecc.). These plant communities will need several years to recover and restore a proper vegetal succession.


7. Content organization
  • The contents of this proposal aim to highlight on the one hand the destructiveness of the criminal actions of the man, on the other the resilience of nature, which recovers according to its own pace.
  • The participants will focus their attention to the time that the natural environment needs to recover with particular reference to the regenerative energy of the plant world.
  • The comparison between the condition of the places before and after the fires will keep alive the memory of the event, and raise awareness about the value of the ecological and landscape asset that the arsonists have attacked.
  • The direct participation to the monitoring activities of the environmental conditions and to the dissemination of bee-friendly seeds aims to raise a proactive ecological awareness in the participants.
  • The attention to plant species, even in their germination phase, to the work of pollinating insects and detritivores’ on the burnt and rotting plant substance will allow participants to recognize the relevance of the microcosm for the existence of more complex organisms, such as reptiles, birds and mammals, including humans and bears.
  • The involvement in the field actions of the Majella National Park staff aims at spreading the culture of legality and compliance with environmental regulations as a tool to defend the welfare, as well as to emphasize the importance of ecological studies and research for the protection of an area of ​​great value.
  • The creation of a high quality audio visual summarizing the contents of this initiative is a further dissemination and awareness tool for the regional, national and foreign public (thanks to the use of English subtitles).


8. Action tools

Salviamo l’Orso will engage the skills of some of its members and its own equipment to achieve the project goals. The available tools are:

  • 6 binoculars for wildlife observations
  • 1 telescope
  • 2 Full HD trail cameras for wildlife shots

For a total amount of 4,000 euros.

Salviamo l’Orso will purchase the rest of the material thanks to the contribution of 1,550 euros from Abrussels.


9. Project schedule
Planned activitiesMonths
Purchase of beehives and seedsFebruary
Requests for collaborations and authorizations to the Municipality of Pratola Peligna, the Majella National Park and local schoolsFebruary
1st educational event with students from primary and middle schools, and dissemination of bee-friendly seedsMarch
2nd educational event with high school students and verification of the project effectiveness through botanical transectsMay
An educational field meeting with the community of Pratola PelignaJune
Video-making by trail cameras, a video camera and an eventual droneMarch-June
Audio visual editingJuly-August
Final event with presentation of the outcome of the field activities and screening of the audio visualAugust
Report to Abrussels and broadcast of the audio visual via the social media of Salviamo l’OrsoAugust-September
Organization plan  
Bees in action for the Marsican bearTotal hoursPeriod
about 300January-August 2018


10. SWOT analysis
Involvement of local communities, of children and young people in particular.No members of Salviamo l’Orso from the town involved.
High sensitivity to forest fires, due to the gravity of the event, after the active participations of the population to the extinguishing interventions.
Outdoor practical and dynamic actions.Effectiveness of the field activities dependent on the weather conditions.
High resilience of Nature.
High tourist appeal of the audio visual.
Free meetings with skilful personalities as occasions of increasing personal culture and environmental and ecological knowledge.Absence of local intermediaries with a risk of distrust towards an “environmental world”, which may be perceived as external and alien to the community, along with the risk of a lack of general interest in environmental issues.
Carrying on the commitment for the territory, after the effort made to fight against forest fires.Often outdoor activities are associated with the risk of injury, even though statistics prove the contrary.
Moving in the open air and with other people: educational activities but for leisure.
With the ongoing natural processes of adaptation to the fires, high probability to see your efforts rewarded.Risk of pursuing goals too big and difficult to achieve.


11. References
  • VV. (2011). Piano d’Azione nazionale per la Tutela dell’Orso bruno Marsicano – PATOM. Quaderni di Conservazione della Natura, 37. Ministero dell’Ambiente – ISPRA.
  • Altobello, G. (1921). Mammiferi IV – Carnivori. In: Fauna dell’Abruzzo e del Molise Mammiferi. Colitti, Campobasso, Italy.
  • Ciucci, P., Boitani, L. (2008). The Apennine brown bear: a critical review of its status and conservation problems. Ursus, 19(2), 130-145.
  • Ciucci, P., L. Maiorano, L. Chiaverini, M. Falco. (2016). Aggiornamento della cartografia di riferimento del PATOM su presenza e distribuzione potenziale dell’orso bruno marsicano nell’Appennino centrale. Azione A2: Relazione tecnica finale. Ministero dell’Ambiente e della Tutela del Territorio e del Mare e Unione Zoologica Italiana, Roma, 84 pp.
  • (1998). Il paesaggio vegetale dell’Abruzzo. Edizioni COGECSTRE, settembre 1998, Penne (PE).
  • http://www.iucn.it/pdf/Comitato_IUCN_Lista_Rossa_dei_vertebrati_italiani.pdf
  • http://www.salviamolorso.it/