The Cilento National Park, the second largest park in Italy, extends from the Tyrrhenian coast to the foot of the Campania-Lucan Apennines, including the peaks of the Alburni, Cervati and Gelbison as well as the coastal spurs of the Bulgheria and M. Stella. To the extraordinary naturalistic emergencies, due to the remarkable heterogeneity of the territory, there is the mythical and mysterious character of a land rich in history and culture: the call of the nymph Leucosia, to the beaches where Palinuro left Enea, from the remains of the Greek colonies of Elea and Paestum , to the splendid Certosa di Padula.
The Park extends from the Tyrrhenian coast to the foot of the Apennines of Campania – Lucania, including the peaks of the Alburni, Cervati and Gelbison, as well as the coastal spurs of M. Bulgheria and M. Stella, showing more than any other strong peculiarity, deriving from the extreme amplitude and heterogeneity of the territory covered by it. As a consequence, the ecological characteristics of the territory are strongly characterized by the same heterogeneity, with the presence of practically unaltered environments that alternate with the heavily modified areas of urban centers and densely populated valleys. the Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano, the result of the combined work of Nature and Man, falls into the category of evolutionary landscapes (Beni Misti), being the result of historical, social, economic, artistic and spiritual events, and reaching its current “form” in association and response to its natural environment.
The fauna of the National Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano is very diversified by virtue of the wide variety of environments present on the territory. Coastal and mountainous areas, impetuous rivers and streams, cliffs and forests, determine as many faunistic communities where the presence of species of high naturalistic value often emerges. On the peaks, on the high meadows and on the mountain cliffs there are frequent the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and its prey of choice: the Coturnice (Alectoris graeca) and the Apennine Hare (Lepus corsicanus). The presence of these last two species is biologically important as they represent native Apennine populations, now extinct in most of the territory. The eagle divides this environment with other birds of prey such as the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), the Lanarius (Falco biarmicus), the Imperial Raven (Corvus corax) and the Coral Chough (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax).
Among the pastures it is easy to observe the Savi vole (Microtus savii), a small herbivorous rodent predated by the Fox (Vulpes vulpes), by the Martora (Martes martes) or even by the Wolf (Canis lupus) species the latter whose population seems be slightly growing. Among the same meadows, reign of many species of butterflies, live the wall lizard (Podarcis muralis) and the Luscengola (Chalcides chalcides) peculiar for its resemblance to a small snake but from which it differs for the presence of small limbs.
Among the rich avifauna of the beech forests the most typical species are the Black woodpecker (Drycopus martius), the nuthatch (Sitta europaea) and the Ciuffolotto (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), while the presence of the Astore (Accipiter gentilis) is of great interest. bird of prey whose distribution is in decline.
Mammals such as the Dormouse (Myoxus glis) or Quercino (Eliomys quercinus) also live on the tall trees, while other small rodents frequent burrows dug between the roots, as in the case of the reddish vole (Clethrionomys glareolus), or among the small clearings that they open in the forest, such as the wild mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) and the yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicolis). These small rodents are among the favorite prey of the wild cat (Felis silvestris), whose presence represents another naturalistic emergency of great interest. On the bark of the trees there is also a rare insect: the Rosalia alpina beetle, a species of European importance.
The fauna of the waterways is also very rich, without doubt dominating the population of otters (Lutra lutra), perhaps the richest in Italy. In the areas closest to the springs, where the water is colder, more constant and the thick riparian woods provide abundant shade, live the rare spectacled salamander (Salamandrina terdigitata), Italian endemism of great naturalistic interest, and the more common Salamandra (Salamandra salamandra).
In the more limpid and oxygen-rich areas, the Trout (Salmo macrostigma) and the Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) abound, along the banks are frequent small waders like the Corriere piccolo (Charadrius dubius) while in the small pools the Italian Rana, the Rana dalmatina, the Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina pachypu) and the Toad (Bufo bufo); among the rocky gorges the rare Biancone (Circaetus gallicus) large bird of prey that feeds mainly of the reptiles that frequent the Park. Among the latter the rural Lizard (Podarcis sicula), the Ramarro (Lacerta viridis), the Cervone (Elaphe quatuorlineata) the Biacco (Coluber viridiflavus), the Vipera (Vipera aspis) and the Natrice (Natrix natrix).
The floristic population of the Park is probably made up of about 1800 different species of spontaneous native plants. Of these, about 10% are of considerable phytogeographic importance, being Endemic and / or rare. The best known of these species, and perhaps also the most important, is the Primula di Palinuro (Primula palinuri), symbol of the Park, a palaeoendemic species with an extremely localized diffusion. In the Park territory, due to its central position in the Mediterranean basin, there are typically southern entities of arid environments at their upper limit of expansion together with species, with a typically northern distribution, which reach the southern limit of their range, similarly to those with a typical eastern or western range. During the evolutionary dynamics of the territory, the plants occupied all the available ecological niches, including those created by Man, gradually enriching the already vast mosaic of biodiversity. Slowly and gradually, they have evolved and become associated in highly specialized plant communities and in balance with the environment, constituting the current plant landscape of Cilento. On the beaches, among the sand communities, the increasingly rare sea lily (Pancratium maritimum) is still present; on the reefs in direct contact with the sea spray live extremely specialized halophyte phytocenosis and dominated by the endemic Salice statice (Limonium remotispiculum) while on the frequent coastal cliffs the Mediterranean rupicolous groups are dotted with precious endemics like the Primula di Palinuro, the Garofano delle Rupi (Dianthus rupicola) the Centaurea (Centaurea cineraria), the Iberide florida (Iberis semperflorens), the Campanula napoletana (Campanula fragilis), and others that characterize, with their blooms, a coastal landscape of rare beauty. In the Mediterranean-arid zone, reign of the multiform and polychrome Mediterranean maquis, here enriched, in only two coastal locations, by the Ginestra del Cilento (Cilento Genista) species identified only in 1993, by Carrubo (Ceratonia siliqua), Red juniper or Phoenician (Juniperus phoenicea), leaflets of holm oak woods, Pino d’Aleppo groves (Pinus halepensis). In the coastal area, in particular, the fabric of the evergreen woods and the Mediterranean scrub is permeated by olive groves, almost natural gardens that blend and integrate themselves in the warm nature of the Cilento coasts. At the higher altitudes and inside the Oaks, sometimes ancient and solitary to guard the ancient cultivations, now in compact formations together with Aceri, Tigli, Olmi, Frassini and Castagni.
And more on the majestic Faggeti that cover and protect the mountains; here, where the fragrances of the mountain are perceived, often meets the rare Maple of Lobel (Acer lobelii). Higher still, in the dense realm of silence of the high cliffs and peaks of the Alburni Mountains, Cervati, Motola, Bulgheria live the very rare Barberry of Etna (Berberis aetnensis) Shards endemic to the central-southern Apennines (as Saxifraga paniculata subsp. stabiana, Saxifraga ampullacea and the rare Saxifraga porophylla), the Aubrieta columnae subsp. columnae, the mountain Centaurises and other rare species. But also the presence of some more common plants, widespread also elsewhere, known by all, plays here important phytogeographic importance as the small spontaneous groves of Betulla (Betula pendula), the white Spruce (Abies alba) and the Bosso (Buxus sempervirens) and Platanus orientalis native of the surroundings of Velia.
The Advisory Committee on the Biosphere Reserves of the UNESCO Program MAB (Man and Biosphere), at its meeting held in Paris between 9 and 10 June 1997, unanimously added the National Park of the Biosphere Reserve to the prestigious network of Biosphere Reserves Cilento and Vallo di Diano. The concept of Biosphere Reserve, introduced in 1974 by the “Working Group of the MAB Program on the Man and the Biosphere” by UNESCO, was implemented in 1976 with the activation of the “World Network of Biosphere Reserves” considered to be the key component to achieve the objective of the MAB: to maintain a lasting balance between Man and his Environment through the conservation of biological diversity, the promotion of economic development and the safeguarding of the attached cultural values.
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