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  • 1 University of Rome “La Sapienza” Department of Plant Biology Piazzale Aldo Moro, 5 00185 Rome Italy
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We performed a gap analysis of protected area networks in Italy to assess the representativeness of potential natural vegetation (PNV) types of the European Natura 2000 network compared with the National Protected Area network. In this context, the PNV map, reflecting the diversity and spatial arrangement of the natural terrestrial ecosystems, can be considered as an appropriate proxy of environmental and biogeographical diversity of Italy. In this country, 775 protected areas are registered in the Official List of Protected Areas (OLPA), 2281 sites are listed as Sites of Community Interest and 590 as Special Protection Areas, constituting the Natura 2000 network. The adopted conservation target considered that any PNV type included for less than the 10% in the PAs network (OLPA, Natura 2000) was defined as a gap in the system. In particular we defined four categories of PNV protection: any PNV types with a representation of less than 10% in both the OLPA and N2000 was defined as a “total gap” (i.e., under-protected); any PNV type with a representation of less than 10% in either the OLPA or the N2000 was defined as a “partial gap”; any PNV type with a representation of between 10 and 50% in both the OLPA and N2000 was defined as “protected”; lastly, any PNV type with a representation of more than 50% in both the OLPA and N2000 was defined as “widely-protected”. Digital overlays of PNV and PAs networks were separately performed and statistics produced, indicating the current state of protection of Potential Natural Vegetation types in the two networks (OLPA and Natura 2000). We found that more than 59% of PNV types recognized on the Italian territory is not protected by the OLPA network. On the contrary, regarding Natura 2000 network, 68% of PNV types are protected, accounting for 27% more than OLPA. Compared to the National network of OLPA, the European network Natura 2000 is characterized by a larger percentage of territory in terms of area (18% of the Italian territory for Natura 2000 vs 10% of OLPA) but also by a smaller size of the sites, allowing for a more coherent distribution and efficiency in the protection of habitat remnants (68% PNV types protected by Natura 2000 vs 41% by OLPA). The proposed PNV approach can help guiding decisions on where and how to spend scarce conservation management resources.

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