8 November 2013 - As a natural bridge across the Mediterranean, Italy is crossed every season by millions of birds that move between the Eurasian nesting sites and their wintering grounds in Africa. Similarly, our country sees movements of equally impressive numbers, though certainly less known, of migratory mammals such as many species of bats. Italian seas are crossed by fish, marine reptiles and cetaceans that follow their invisible migration routes.
All these migratory species represent an important component of global biodiversity. The loss of biodiversity, which also puts in jeopardy the functionality of the very same ecosystems that produce food for the planet, essentially results, either directly or indirectly, from anthropogenic activities conducted in an unsustainable manner. The protection of biodiversity therefore implies the need to impose restrictions on a wide range of human activities.
Limiting productive activities, which are crucial from an economic point of view, would however affect local communities that are present in areas important for biodiversity protected by national or international laws. This causes conflict at a local level and brings about negative attitudes on the part of the same communities towards these legislative instruments as well as towards the presence of important components of biodiversity.
Is it possible to avoid conflict between the conservation of biodiversity and the economic life of people living in protected areas? Is it possible, in cases where such conflicts already exist, to solve this dilemma that sees biodiversity conservation being unjustly considered only as loss of income at a local level? In fact, the predicament between conservation and local economy can be solved by considering the presence of migratory animals as a significant economic opportunity rather than the main or sometimes only reason for restricting activities.
It becomes increasingly apparent that the widespread need to have direct contact with nature and animals is felt by vast numbers of citizens. Observing animals in their natural habitat is today a considerable and rapidly growing source of income for those areas characterized by the presence of important animals. This is especially true for migratory species also thanks to the concentration of high numbers of individuals in limited areas which offer eco-tourism opportunities. In this regard, Italy has the advantage of being the country richest in cultural attractions, and at the same time a migration route for large numbers of migratory species.
An interesting workshop organized by the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), together with ISPRA (the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research), the Regional Park of Ulysses’ Riviera and the City of Formia, with the patronage of the Lazio Region contributed to provide a solution to this apparent dilemma. The workshop concluded a week of meetings of the CMS Scientific Council, chaired by ISPRA. The day, organized under the auspices of ISPRA and MATTM (the Italian’ Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea) and opened by the President of ISPRA, Prof. Bernardo De Bernardinis, was attended by representatives of the CMS Secretariat and the CMS Scientific Council, representatives of protected areas, regional and local administrations, and environmental and hunting organizations. The meeting, with presentations from three top international experts, provided a vision on the global economic value of biodiversity linked to ecotourism purposes. By effectively illustrating the great economic value of migratory species as exemplified by large concentrations of individuals in sites particularly important to them and accordingly designated as Protected Areas, an initial contribution has been provided ideas and concrete business opportunities, with a view to developing sustainable tourism, linked to the observation of the animals in the wild. This is undoubtedly in line with the broader theme of the important Conference "Nature of Italy. Biodiversity and areas protected: the green economy to re-launch the country ", being organized by the Ministry of Environment in December, which aims to increase further the potential for eco-touristic activities to contribute to the growth of our country.
Article by Fernando Spina, Chair of the CMS Scientific Council
[read the original article "Le specie animali migratrici: un grande potenziale per la green economy anche in Italia" in Italian published in the September/October edition of ISPRA's bimonthly magazine Ideambiente]