|The different ecosystems of the Sabina, plants and animals||
nature reserves, protected areas and nature trails in the Sabina
|In terms of habitat, the Sabina can be divided into three main zones: firstly the valley bottoms (including the Tiber Valley), characterized by rivers and small areas of wetland, secondly the foothills, characterized by small scale cultivation interspersed with small wooded areas and hedgerows, and lastly the mountain areas characterized by forest and high pasture. None of these habitats can be said to be pristine but the impact of human activity has been limited by the nature of the landscape itself -many steeper areas that are difficult to reach or difficult to cultivate have been left wild and these small patches are an important factor for the continued presence of many species.|
These habitats have been profoundly changed by theactivities of human beings over the centuries. In the past the courses of rivers were changed and wetlands gradually drained to free valley bottoms for cultivation and to power water mills; more recently hydroelectric dams have been built and reservoirs created, water from the Sabina also supplies Rome. Although the amount of wetland habitat has undoubtedly shrunk dramatically, these changes have not always been entirely negative, for example in the Tiber Valley, which is mostly occupied by intensive cultivation because it is flat and relatively fertile, the building of a hydro-electric dam led also to the creation of a nature reserve, the 'Riserva Naturale Tevere Farfa' upriver. The other rivers of the area such as the River Farfa and the River Laia are much smaller, and wind their way down from the mountains through the foothills towards the Tiber. The water level in these and in the other smaller rivers and streams can vary a lot according to the season, some of them virtually drying up in summer. In their upper reaches thesewatercourses are mostly free of pollution, as can be seen by the presence of indicator species such as trout and freshwater crabs. Their banks are lined with willows, poplars and other typical riverside vegetation which provide important cover for wildlife and protect the rivers themselves from erosion. Recently, laws have been passed in Italy protecting watercourses from construction and other environmental damage, with luck the enforcement of these laws will prevent further degradation of rivers and streams and improve the survival of riverside species.
|some typical river and wetland plants: White Willow Salix alba, Pussy Willow Salix caprea, Purple Willow Salix purpurea, Black Poplar Populus nigra ,White Poplar Populus alba, Elderflower Sambucus nigra, Horsetails Equisetum spp., Sharp Pointed Rush Juncus acutus, Common Reed Phragmites communis, Butterbur Petasites hybridus, Broomrape Orobanche spp., Maidenhair Fern Adiantum capillus-veneris, Ferns Polypodiaceae spp., Brooklime Veronica beccabunga, Common Duckweed Lemna minor, Hemp Agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum, Water Starwort Callitriche spp., Fool's Watercress Apium nodiflorum|
|some typical river and wetland animals: Trout, salmone trutta, Leuciscus soufia, Freshwater shrimp Austropotamobius pallipes, Italian frog Rana italica, Green frog Rana esculenta, Grass snake Natrix Natrix, Moorhen Gallinula chloropus, Dipper Cinclus cinclus, Kingfisher Alcedo atthis, Grey heron Ardea cineria, Motacilla cineria|
A large part of the Sabina consists of cultivated land, mostly olive groves but with some vineyards and open fields used for grazing or for crops such as alfalfa, mais, and sunflowers. The hilly landscape means that field sizes are quite small and that steeper areas which would be difficult to cultivate are kept as woodland. The fields themselves, as well as roads and waterways, are often lined with trees and hedgerows; these areas provide a partial refuge for local wildlife. Many species are able to adapt to human presence and even take advantage of it, owls, geckos, bats and foxes are often to be found around farmhouses, and swallows use the medieval villages as nesting sites. Olive cultivation has a relatively soft impact on the environment -fields are lightly ploughed over once or twice a year and herbicides and pesticides are almost never used, allowing the survival of quite a variety of insects and wild plants. A constant feature in the landscape of the Sabina is the White oak , Quercus pubescens, found lining roads or in the middle of fields. Many of these trees are centuries old.
|some typical plants of the foothills: White oak Quercus pubescens, Turkey oak Quercus cerris, Wych elm Ulmus glabra, Cornelian cherry Cornus mas, Travellers joy Clematis vitalba, Hornbeam Carpinus orientalis, Judas tree Cercis siliquastrum, Broom Spartium junceum,|
|some typical animals of the foothills: Red fox Vulpes vulpes, Hedgehog Erinaceus europeus, Mole Talpa spp., Hare Lepus europeus, Kuhl's pipistrelle Pipistrellus kuhlii, Wall lizard Podarcis muralis, Gecko Tarentola mauritanica, Lacerta viidis, Little owl Athene noctua, Pied wagtail Motacilla alba,|
The higher or more isolated parts of the Sabina are mostly covered in woodland, much of which is coppiced on a rotational basis as it has been for many years. The dominant species in these forests is the Holm oak Quercus ilex, an evergreen like many of the other trees and shrubs present, plants that are able to survive in the arid conditions typical of the Mediterranean region. In the very highest areas and on the north facing side of the Sabini mountains deciduous woodland predominates, in particular beech trees and deciduous oaks. The forest is large, it runs continuously along the Apennine mountain range, and is relatively undisturbed, some areas have become nature reserves. There are many species of animals and birds present, even wolves are seen sporadically in the area. A good place to see species typical of this habitat is the 'Riserva Naturale Monti Navegna e Cervia'.
|some typical forest plants: Holm oak Quercus ilex, Strawberry tree Arbutus unedo, Beech Faggus sylvatica, Laurel Laurus nobilis, Field maple Acer campestre, Juniper Juniperus oxycedrus, Viburnum Viburnum tinus, Thyme Thymus vulgaris, Tree heather Erica arborea, Wild asparagus Aspargus acutifolius|
|some typical forest animals: Porcupine Hystrix cristata, Badger Meles meles, Wild boar Sus scropha, Red squirel Sciurus vulgaris, Beech marten Martes foina, Weasel Mustela nivalis, Green woodpecker Picus viridis|
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