Translocation of Urtica rupestris to the Nature Reserve “Complesso Speleologico Villasmundo-S.Alfio”, Syracuse, SE Sicily

07 December 2017

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Urtica rupestris Guss. is a perennial herb, 30-100 cm tall, woody at the base without urticant hairs. This narrow endemic species is linked to sciaphilous plant communities where it colonizes rocky outcrops within mesophilous holm oak woods. It is exclusively found on the carbonatic substrates of south-eastern Sicily. According to the IUCN criteria, it is classified as VU.

Nomadic grazing and climate changes (prolonged drought may severely affect its few-numbered populations) induced us to establish 2 new populations of Urtica rupestris within the Nature Reserve “Complesso Speleologico Villasmundo-S.Alfio” (Syracuse, SE Sicily). Actually, the area of the reserve is a private estate, but it is legally protected and managed by the University of Catania (CUTGANA).

Urtica rupestris plant and habitat

Maps of the 2 stands where the translocation of Urtica rupestris was implemented in the Nature Reserve “Complesso Speleologico Villasmundo-S.Alfio

On 30 November 2017, as soon as the environmental conditions became suitable, 110 seedlings of Urtica rupestris in 10 cm pots were transplanted in two different stands. Each stand will be fenced (February-March 2018) and is subdivided in 2 marked plots. In the first one the organic matter was removed and a slight soil aeration was carried out, while in the second plot seedlings were planted in small hollows of the rocky outcrops. A monthly follow-up is planned during the first year, while during the second year monitoring will be performed every 3 months. This activity involved the Sicilian team, the CUTGANA staff, as well as two postgraduate students of the University of Catania.

Urtica rupestris seedlings

2 photos left: subplot with organic matter removed and slight soil aeration
2 photos right: subplot with seedlings planted in small hollows of the rocky outcrops

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MAVA Foundation

Mediterranean Plant Specialist Group (IUCN/SSC) Sóller Botanical Garden Foundation, Balearic Islands Office of the Environment of Corsica - National Botanical Academy of Corsica Hortus Botanicus Karalitanus, Sardinia University of Catania, Sicily Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania, Crete Agricultural Research Institute, Cyprus Department of Forests, Cyprus