Montecristo 2010 - Montecristo 2010: eradication of invasive plant and animal aliens and conservation of species/habitats in the Tuscan Archipelago,Italy.

LIFE08 NAT/IT/000353

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Stefano VAGNILUCA
Tel: +39056640611
Fax: +039 0566 44616
Email: s.vagniluca@corpoforestale.it

Project description:


Habitats on the small island of Montecristo, one of seven islands in the Tuscan Archipelago of Italy’s Tyrrhenian Sea, are seriously threatened by the invasive alien tree of heaven species Ailanthus altissima. Meanwhile, the nests and eggs of the shearwater Puffinus yelkouan and other sea birds are vulnerable to black rats (Rattus rattus). Control measures to eradicate these two alien species are deemed necessary, but these measures must not negatively impact a third exotic species, a species closely related to the wild goat (Capra aegagrus), which was introduced in pre-Roman times. On the island of Pianosa, there is a threat to the habitat ‘Arborescent matorral with Juniperus spp.’ (habitat type 5210) caused by the spreading of umbrella pine (Pinus halepensis), while ‘vegetated sea cliffs of the Mediterranean coasts with endemic Limonium spp.’ (1240) are threatened by the invasive species Carpobrotus sp., Acacia pycnacantha and Ailanthus altissima.


The Montecristo 2010 project aimed to eradicate two of the three invasive alien species that are currently impacting local biodiversity on the islands of Montecristo and Pianosa in the Tuscan Archipelago – Rattus rattus and Ailanthus altissima – and to reduce the impact of the goat species without losing its local presence in the wild or subjecting it to the possible effects of rat poisoning. On Pianosa, although less secluded from human activities, the problem of alien plant species was addressed. The project aimed to eradicate three alien plants (Carpobrotus sp., Ailanthus altissima and Acacia pycnacantha) that still have a relatively limited distribution, and to control over a limited area (10 ha) a fourth species (Pinus halepensis) that has spread from plantations and is slowly invading a habitat listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive.


The Montecristo 2010 project was implemented from 2010 to 2014 on two islands of the Tuscan Archipelago National Park, on the western coast of central Italy. The project eradicated rats on the island of Montecristo, to protect Puffinus yelkouan and other sea birds; improved natural habitats through the eradication of Ailanthus altissima; and protected Quercus ilex and other indigenous species. Moreover, invasive alien plant species were also eliminated from the island of Pianosa, to favour coastal populations of Juniperus phoenicaea and, consequently, migrating birds.

A plan for rat eradication was prepared and submitted to international experts. Brodifacoum was selected as the most suitable product for the baits, which were distributed using a helicopter. The project team mapped the presence of alien tree species on the two islands, and identified the areas for effective intervention actions. The positive effects of the project’s actions were soon measurable on Montecristo. The number of Puffinus yelkouan pairs colonising nesting sites increased, while their breeding success also improved following the eradication of the black rat on Montecristo. The increased population and reproductive success of Puffinus yelkouan exceeded expectations and led to a 10% increase in the number of fledgings. The project placed artificial nest boxes on the island and the first Puffinus yelkouan egg was found in one in April 2014. The goats (about 40) were fed artificially in specially-built mangers during rat eradication operations.

Surveys carried out in sampling plots demonstrated the increased status of the indigenous vegetation after the removal of Ailanthus altissima, with a recorded increase in colonisation by local species. Conservation of Quercus ilex, through the erection of fencing around the oldest population nuclei, has already improved its status, with natural regeneration being observed. The felling of Pinus halepensis on the island of Pianosa is already favouring Juniperus phoenicea, and the elimination of invasive species, such as Carpobrotus sp., is enabling natural vegetation to regenerate, most notably for species on the coastal dunes.

Action Plans were developed for the islands of Montecristo and Pianosa by the project beneficiaries, for the long-term protection of natural habitats on the two islands. These were officially approved by the relevant institutions before the end of the project. The partnership established within the project framework contributed to increasing the environmental awareness of the general public, visitors to the islands, students in local schools, and administrators of the protected areas in the region. The project’s final event (April 2014) was attended by experts and researchers from other LIFE projects, and from institutions in Italy and other EU Member States. It had a high scientific relevance and formed the basis of the final publication available on the project’s website. From the point of view of environmental policy, the project contributed to the application of the Habitats and Birds Directives, by protecting biodiversity on the two islands thanks to the removal of non-native invasive plant and animal species. On the legislation side, the project actions for rat eradication, with particular reference to the use of poisoned baits, contributed to raising two crucial issues for nature conservation activities: the legislative deficiencies regarding the use of poisoned baits in protected areas and the risk that this kind of operations is strongly opposed by misinformed public audiences.

The approach used for rat eradication in Montecristo was innovative in the European and Mediterranean context and therefore had a strong demonstration value, particularly regarding the presence of wild goats on Montecristo that needed safeguarding. The project also demonstrated the most appropriate treatment techniques and times for the removal of Ailanthus altissima. The implementation of invasive alien species control and eradication, with accurate computation of actual costs, will help other managing bodies to carry out similar actions using the most cost-effective techniques.

The project benefits sustainable forms of eco-tourism by improving the natural environment, with beneficial effects for tourism operators, nature guides, taxi boats, accommodation, restaurants, and the creation of other employment opportunities within the local community.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Biodiversity issues - Invasive species
Species - Birds


protected area‚  biodiversity‚  island

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...
  • COM(2013) 620 final “Proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on t ...

Target species

 Discoglossus sardus   Phyllodactylus europaeus   Puffinus yelkouan 

Target Habitat types

  • 2120 - Shifting dunes along the shoreline with Ammophila arenaria ("white dunes")
  • 5210 - Arborescent matorral with Juniperus spp.

Natura 2000 sites

SCI IT5160013 Isola di Pianosa - area terrestre e marina
SCI IT5160014 Isola di Montecristo e Formica di Montecristo - area terrestre e marina



Coordinator Corpo Forestale dello Stato, Ufficio Territoriale per la Biodiversita
Type of organisation National authority
Description The National Forest Service (Corpo Forestale dello Stato) is the central administration responsible for the management of state-owned forestry reserves in Italy. In the past it has successfully managed several LIFE Nature projects for the conservation of both species and habitats of EU importance.
Partners Ente Parco Nazionale Arcipelago Toscano, Italy Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale , Italy Nature and Environment Management Operators (NEMO)S.r.l., Italy


Project reference LIFE08 NAT/IT/000353
Duration 01-JAN-2010 to 30-JUN -2014
Total budget 1,584,856.00 €
EU contribution 792,428.00 €
Project location Toscana(Italia)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report "Action Plan Progetto LIFE Montecristo 2010 - La t ...
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report
Publication: Technical report "Action Plan Progetto LIFE Montecristo 2010 - La t ...


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version