LIFEorchids - Improving the conservation status of critically endangered orchid communities in selected habitats in Northwestern Italy

LIFE17 NAT/IT/000596

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Contact details:

Contact person: Mariangela GIRLANDA
Tel: +39 0116705968
Email: mariangela.girlanda@unito.it

Project description:


Orchid-rich semi-natural grasslands are among the most species-rich plant communities in Europe and contain a large number of rare and endangered species. They are therefore of high nature conservation importance. Such grasslands are currently among the most threatened plant communities in Europe, due to their inherent sensitivity to land use changes. The long-term protection of these orchid communities cannot be achieved without the application of measures aimed at stabilising the environments that host them. However, the reinforcement of declining orchid populations and the reintroduction of native orchid species that have previously disappeared require a specific approach complying with the unique biology of these plants.


The aim of the LIFEorchids project is to expand the area of orchid-rich semi-natural dry grasslands, including a priority habitat of the Habitats Directive, in two different geographic and ecological contexts in Natura 2000 sites in north-western Italy. This will be achieved by selective shrub-clearance, tree cutting, elimination of invasive alien species, sowing of characteristic native species and the implementation of land stewardship agreements.

Specific objectives are to:

  • Undertake orchid reinforcement and reintroductions in the Regional Park of Portofino in Liguria and the Regional Park of Po and Orba in Piedmont;
  • Establish “orchid micro-reserves” within both parks for the long-term monitoring of orchids and associated vegetation types;
  • Provide enduring protection of orchid communities through management, land purchase and land stewardship;
  • Draw up propagation protocols for nine endangered orchid species;
  • Transfer project solutions to the Czech Republic to demonstrate replicability; and
  • Increase awareness and public engagement on the importance of the target habitats, orchid species and Natura 2000 in Italy and the Czech Republic.
  • The project implements the Habitats and Birds Directives. It also helps implement the Prioritised Action Framework for Natura 2000 (PAF) in Italy, and regional policies relating to biodiversity and the Rural Development Programme.

    Expected results:

  • Reinforcement/reintroduction of nine orchid species in regional parks in Piedmont and Liguria, north-western Italy;
  • Creation of at least eight “orchid micro-reserves” (four per region) in small land parcels in the project areas, and the planting of 3 600 orchid seedlings (400 plants per species) within them;
  • Average survival rate of transplanted orchids ranging from 45 % to 50 %, resulting in the establishment of about 190 new individuals per orchid species;
  • Stabilisationof the reinforced orchid populations with an expected 5 % increase in each orchid species population five years after the end of the project;
  • A 38-fold increase in population size of the Adriatic lizard orchid (Himantoglossum adriaticum) and Orchis patens;
  • Production of propagation and translocation protocols for the target orchid species, along with technical report on success rates for different species;
  • Purchase of 5 % of the project area (over 5 ha) within the core zones in Piedmont;
  • Restoration of 100 ha and 2 ha of grasslands in Piedmont and Liguria, respectively;
  • Establishment of 100 land stewardship agreements with local stakeholders, with 50 % of restored orchid-rich grasslands (500 ha) under land stewardship agreements;
  • Transfer the project approach to the Czech Republic, with training and the identification of local areas for implementation; and
  • Italian and Czech citizens’ engaged in habitat conservation (e.g. 10 training courses in Italy) and an increase in public awareness about the target habitats and plants.



Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Grasslands
Management tools - Species reintroduction
Species - Plants


management plan‚  restoration measure‚  land purchase‚  endangered species

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Regulation 1143/2014 - Prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien ...
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...

Target species

 Himantoglossum adriaticum     

Target Habitat types

  • 6430 - Hydrophilous tall herb fringe communities of plains and of the montane to alpine levels
  • 8210 - Calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation
  • 8240 - Limestone pavements
  • 9160 - Sub-Atlantic and medio-European oak or oak-hornbeam forests of the Carpinion betuli
  • 91E0 - "Alluvial forests with Alnus glutinosa and Fraxinus excelsior (Alno-Padion, Alnion incanae, Salicion albae)"
  • 91F0 - "Riparian mixed forests of Quercus robur, Ulmus laevis and Ulmus minor, Fraxinus excelsior or Fraxinus angustifolia, along the great rivers (Ulmenion minoris)"
  • 91H0 - Pannonian woods with Quercus pubescens
  • 9260 - Castanea sativa woods
  • 9340 - Quercus ilex and Quercus rotundifolia forests
  • 9540 - Mediterranean pine forests with endemic Mesogean pines
  • 1210 - Annual vegetation of drift lines
  • 3240 - Alpine rivers and their ligneous vegetation with Salix elaeagnos
  • 3260 - Water courses of plain to montane levels with the Ranunculion fluitantis and Callitricho-Batrachion vegetation
  • 3270 - Rivers with muddy banks with Chenopodion rubri p.p. and Bidention p.p. vegetation
  • 5320 - Low formations of Euphorbia close to cliffs
  • 5330 - Thermo-Mediterranean and pre-desert scrub
  • 6210 - Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia) (* important orchid sites)

Natura 2000 sites

SCI IT1180005 Ghiaia Grande (Fiume Po)
SCI IT1332603 Parco di Portofino



Coordinator University of Torino
Type of organisation University
Description The University of Torino (UNITO) is one of the largest Italian Universities, with about 70 000 students, 3 900 employees (academic, administrative and technical staff), and 1 800 post-graduate and post-doctoral research fellows. Research and training are performed in 27 departments, encompassing all scientific disciplines.
Partners Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l'analisi dell'economia agraria, Italy Český svaz ochránců přírody (Czech Union for Nature Conservation), Czech Republic Legambiente Lombardia Onlus, Italy Ente di gestione delle Aree protette del Po vercellese-alessandrino, Italy Ente Parco di Portofino, Italy Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy


Project reference LIFE17 NAT/IT/000596
Duration 01-SEP-2018 to 31-AUG -2023
Total budget 1,631,357.00 €
EU contribution 864,699.00 €
Project location Praha(Czech Cesko) Piemonte(Italia) Liguria(Italia) Lombardia(Italia)


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