Good for management, not for conservation: an overview of research, conservation and management of Italian small mammals
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Department of Agriculture, Forest and Food Sciences, Largo Paolo Braccini 2, 10095 Grugliasco (TO)
National Research Council, Institute of Ecosystem Study, Verbania-Pallanza
Regional Park Agency, Latium Region, Via del Pescaccio 96, 00166 Rome
Publication date: 2015-07-07
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2015;26(1):25-35
Small mammals (Rodentia, Soricomorpha and Erinaceomorpha) play a crucial ecological role for their distribution and importance in food chains, as well as for being considered environmental bioindicators. Thus, they represent excellent models for understanding the evolutionary processes of ecosystems, population dynamics under changing environmental conditions, and habitat vulnerabilities. However, some rodents may help the spread of human diseases and are responsible for impacts on agriculture, forestry, and ecosystems. Consequently, small mammal species are often neglected in conservation biology, and only a few of them are protected according to national and European laws and directives. In this work, we summarize open questions related to Italian small mammals and analyze conservation issues linked to these species. We address research, management and conservation priorities by considering ongoing activities and the novelties as regards the taxonomy and zoogeography. In Italy, 39 native species, including four out of six Italian endemic mammal species and one questioned as native, and 10 alien species are currently included within the category “small mammals”. Although several studies revealed that small mammals may be heavily impacted by habitat loss and fragmentation as well as forest management, only three rodents are listed in IUCN red list as “Near Threatened”, the remaining being “Least Concern”. We suggest that this may be due to the fact that pertinent information, is not translated in assessments in line with those of other taxonomic groups (e.g. bats). Conservation strategies are still inadequate, impacts of alien species still partly unknown or neglected. Thus, wide monitoring projects, ecological studies and general public involvement in conservation effort should be implemented, with the aim to amend national legislation, thus providing native small mammals with adequate protection status.
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