It is time to ensure protection for non-protected native Italian small mammals
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Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology University of Turin
Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, via dell’Università 100, 80055 Portici, Napoli
Fondazione Ethoikos, 53030 Radicondoli, Siena, Italy
CNR IRET Research Institute on Terrestrial Ecosystems
Regione Lazio - Direzione Ambiente
Institute for Alpine Environment, Eurac Research
Department Bioscience and Territory, Università degli Studi del Molise
Online publication date: 2023-09-13
Publication date: 2023-09-13
Corresponding author
Sandro Bertolino   

Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology University of Turin
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2023;34(2):77-83
The Italian national law 157/1992 protects all species of mammals and birds, with the exception of rats, mice, voles and moles (totally 20 native species), which have been long considered responsible for the spread of human diseases and damage to crops, forests, and ecosystems. These species are also excluded from all Annexes of the Habitats Directive, leaving several small mammals without legal protection in Italy. Seven species are endemic or subendemic in Italy, with their distribution often limited to a few regions (e.g., Microtus nebrodensis, M. brachycercus and Talpa romana) or to threatened habitats (e.g., Arvicola italicus). In this work, we summarise open questions about the lack of protection for small Italian mammals and analyse their status in the country. In contrast to previous beliefs, our investigation showed that most non-protected rodents and moles play pivotal ecological roles in food chains, besides acting as environmental bioindicators and ecosystem-service providers. Three species are classified as Near Threatened in the Italian red list and other three are considered Data Deficient. The harvest mouse, Micromys minutus, is the only rodent whose risk of extinction has worsened over the past 10 years in Italy. Considering the high number of endemic and subendemic taxa, Italy has full responsibility for the conservation of its unique small mammal fauna, claiming their protection under both national and European regulations, and promoting research and monitoring campaigns to fill knowledge gaps on their biology, ecology, threats and ensure an adequate conservation status.
We are grateful to Peter Adamik, Tim Adriaens, Sven Büchner, Rimvydas Juskaitis, Peter W.W. Lurz, Jean-François Maillard, George Mitsainas, Wojciech Solarz, Adrià Viñals Domingo for providing information on national laws. We thank John Gurnell and an anonymous referee for their valuable suggestions on a previous draft of the manuscript.
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