LIFE17 NAT / IT / 000547

Project title:

Recovery of S. macrostigma: application of innovative techniques and participatory governance tools in the Molise rivers.


Project objectives:

The main objective of LIFE Nat.Sal.Mo is to ensure the recovery and conservation of indigenous peoples of Mediterranean trout (Salmo macrostigma) in the Biferno and Volturno river basins (Molise -South Italy region). This species is endemic to the Mediterranean area and is identified in Annex II of the Habitat Directive.


Other objectives:

  • recover the genetic integrity of the native populations of macrostigma, threatened by introgressive hybridization due to the introduction of Salmo trutta zootechnical lines of northern European origin both in the Adriatic (Biferno river) and in the Tyrrhenian (Volturno river) basins of Molise;
  • protect and restore the functionality of habitats, such as river connectivity and the quality of reproduction sites, promoting the ecological connection between SCIs within the area;
  • encourage the natural reproduction of wild non-introgressed or poorly hybridized specimens;
  • expand the distribution range of macrostigma within the project area;
  • optimize the cryopreservation protocols of the macrostigma seed in order to guarantee the maximum genetic variability during artificial reproduction practices; moreover, artificial nests, composed by natural material from the riverbed, will be created for the sowing of the embryonated eggs;
  • update the current fishing rules taking into consideration the biological, ecological and ethological characteristics of the native salmonid populations living in the two main Molise basins;
  • generate a positive socio-economic return and an increase in environmental awareness;
  • promote the adoption of participatory governance tools, such as river contracts, to ensure the sustainability of the conservation measures applied, not only during the project but also after the end and, at the same time, to guarantee the conservation and transferability of the good practices in similar contexts both in the national territory and in the territories of other EU Member States;
  • establish a close collaboration between partners to transfer the innovative methodologies applied and developed in Molise waters during the project in similar contexts, both in Italy and in other EU Member States and generate at least two replicability assessments in two different States, with at least one species other than macrostigma. To create in Molise a participatory model of recovery and management of natural resources which can be adopted by administrations and bodies in the rest of Europe;
  • evaluate the replicability of the methodologies developed within the LIFE project Nat.Sal.Mo in Romanian territory (identified as a breeding site for the species of community interest Hucho hucho – the “Danube salmon”) with at least one species other than the macrostigma.


Actions and means involved:

The significant reduction of genetic introgression in the trout populations native to the project area will be achieved using two main strategies:

1) allow access to the main natural reproduction sites exclusively to wild non-introgressed breeders;

2) use a part of these specimens for artificial reproduction with frozen semen through the use of fertilization schemes that increase the genetic variability of the individuals produced.
The selective access of the native trout to the main breeding sites will be possible by intercepting the migration with fixed traps and selecting the wild reproducers by genetic and morphological analysis. Hybrid and non-native individuals will be transferred to fishing lakes isolated from natural river networks or downstream from insurmountable obstacles. The transport of the fish will follow the requirements of the inherent law (D.Lgs. 148/2008, D.L. 03/08/2011).

The habitat of S. macrostigma will be reconstructed by recovering the natural sites of deposition of the eggs (removing every waste and garbage) and increasing the fluvial connectivity (creation of 6 passages for fish).

To promote the dispersion of the native trout within the project area, an artificial technique will be exploited for artificial reproduction and repopulation that involves the sowing of embryonic eggs in semi-artificial nests built directly inside the riverbed. Two structures for egg incubation and temporary maintenance of wild breeders will be installed in Rocchetta a Volturno (Volturno river) and Oratino (Biferno basin).

Artificial reproduction, using frozen sperm in combination with optimized fertilization schemes, will guarantee the genetic variability of native populations; furthermore, finding an efficient freezing protocol will allow the creation of a seed cryo-bank. The seeding of embryonic eggs in semi-artificial nests will aim to avoid the domestication of wild animals. Recreational fishing will be regulated to support the biological and reproductive characteristics of native trout populations. Local fishermen associations will actively participate. This will make it possible to generate a positive social and economic impact and will conclude with the signing of a “River Contract” for both rivers in order to guarantee the sustainability over time of the results achieved during the project. The methods of cryopreservation and semi-artificial nests will be transferred to the Romanian territory for the species Hucho hucho. Furthermore, at least two replicability assessments will be reproduced in two different Member States.


Expected results:

Genetic introgression

The degree of introgression in the project area will decrease by over 66%.


Support artificial reproduction

At least 50,000 eggs will be produced per year (150,000 eggs in total).

At least 15 km of river will be reconnected and the available reproduction areas will increase by at least 25%.

The goal is the conservation of S. macrostigma, therefore in the activity of river reconnection through the construction of fish passages priority will be given to the achievement of suitable sites by wild breeders rather than to the length of the reconnected stretches.


Genetic variability

The genetic variability of native trout will be maintained or increased thanks to appropriate fertilization schemes.


Project transferability and sustainability

In addition to dissemination, networking and preparation of a business plan, we aim to transfer the innovative methodologies developed in LIFE Nat.Sal.Mo. in Romanian territory for the wild population of Hucho hucho.

Furthermore, we aim to generate at least two replicability assessments (different from the case of Romania) in two different Member States, with at least one species different from the S. macrostigma. During promotion, connectivity and selection processes, Member States with a low number of active LIFE conservation projects will have priority.

We also aim to ensure the sustainability of conservation measures applied both during the project and after the end, implementing a participatory governance tool such as the “River Contract” which aims to formalize the commitment of both public and private stakeholders in a detailed action plan of the tasks and results to be pursued to effectively continue conservation actions.