Protected areas and insect conservation: questioning the effectiveness of Natura 2000 network for saproxylic beetles in Italy


  • Editor: Nathalie Pettorelli

    Associate Editor: Jonathan Davies


Manuela D'Amen, CNR-IBAF, Via Salaria km 29 300 Monterotondo Scalo, Italy; Corpo Forestale dello Stato, Centro Nazionale Biodiversità Forestale ‘Bosco Fontana’, Via C. Ederle 16/a, Verona, Italy.



Up to now, global conservation priorities are far from incorporating megadiverse invertebrate taxa. Thus, an important emerging field in biological conservation is how we might manage landscape to preserve insects. In this study, we analyze the efficacy of Italian reserve network for protecting multiple saproxylic beetles, considering both nationally designated areas and Natura 2000 sites. We selected 150 species inhabiting the Italian territory from the European Red List for saproxylic beetles, on the basis of distribution data availability. For each species, a vulnerability score was assigned according to their Red List status, and the species' distributions data were used to perform an irreplaceability analysis. Our analyses show that conservation targets based on geographic range extent are achieved for only 7% of the considered species. We find that 13 species are not represented in any protected area: among these, two click beetle species (Elateridae) are listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature threatened categories (i.e. Ampedus quadrisignatus EN and Ampedus brunnicornis VU). Our analyses on protected area effectiveness for the conservation of saproxylic beetles showed that nationally designated protected areas are more irreplaceable than a random selection of cells. Surprisingly, the addition of Natura 2000 sites did not improve the species representation. Moreover, these reserves include sites that are not more irreplaceable than a random selection of cells. We identify some currently unprotected areas that protection could prevent from future extinctions and ensure a favorable conservation status of saproxylic beetles. In particular, we find an important stronghold for beetle conservation, which obtained a high irreplaceability score, in the Adige river basin. We recommend the designation of new reserves in this area to complement the existing network and to help guarantee invertebrate saproxylic fauna protection.