Eradication of non-native fish species from some high altitude alpine lakes

The brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is a salmonid originating from North America. This species was introduced in some GPNP lakes in the 1960s when the damage to the ecosystem that could be caused by non-native species was not fully understood.

This is an allochthonous species, in fact, that is to say, a species that colonises an area other than its natural habitat through direct or indirect human action.

Today, scientific knowledge is much more advanced and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) views the introduction of non-indigenous species as the second greatest cause of the drastic loss of biodiversity that is affecting our planet.

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Interventions to improve the quality of high altitude aquatic environments

The Gran Paradiso National Park includes well-preserved environments where the impact of human activities is minimal. It should be noted, however, that the climatic conditions of high mountain zones may weaken the effectiveness of the techniques normally adopted to mitigate the impact of the human presence, as in the case of effluent management.  The natural equilibrium of lakes and streams may be severely impaired by the inflow of wastewater.

The LIFE+ BIOAQUAE project aims to flank traditional water treatment systems with phytodepuration techniques, to assess their efficacy and feasibility in alpine zones. Phytodepuration consists of using selected plant species to create a suitable habitat for the growth of bacterial flora having a natural water cleansing effect. The plants taken from areas adjacent to the installation are suited to the local conditions. The final goal is to create an ecological filter supplementing traditional treatment systems to obtain water that is clear and poor in organic constituents.

One of the sites selected for the action is the Pontese Mountain Hut, situated at an altitude of ca 2200 m. The area surrounding the shelter, consisting of siliceous screes, is listed in Annex I to EU Habitats Directive and therefore should be actively preserved and protected.

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Conservation actions for the marble trout (Salmo marmoratus)

The marble trout is a large-sized salmonid found both in alpine lakes and in subalpine lakes on valley floors and on the plains.

At European level, this species is diminishing, mostly because of the ongoing destruction and fragmentation of its habitats, and due to crossbreeding with another salmonid species, the brown trout (Salmo trutta fario). For these reasons, the marble trout has been included in the red list of threatened species compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is mentioned in Annex II to the Habitats Directive.

Based on this status, conservation initiatives for this species have a high priority rating. 

In the Gran Paradiso National Park, the marble trout has still been found in recent times in  few watercourses, such as the Piantonetto, Campiglia and Forzo streams, which provide an ideal habitat for this species.

On the other hand, large brown trout populations constitute a threat to the survival of the marble trout, in that the two species may crossbreed and produce fertile offspring.

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