The Hygrophilous Woods

The habitat of the hygrophilous woods (Alno-Ulmion) of black alder is one of the three habitats of priority interest for the conservation of the nature of the European Union present in the Park of Montevecchia and the Valle del Curone in Brianza. These are forests that grow on land where water stagnation occurs for a long time .
These places, like most of the wetlands, have been frequently reclaimed over time: through the opening of ditches or the like, man has worked to remove water and thus allow the drying up of soils. The hygrophilous forests that remain today are therefore rare, having escaped the “rationalizing” action of man, and the protection of these formations is therefore to be considered of priority importance. Woods of this kind are normally observed in areas periodically flooded along the great rivers of the plain or at the foot of the slopes where the water stops.

The black alder (Alnus glutinosa) is the main tree species of these formations and is able to survive even in ever-flooded environments. When environmental conditions become less limiting, soils less difficult, humid but with less frequent stagnation, other species appear, and among them the most significant is certainly the elm (Ulmus minor).
In the past this tree characterized the plain woods with its imposing presence, but in the last decades it has been decimated by a parasitic fungus and only a few individuals reach large dimensions today.
Other trees that can be found in these woods are the black poplar (Populus nigra), some willows, the pado or cherry in clusters (Prunus padus). Here too, however, the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) is penetrated, an exotic species of North American origin, very useful for the high productivity of timber but unfortunately strongly infesting.

The undergrowth

In the undergrowth vegetate different shrubby species, among which the viburnum or May pallia (Viburnum opulus) is particularly striking in the period of flowering and fruiting. It is often accompanied by a buckthorn (Frangula alnus), especially on the edge of the forest. But it is especially in the less striking herbaceous layer that the most characteristic species of this environment vegetate, such as the meadowsweet (Filipendula olmaria), the yellow thistle (Cirsium oleraceum), the sedges (Carex pendula and remote Carex), the valerian ( Valeriana dioica) to which the horsetails are often joined.

Among the animal species that frequent these woods, the most important are not linked to them in an exclusive form, but are instead linked above all to the pools present in damp environments. This is the case of the Lataste Rana (Rana latastei), an endemic species of the Po Valley (that is, that lives exclusively in the Po Valley and in its immediate vicinity), whose protection is of particular importance, of the salamanders and the crested newt e, among the birds of the blue tit (Parus palustris) the colorful kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), also a species of particular interest to the European Union.

The project LIFE Natura 1998

The hygrophilous woods in the Park are now reduced to a few small, positioned flaps:
– in the cultivated areas, in some narrow little valleys, not very interesting for the agricultural activity;
– in a narrow strip along the streams, where these slow down, digress, overflow and become impaludano;
– in areas of abandoned quarry, where the clayey soil retains more water;
– on areas where agricultural activity has ceased and therefore the consequent remediation action.

These environments must therefore be particularly protected and the factors of degradation and alteration must be eliminated. In the Park, with the support of the European Union, some actions are underway for the protection of this habitat, as part of the LIFE Nature Project 1998 “Valle Santa Croce – Valle del Curone: habitat protection of priority interest”: along the streams and small dams are built in the valleculae to slow the speed of the water and therefore increase the humidity of the soil.
In the woods cuts are made to eliminate exotic species, as well as to prevent crashes that would give rise to an excess of brightness. Finally, plants of black alder and other species characterizing these environments are executed at the edges of already existing woods and in larger clearings, with the aim of increasing the size of the forest ecosystem, and through it stability.

Where to observe the hygrophilous woods?

The most interesting areas for observing these woods are located along the Curone
– in the highest part of the valley;
– north of the upper Fornace farmhouse;
– downstream of C.na Valfredda;
– near the sports fields of Montevecchia.
– Along the Molgoretta it is possible to observe these woods along the road that leads from Lomaniga to Valle Santa Croce.

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