Today`s planning and management of territory have caused a wide fragmentation of the pre-existing natural habitats and, consequently, an alteration in landscape
pattern and the processes within it.
This phenomenon has reached a dangerously high threshold in the Mediterranean area, especially Apulia (Southern Italy), where the remnant natural patches -
fragments of Mediterranean forest and shrub vegetation are too few and far between to ensure the maintenance and the movement of the biota.
However, the survival and the spread of the biota can be obtained through the creation of:
- Corridors → a system of trees and shrubs that provide animal trails
- Stepping zones → green areas suitable as shelter for animals that move within the network
In its operational stage this ecological connectivity can be carried out by using specific measures of landscape preservation along with the improvement of the existing natural corridors (restoration of shrubs and rural stone walls) and/or through the creation of green areas for recreational and sporting activity, specifically golf courses.
If properly designed and implemented, golf courses can function as stepping zones in the local ecological network, recreating the connection with the surrounding`s remnant natural habitats.
This research is focused on the connective role of a golf course in a typical Mediterranean area of Salento (Apulia, Southern Italy).
The golf course is situated in the Acaya area (province of Lecce). It is approximately 2500 m from the Adriatic coast and it measures 120 hectares, of
which only 22 hectares are playing area.
Of note, part of the surrounding area is the Natural Reserve "Le Cesine" which runs along the coastline from N-W to S-E.
Moving towards the interior, ample agricultural land interspersed with small patches of Mediterranean shrub vegetation typified by Erica manipuliflora Salisb. (an endangered species), can be found. These small patches can play an important role in the maintenance of the biological diversity, giving precious habitat for the shelter, nutrition and reproduction of the local biota.
These patches have been evaluated in terms of spatial distribution and biological potency; thus, a model has been developed to understand their
relationship: ecological network.
The applications of this model resulted in:
- the validity and the function of the ecological network
- the main directions of the ecological permeability and the principal barriers interspersed along these lines
- the potential connective role of the golf course in this ecological network
Methodology and Data Set
The methodology of research was developed on the Landscape Ecology principles and methods. The analysis was carried out through Arcview GIS 3.2 and its extensions Spatial Analyst and 3D Analyst.
The data set were: Technical Map and Orthophoto of Salento (Scale 1:10.000; geocoded in Gauss-Boaga, Zone Est, datum Monte Mario).
A vector to raster algorithm (cell 5 x 5 m) was used and implemented on the Ecosistem Units Map. Each of these units was given a score ranging from 1 to 5 depending on the following ecological indices:
- Grain (G), derives from the rapport between absolute area and number of polygons in each ecosystem unit. This index has an inverted correlation with the degree of fragmentation of each unit.
- Perimeter / Area (IP), This parameter quantifies the degree of interaction of each unit with the remnant parts of land mosaic.
- Territorial Biopotency (BTC), parameter that shows a proportional correlation with the level of ecological stability of each ecosystem and an inverted correlation of each unit’s resilience (Ingegnoli, 1996)
In addition to these quantitative parameters, an environmental quality index that synthesised the main ecological characteristics of the connectivity
elements was introduced.
Then, the range of variability of these indices was defined resulting in an automatic identification system of the ecological network and of the numerous barriers interspersed in the area of study.
The result of the application of this model was the Map of the Ecological Network.
The functionality of the network was verified in reference to "Percolation Theory". The ecological network cells made up approximately 21%, a value notably less than the critical threshold of 59,28%. The natural elements, therefore, were not sufficient to ensure the movement of biological community within the land mosaic.
However, lines of ecological permeability were singled-out. Golf course is being developed along one of these lines; therefore, if design and implemented properly, it could become an element of connectivity between the naturalistic coastal area and the internal patches of habitat.
Research developed with the doctorate "Landscape Planning and Design" -
University of Bari, Italy.