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Biodiversity and beauty

The flora of Alpi Marittime Park

Viola Valderia, a species endemic to the Park (A. Rivelli/PNAM).

Italy has more floral species than any other European country, and the Province of Cuneo is one of the richest territories for floral biodiversity. The main contributor to this enormous floral heritage is the Maritime Alps sector: if we take the whole of the Alpine chain, only the Julian Alps at the other end can offer any competition. Our sector in particular was defined "the principal centre for endemic species" thanks to the presence of a number of species exclusive to this area.

The reasons for this extraordinary variety are numerous.
First of all, the extreme south-western foothills of the Alps has been a meeting point for many different species and explains the current contiguity of alpine, subalpine, Apennine, Mediterranean and middle European plants.
A key role for biodiversity was played by the geographic location of the Maritime Alps, standing on the edge of the area affected by the Quaternary glaciations, which elsewhere had the effect of deleting all traces of previous events. During the ice ages, the tops of these mountains close to the sea remained clear of ice, becoming a fortunate shelter for a large number of plants which otherwise would no longer exist today. An important role was played by the abundance of seemingly hostile environments, such as rocks and debris, acting a very selective role, they offered suitable soil to species that in a more 'normal' setting would have been overwhelmed by more aggressive plants.

If we add to this, the effect produced by the presence, sometimes in the space of a few hundred meters of calcareous and siliceous substrates, which guarantee favourable growing conditions for plants inextricably linked to one or the other type of substrate.
Finally the tormented morphology of the territory played its part: the continuous alternation of ridges, valleys, and ravines, has given rise to a multitude of microclimates, under whose influence the different species have been able to establish and spread. The Maritime Alps Park faithfully reflects the correlation between the richness of its physical environment and the variety of its biological population. Within its borders are these features translate numerically into a flora of about two thousand species of higher plants - which increases by five hundred units when fungi, liverworts, mosses and ferns are taken into account - equivalent to about a quarter of the Italian flora.

You can come across these plants along the paths in the Park, or in the Botanic Gardens Valderia in Terme di Valdieri. The gardens host over 500 plant species, distributed in fourteen environments representative of the ecosystems of the Maritime Alps.


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