How to protect Sicily’s immense biodiversity

The land of Sicily is probably one of the most unique and rare places that exists in the world and, almost always, those who were born there and live there do not realize it. This awareness, unfortunately, is rarer than one might think and only a few people, researchers, scholars, enthusiasts, lovers of this land grasp its uniqueness; among these I often mention Renzino Barbera, a true and authentic Sicilian poet, who wrote in this regard: “… on the sixth day, God completed his work and happy to have created so much beauty, he took the earth in his hands and kissed it , where he placed his lips is Sicily”; every comment seems superfluous to us.
But where does so much beauty come from, certainly from being at the center of that Mediterranean sea, a historical crossroads of peoples, traditions, art, history, hope…
However, there is a heritage among the heritages that we must make understood not only to the millions of tourists who come to visit us every year but above all to its inhabitants and, in particular, to young people and, therefore, to future generations.
It is the heritage of biodiversity.
To understand the magnitude and importance of this heritage, take into account that in the European panorama, Italy is the country which, by far, has the highest number of species: we host approximately half of the plant species and approximately a third of all animal species currently present in Europe.
Within Italy, Sicily, together with Sardinia, leads the national biodiversity ranking, confirming itself as an island of wonders, clearly surpassing the other very rich Italian island.
Wanting to give very brief information, just think that in Sicily the fauna is estimated at over 58,000 species, of which approximately 55,000 of Invertebrates (95%), 1812 of Protozoans (3%) and 1265 of Vertebrates (2%), with a overall incidence of endemic species equal to approximately 30%.
As regards the flora, there are 3252 specific and infraspecific taxa, native, adventitious and naturalized, divided into 880 genera and 134 families. Therefore, despite the strong anthropization and degradation of natural ecosystems, the Sicilian flora is still surprisingly rich thanks to the notable variety of environments, bioclimates, types of soil and rocks, orographic configurations, etc.
The richest genera are: Trifolium (64), Limonium (45), Allium (37), Ophrys (33), Silene (32), Centaurea (31), Anthemis (19), Brassica (18), Linaria (16) , Dianthus and Helichrysum (13), Micromeria (11) and Genista (10). The most represented families are Asteraceae (371), Poaceae (300), Fabaceae (295). Brassicaceae (141), Apiaceae (135) etc., 64 entities are referable to the Pteridophyta, 14 are Gymnospermae, 3173 are Angiospermae (2463 Dicotyledons and 710 Monocotyledons).
The biogeographic spectrum shows the prevalence of the Mediterranean element (46.88%), followed by the Eastern (13.14%), the Western (9.75%), the Boreal (8.58%) and the Southern ( 8.55%). Cosmopolitans are represented by 426 taxa (13.1%). Endemism (entirely included in the Mediterranean element) is 15.44%, of which 9.90% (about 380 taxa according to recent estimates) is exclusive to Sicily, 3.69% is shared with Southern Italy, while the endemics shared with a few other areas of the Mediterranean amount to 1.85%.
In short, it is a biodiversity, also the result of an ecodiversity, which is found only at continental levels, which make Sicily a real biodiversity hotspot which, however, is threatened by habitat loss, climate change and widespread loss of species.
We remember that biodiversity represents a wealth of information, energy and living matter which, if lost, risks compromising human life itself and its geopolitical balance. It is something on which we still reflect little and in which the world of politics does very little or nothing.
Yet something is starting to move.
Suffice it to say that the first Italian research center dedicated to biodiversity was born in recent days: the National Biodiversity Future Center, which starts with 300 million euros and 1,300 researchers.
This center is coordinated by the National Research Council and is one of the five national centers established as part of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan: Among the topics it will deal with are strategies for tackling the climate crisis and those for species invasive alien species, the recovery of degraded ecosystems and the study of endangered species. The Center will also have the objective of understanding and addressing the factors connected to the decline of biodiversity at marine, terrestrial and urban levels, and of enhancing biodiversity to make it a great opportunity for economic development.
And how can we not mention the L.R. 21 of 29 July 2021 of the Sicilian Region regarding “Agroecology, protection of biodiversity and Sicilian agricultural products and technological innovation in agriculture…”; a law created and approved to protect not only the island’s agricultural biodiversity but also to avoid interference between agricultural production systems and natural ecosystems.
But all this is not enough, it is necessary to involve the communities, free citizens’ organisations, such as those of the Agroecology Coordination of Sicily which, after having concretely collaborated in the drafting and approval of the aforementioned law, intends to interact with the social and political parties to now move on to concrete actions, including not only regulatory aspects but also guidance, training and awareness-raising.
The work carried out by the Agroecology Coordination, in particular for the proposal of the Rural Energy Plan of Sicily and the path that led to the law on Agroecology of the Sicilian Region and the subsequent implementation steps, was taken as an example and model of virtuous policies for a proposal from Horizon Europe, entitled INCITE-DEM, in response to a call for proposals from the Reshaping democracies call.
Recall that INCITE-DEM is a project that aims to improve inclusive participation and civic engagement, expanding democratic innovation and dynamic feedback mechanisms between citizens and institutional actors in representative democracies.
The proposal is led by the FCiencias.ID Association of Lisbon, with European partners, including Kyoto Club for Italy. The Kyoto Club is a non-profit organisation, created in February 1999, made up of companies, bodies, associations and local administrations, committed to achieving the objectives of reducing greenhouse gas emissions undertaken with the Kyoto Protocol, with the decisions at EU level and with the Paris Agreement of December 2015.
This recognition gives the Agroecology Coordination greater responsibility. It is a race against time, against indifference rather than against the great interests of multinationals and finance which, in a cohesive cultural and conscience fabric, could not take root.
To all the inhabitants of planet Earth, and not just the Sicilians, the watchword is: move from complaints to concrete facts, to virtuous democratic processes, and not those of armed revolutions, which only bring devastation, destruction and death, but those of revolutions of conscience with their consequent taking of positions and consequent actions.

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