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Home » Nature and Territory » National Park » Biodiversity » Natural environment

Water environments

Water environments within the National Park consist of streams and springs. The watercourses are decidedly torrential, short and narrow, with only few branches, and they are linear, rocky and deeply set in the ground: therefore they only influence their immediate surroundings, and the habitats on their sides have limited width. However their characteristics are markedly different from those of the slopes where they flow: shade, cool and humidity nurture unique biocoenosis that cannot be found elsewhere. Ferns, reeds and equisetum grow under the protective crowns of alders, elderberries and hazels; eels swim in the water, where amphibians breed and water snakes hunt them. Path No 581, which winds through the Vernazza drainage basin, crosses at least ten streams where water flows throughout the year; paths No 551 and 507 run along Rio Casale and Canale di Riccò.

Mosses
Mosses are small, non-vascular plants, turgid-looking and with very simple structures that do not serve support purposes. They belong to the taxonomic division Bryophyta, which includes small-sized and horizontally-growing plants. Mosses are composed of very tiny stems and microscopic leaves; lacking vascular tissues to transport water and nutrients, they absorb them by capillarity through their whole organism. They propagate using spores, whose formation requires the constant presence of water; this is why mosses are most commonly found in humid and shaded areas, by ponds, lakes or rivers. They prefer soil but can adapt to different substrata, especially if their situation is stable over time, managing to grow even on naked rock and in the water.

Hart's-tongue (Phyllitis scolopendrium L.)
Asplenium scolopendrium or Hart's-tongue owes its name to the sori pattern (clusters of sporangia containing the spores) on the lower surface of the frond, which is reminiscent of a centipede's legs, and to the tongue-like shape of the frond itself, which is undivided, coriaceous, and smooth on the upper surface.
It is an evergreen fern in the family Aspleniaceae, easily found in cool, shaded and humid areas from the sea level to an elevation of 1,300 metres. On the evolutionary ladder pteridophytes (a division of plants that includes ferns) date back to around 400 million years ago, and their structure is more complex than the mosses'.
(See gallery)

Alpine newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris)
This amphibian, which measures 12 cm at its longest, belongs to the order Urodela or Caudata, and can be distinguished from other salamanders living in the Park (fire salamander and cave salamander) by its tail - flattened on the sides - and by its yellow or orange belly. Females are uniformly grey or dark brown, and slightly larger than the males, which are more conspicuously coloured especially during breeding season. This species dwells in water most of the time and is widespread in Europe from the sea level to an elevation of over 2,000 metres. Within the National Park it breeds in natural ponds, in the streams, and even in artificial reservoirs, if they are located near streams or springs, and appropriate measures were taken for their building.
Like all amphibians, this species is protected under the EU "Habitat" Directive 92/43, and is threatened by the decrease and alteration of the water habitats where it breeds.
(See gallery)

Silvia Olivari
Water environment - stream
Water environment - stream
(photo by: Silvia Olivari)
Moss with sporophytes
Moss with sporophytes
(photo by: Silvia Olivari)
Hart's-tongue (Phyllitis scolopendrium L.)
Hart's-tongue (Phyllitis scolopendrium L.)
(photo by: Silvia Olivari)
Water environment - reservoir
Water environment - reservoir
(photo by: Silvia Olivari)
Alpine newt (Ichtyosaura alpestris)
Alpine newt (Ichtyosaura alpestris)
(photo by: Pietro Papa)
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