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Natural environments of Cinque Terre National Park

Cinque Terre National Park covers a mountainous and mostly coastal area: only 300 hectares belong to the catchment basin of the Vara river and do not face the sea. The steep and landslide-prone mountains sides, where short streams flow, are a succession of valleys and ridges branching off the main watershed, which is 850 metres high and close to the sea. This is why mountain and mediterranean natural environments coexist in less than 4,000 hectares, populated by their own plant and animal species, for a remarkable biodiversity.
Along the coastal cliffs shrubs grow low and sparse, and reptiles and birds dwell that are typical of sunny, rocky areas. Higher up, the mountain sides are covered in Mediterranean macchia and thermophilic evergreen woods: evergreen oaks, cork oaks, maritime pines; jays, woodpeckers, tits, squirrels, badgers and foxes are the most common inhabitants.
The ridges and the innermost part of the valleys, as well as the mountain sides around the Vara valley, are cooler and more humid and therefore suitable for deciduous broadleaf woods, with chestnut trees, hop-hornbeams, downy oaks and Turkey oaks; buzzards and tawny owls nest there, foxes and beech martens roam the woods and roe deers come to graze.
Streams and springs constitute essential water environments for the reproduction of amphibians and for plants that flourish in the shade and damp.
Even the dry stone walls on the terraced fields, although man-made, represent small stone-and-soil environments where rupicolous plants and animals live.
Wild boars are common to all environments: they were introduced in the past century and are now widespread thanks to the favourable environment and human attitude.

(By Lieutenant colonel Silvia Olivari, commander of the Carabinieri unit at Cinque Terre National Park)
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