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Characterization, conservation and enhancement of biodiversity

Characterization, protection and enhancement of terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity, through an integrated and multidisciplinary approach, for the sustainable management of resources.

Understanding the natural processes and their interconnections within ecosystems is crucial to correctly assess the good environmental status (GES) of the environment and define criteria and policies for a sustainable use of resources. Anthropogenic impacts and climate change alter ecosystems and may cause biodiversity loss. Knowing the related effects and evaluating ecosystems and species resilience is fundamental to prevent and mitigate biodiversity loss and to define conservation measures. Safeguarding biodiversity is a priority for its intrinsic value and its ecological, social and economic function.

ENEA tackles these issues in the terrestrial and aquatic environment (sea, river and wetlands) by adopting an integrated and multidisciplinary approach.

Terrestrial ecosystems
• Analysis, planning and sustainable management of land and its natural resources
• Characterization and implementation of the ecological networking, from local to large scale, with special attention to ecosystem evaluation of environmental integrity and to biodiversity conservation, by using land planning projects and environmental restoration/recovery.
• Characterization of habitats and plant communities in natural and semi-natural environments

Marine ecosystems
• Characterization of the marine and coastal environments from the physical, biogeochemical and radio-ecological point of view and definition of dynamics (including the use of radioactive tracers present in the environment) in order to gain knowledge about processes, functions and relationships between the biological component and the physical and geochemical variables
• Defining the impact of thermal anomalies, sea acidification, extreme events, pollution, biological invasions, overfishing, habitat fragmentation/reconnection and new uses of the marine environment on biological communities, also in relation to species distribution and communities’ structure
• Vulnerability assessment and ecological and functional adaptation of target species useful in the formulation of predictive models.

River ecosystems and wetlands
• Applied ecology aimed at biodiversity protection and definition of prototype methods for assessment and monitoring of wetlands and rivers
• Assessment of rivers ecological quality and evaluation of the effects of human activities on the state of the ecosystem and natural resources, including those arising from the use of hydroelectric power plants
• Studies aimed at evaluating the ecological quality of waterways: identification of pressures and assessment of impacts
• Analysis of biological elements, particularly communities of benthic macroinvertebrates and macrophytes
• Application of ecological indexes (biotic, multimetric, evaluation of riparian areas conditions)
• Evaluation of the ecological requirements of running water habitats

The use of bio-indicators for evaluating environmental quality, the effects of climate change and human impacts.

River ecosystems and wetlands
• Evaluation of the environmental quality of river ecosystems through the use of bio-indicators and synthetic biotic indices, both in mountain and lowland environments. Special reference is made to the macrobenthic and aquatic vegetation and to the riparian zone components

• Application of ecotoxicological and genotoxicological tests to various environmental matrices
• Development and establishment of new ecotoxicological protocols employing marine, freshwater and terrestrial test organisms with a view to implementing test batteries suited to different environmental matrices
• Development of synthetic toxicity indices for defining the ecotoxicological state of the environment
• Evaluation of the effects of contaminants in mixture and definition of the ecotoxicological risk
• Assessment of the ecotoxicological effects of nanomaterials and emerging pollutants and development of new protocols and diagnostic methods in aquatic and terrestrial environments