SelPiBioLife Project

Innovative silvicultural treatments to enhance soil biodiversity in artificial black pine stands


SelpiBioLife is a project under the category Biodiversity, for innovative or demonstration projects that consider biodiversity issues within the LIFE+ Nature and Biodiversity strand. The  main goal of the project is to demonstrate the positive effects of an innovative silvicultural treatment on black pine forests. The specific innovative treatment applied in the stands improves growth rates and stands stability and enhance the level of biodiversity of the various soil components (flora, fungi, bacteria, mesofauna, nematods and microarthropods).

In particular, the project aims to evaluate the effects of selective thinning compared to traditional thinning (selecting trees from below leaving well-spaced, highest-quality trees) and to areas of young forest where silvicultural treatments are not carried out. The goal is to demonstrate that the selective thinning not only improves the growth rate of the trees  and the stability of the stands but increases the overall biodiversità. This is due to the fact that the selective thinning modifies the canopy cover and enhances the rate of light, water and temperature at the soil level. The global effect is an increasing of the functionality of the ecosystem and of the soil biodiversity of the stands and consequently an appreciation of the economic, touristic and protective value of the forest.

In the ambit of the project specific field activities will be finalized at demonstrating how the selective thinning is easy from a silvicultural point of view and replicable in different contexts.



What is LIFE+?


Since 1992, LIFE program has been the EU’s instrument for co-financing projects on environment issues proposed by member countries.
The objective is to contribute to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental legislation. In particular, LIFE pursues the objectives of the sixth action community framework programme about environment. The financed projects may be proposed by operators, organizations, public or private institutions.
LIFE + (or LIFE Plus) is a funding instrument for a period ranged from 1st January 2007 to 31st December 2013, and contributing over € 2000 million.  

LIFE+ program includes three main themes:
•    LIFE+ "Nature and biodiversity";
•    LIFE+ "Policy and environmental governance ";
•    LIFE+ "Information and communication".

Every year the European Commission purposes the “call” to submit projects in one of the three LIFE+ themes.
To know more about LIFE+ Program and download informative material and forms, to have details concerning other LIFE projects, visit website: (in english language). Three articles about LIFE+ and LIFE 2014-2020 are available on Sherwood magazine (in italian language):


LIFE_1 >>>
ProFor 1 >>>
ProFor 2 >>>



Goal and constraints



In Italy, black pine and calabrian pine forests cover nearly 236.467 hectares (23% of the total
area covered by conifers). In Tuscany, these forests cover nearly 20.500 hectares.

Black pine stands are, in general, plantations established throughout the Apennines range after the Second World War with the purpose of re-establishing forest cover in marginal and eroded soils.
Both the decay of forest cover and soil erosion were the outcome of the intensive forest exploitation, such as grazing and wildfires, over the centuries.
The pine stands already achieved the land restoration purpose and today the key functions are the protection against soil erosion and the hydrological regulation of catchments. These plantations have been assuming also a landscape function in the present landscape physiognomy of Apennines forests of Central Italy.

In order to guarantee the multifunctional and sustainable role of these stands, it is necessary to establish and realize a series of silvicultural treatments finalized to the  renaturalisation. This means, in the middle term, the natural reintroduction of broadleaves originally living in the same areas and the establishment of mixed forest.

The first stages of management of black pine plantations are founded on thinnings, which are primarily aimed at regulating stand density. Selective thinning has remarkable positive effects on heliophile species like pines. This technique focuses on encouraging the growth of selected trees by reducing competition.  Altough the positive effects of selective thinnings on the growth and the stability of black pine stands are demonstrated, these kind of interventions are not commonly applied in  pine forests of the Italian Apennine.





The project’s main objective is to demonstrate the potential of the selective silvicultural treatment to enhance the level of biodiversity in black pine stands undergrowth and soil. In the same time the selective thinning has positive effects on the production (increase of the growth rate) and on the protection (enhance of physical stability parameters).
The global effect is an increasing of the functionality of the ecosystem and the creation of favourable ecological conditions for the natural regeneration of autochthones species.
A communication and information strategy will be developed in order to reach in an effective way all the interested parties and to disseminate the results of the project. Specific field activities will be finalized at demonstrating how the selective thinning is easy from a silvicultural point of view and replicable in different contexts.




A - Preparatory actions, elaboration of management plans and/or of action plans

A1 - Cognitive framework of the physical component of the landscapes, of the forests and of the forests management. 

A2 - Assessment of structural and dendrometric parameters of forest stands. Deadwood assessment before silvicultural treatment. 

A3 - Assessment of the floristic diversity before treatments.

A4 - Assessment of the diversity of soil microbial communities and of the mesofauna before treatments. 

A5 -  Assessment of the mycologic diversity before treatments by means of macro-morphologic and molecular techniques.


C - Concrete conservation actions

C1 - Definition and achievement of the thinning operations in the UC Pratomagno pilot area.

C2 - Definition and achievement of the thinning operations in the UC Amiata Val D’Orcia study area.   


D - Monitoring the impact of the project actions  

D1 - Assessment of structural and dendrometric parameters of forest stands and of deadwood after treatments.  

D2 - Assessment of floristic diversity after treatments.  

D3 - Assessment of the diversity of soil microbial communities and of the mesofauna after treatments. 

D4 - Assessment of the mycologic diversity after treatments by means of macro-morphologic and molecular techniques.   


E - Public awareness and dissemination of results 

E1 - Identification of the stakeholders and of the main target audience subjects.  

E2 - Planning, achievement and management of the web-site of the project.  

E3 - Realization of the “Notice board” and of the “Leyman’s report”.

E4 - Realization of participation meetings, training courses, informative and sensitization seminars. E5 - Dissemination of the results in Italy and in Europe.  

E6 - Realization of launching and final conferences.  

E7 -  Layman's report realization.


F - General management of the project

F1 - General management of the project.

F2 - After LIFE communication plan.

Paragraph 2 – Intervention area



Pilot areas

Innovative silvicultural treatments and biodiversity monitoring on undergrowth and soil will be carried out in reforestations that belong to the regional Agricultural and Forestal Heritage of Toscana managed by the two following partners: “Unione dei Comuni del Pratomagno” (UCP) and “Unione dei Comuni Amiata Val d’Orcia” (UCAVO).





In particular, pilot ares will be established in:

  • Pratomagno-Valdarno Forest (Arezzo) that cover a surface of 3300.14 ha.
  • Forest Complex “Madonna delle Querce” (Siena and Grosseto) that cover a surface of 2168.60 ha.




Climate data

In each of the two areas of intervention a DAVIS weather station was installed with sensors for data acquisition: "Vantage Pro2"; able to record and provide the main weather data directly via the web.

In particular:
• Temperature/humidity with passive standard sun screen;
• Rain gauge (resolution 0.2 mm);
• Anemometer (speed/wind direction);
• Global solar radiation;
• Ultraviolet radiation (UV);

The aim is to compare, once acquired, the complete weather data with the soil moisture and temperature data in the experimental areas, in order to assess the soil water balance with good reliability and correlate it with the effects of the different thinning techniques on the biotic component.

The transmission of information takes place in three steps
from sensors to data logger through a wireless transmitter
from the datalogger to the server data transmission via GPRS;
finally it is possible to directly receive data on the web by downloading.

The precise data relative to the demonstration sites of the SelPiBioLIFE project: Monte Amiata (SI) and in Pratomagno (AR) are therefore available to all through the following links:


A short video shows the tool!




State of progress





Verde: Azione conclusa
: Azione in svolgimento
: Azione non ancora iniziata
Linea blu
: momento attuale










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