MAB reserve of Collemeluccio-Montedimezzo Alto Molise

Conservation and sustainable use of the territory’s resources

MAB is an acronym that stands for Man and Biosphere i.e. “Man and the Biosphere”, a program launched in 1971 by UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) with the purpose of prioritizing the development of a sustainable and lasting relationship between man and nature.
In order to achieve this goal, a network of so-called “Biosphere Reserves”, terrestrial and coastal/marine ecosystems that are recognized worldwide for their high environmental potential, was set up. Currently there are 651 MAB Reserves, of which 13 are found in Italy.
They represent very important sites both for research, whether for training or for environmental education; in addition they aim at the conservation and sustainable use of local resources through the involvement of local communities.
The Reserve was founded in 1977 and subdivided into two nuclei that are 15 kilometers apart, with particular geomorphological and vegetational characteristics: Collemeluccio in the Municipality of Pescolanciano and Montedimezzo in the territory of Vastogirardi, for a total area of 654 hectares.
The AssoMAB Consortium was established in 2006, with seven municipalities as members (Carovilli, Pescolanciano, Chiauci, Vastogirardi, San Pietro Avellana, Pietrabbondante, Roccasicura), as well as the University of Molise, the Iscernia Office for Biodiversity and the Molise Region, with the aim of creating an expansion and zoning of the Reserve with an increase in area from 651 to 25,268 hectares.
In the area there are 7 Sites of Community Importance (SIC) in total or in part in Molise: Rete Natura 2000 1) Bosco di Collemeluccio – Selvapiana – Castiglione – La Cocozza, 2) Bosco di Monte di Mezzo – Monte Miglio – Pennataro – Monte Capraro – Monte Cavallerizzo, 3) Isola della Fonte della Luna, 4) Pesche – Monte Totila, 5) Torrente Tirino (Forra) – Monte Ferrante, 6) Gola di Chiauci, 7) Torrente Verrino, characterized by the presence of forested habitats of community interest, but also shrub and grassland.
The two historical areas are accessible through a wide network of trails (in particular, the Colle San Biagio path, at Montedimezzo, guarantees access to the disabled). There are periodic orienteering competitions, running races and mountain biking, as well as picnic areas and camping areas on request.
In addition in Montedimezzo you can find the Visitor’s Center with sections dedicated to geology, to wood and fauna, a projection room, wildlife enclosures and aviaries that contain animals and birds that were in difficulty and recovered in the area.
As for the original nucleus of Montedimezzo the vegetation is arboreal, with a prevalence of Turkey oak (Quercus cerris) and beech (Fagus selvatica), two species that predominate according to the slope, the altitude, the pedological substrate and microclimatic variations.The oak tree mainly develops on clay or marly substrates, with a tolerance of periods of drought. The arboreal species of the oaks are the peroro, the wild apple, the wild maple, the mountain maple (Acer pseudoplatanus). In the oak band there is an extensive range of secondary species that, where the Turkey oak is rare, assume the role of main topsoil, and are represented by the white hornbeam (Carpynus betulus), greater ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and maple (Acer campestre). In the past in these situations, a massive coniferation of mainly white firs was carried out. In the arboretum (Horti colturali) that begins to develop at the entrance to the reserve, extending up to the amphiteater-like reception structures whose origins dates back to the 1920s, there are many other species, both indiginous and exotic. However the beech forest, found at higher altitudes, is strictly adapted to the rather extreme climatic-edaphic conditions characterized by altitudes higher than 1000 meters. In general, there are two distinct groups of beech: a lower one, that starts from a lower limit varying between 800 and 1000 meters, and merges into a higher one that stops at 1500 meters a.s.l., where the beechwood gives way to peak plains. The upper beech woods are in direct contact with the oak woods, but in conditions of higher atmospheric humidity. In this band, the typical undergrowth is made up of holly, some species of maple and the juveniles of the same beech. Less frequently seen are the small frutici, among which are the daphne (Daphne laureola). The herbaceous band, which is usually not very dense, sees as its most representative species the odorous rennet (Galium odoratum), the strawberry grass (Sanicula europaea), the cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium), the lanby buttercup (Ranunculus lanuginosus). In Spring, when the trees are still bare, there is the ephemeral appearance of bulbs with showy flowers, such as the (Scilla bifolia), the saffron (Crocus neapolitanus) and the snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis).
In the nucleus of Collemeluccio half of the forest thicket is characterized by the white fir, present with spontaneous formations that are relics of the ancient firs that over the centuries and millenia covered the Apennine ridge, and that today, apart from in Molise, are found with small nuclei in Abruzzo, in Tuscany and in Calabria. In the present day situation, past management based on limited cutting and their distribution throughout the whole surface of the forest have resulted in excellent conservation of the white fir. Natural renewal is particularly abundant and vigorous where the white fir mixes with the oak.
The other species that are found in the formation of the forest consortium is the oak, which mainly characterizes the areas on the edge of the reserve. In the cooler exposures, there are beech and spruce trees. To these species are added the white hornbeam, the rural maple, the rural elm, the greater ash tree. The hawthorn, the holly, the blackthorn and the hazel are found in the dense undergrowth.
Apple trees, wild pear trees and rowan trees are found in the clearings and along the edges, and the dog rose and the wild plum grow among the brushwood.
There are numerous species of animals in the reserve: roe deer, hares, badgers, martens, weasels, stone martens, foxes, squirrels and wild cats. Wild boars are found in large numbers, and their presence is highlighted by the insects found in some parts of the forest, and by the many stripped branches of white fir which the animals have clawed. The conservation status of the forest has also allowed the wolf to enter this area. The species that most characterize the avifauna present are the perigrine falcon, the gardener,
the pecker hawk, the red kite, the collared nanny, the short-toed eagle, the small averla and the buzzard. Among the invertebrates the Cerambix cerdo, Rosalia alpina, Callimorpha quadripuncta and Eriogaster catax should be pointed out. In humid environments the presence of the speckled salamander has been reported.
River crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) live in the Trigno River.

Additional information

There are several different paths. The one shown here is the Sentiero del Faione. It takes its name from the centuries-old beech, the King Faione, that you will meet along the way.
Clothing suitable for the season and trekking shoes are recommended.