Sicily: conservation and research

Within the entire genus, the narrow endemic Z. sicula deserves a special concern. Discovered only in 1991, this extremely rare tree is currently represented by only two small populations; both of them have an area of occupancy of less than one hectare and include a few hundreds trees.

Leading researchers: Giuseppe Garfì, Salvatore Pasta (IBBR, Sicily) and Laurence Fazan

Conservation of Ptilostemon greuteri (Asteraceae)

Launch of the Project Ptilostemon

The main goal of the project is to ensure the long-term conservation of Ptilostemon greuteri (Asteraceae), a critically endangered and endemic woody species of Sicily. This phylogenetically isolated taxon is one of rare examples of woodiness among Mediterranean Asteraceae. It consists of only few very small subpopulations occurring on north-facing cliffs and ledges, on Mt. Inici (western Sicily). As the species has been discovered only recently (2006), many aspects of its biology, biogeography and conservation needs are poorly understood.

The project will be locally coordinated by Drs Giuseppe Garfi, Salvatore Pasta, Alessandro Silvestre Gristina and Corrado Marceno from the Institute of Biosciences and BioResources (IBBR-CNR, Palermo, Italy), and internationally by Laurence Fazan and Prof. Gregor Kozlowski from the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). Selected aspects of the project will be covered by Viviane Perraudin (Master student at the Department of Biology of the University of Fribourg).

Launching of the project and the first joint expedition of both partner institutions, took place between the 24th and 27th of June 2021. The project, which will run for 2 years, is generously supported by the Audemars Piguet Fondation.

Project Zelkova sicula

In order to reduce the risk of extinction, a project funded by the European Community Life+ Program ( has been started. One of the leading forces of this project is the Institute of Biosciences and BioResources (IBBR) of the National Research Council in Palermo (Sicily, Italy). The project implies integrated in situ and ex situ conservation actions grouped into four topics: (1) knowledge and monitoring, (2) active conservation, (3) expertise and (4) education, awareness and communication. Some important outcomes have been already achieved, such as grazing exclusion through fencing and a sustainable management of the whole area involving agreements with stakeholders; the design of effective protocols for vegetative multiplication, etc. But one of the most important challenges is the establishment of novel populations in new sites, three of which selected in areas supposed to be more suitable for the species, according to the guidelines of so called “assisted colonization”.

Field course and workshop on Sicily (May 2015)

The University of Fribourg in collaboration with the Institute of Biosciences and BioResources (IBBR) of the National Research Council in Palermo (Sicily, Italy), organized an interdisciplinary and international field workshop on biogeography and relict woody species of Sicily. One of the main aims was to visit the populations of Z. sicula in the Iblei Mountains as well as the future introduction sites in the Madonie Mountains. Besides the students of the University of Fribourg, several researchers and conservationists from other countries implicated in the Project Zelkova, participated in the excursion, e.g. from Greece, Georgia, Azerbaijan and China.