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National Research Council

Institute of Agro-Environmental and Forest Biology

Research activity

The activities of this research are aimed to assess biodiversity and the adaptive response of agroforestry systems in relation to major evolutionary factors and anthropogenic impacts . This is in order to predict the future dynamics of these ecosystems and to develop strategies for conservation and sustainable management from the perspective of environmental changes ( climate and social ).

The research take into account different scales space/time, different levels of biological organization (gene, individual, species, ecosystem) and natural (nature reserves, rural/urban ).
The activities are carried out through the collaboration of a group of researchers from the IBAF with specific expertise in complementary disciplines:

  • Population genetics and genomics - study of genetic diversity , gene flow and intra-and interspecific introgression in natural populations and cultivated varieties of plants of agroforestry interest using neutral and functional molecular markers; study of genetic variation of adaptive traits in different provenances of agroforestry species by means of comparative tests in common garden ; genetic mapping and QTL analysis for phenotypic traits of productive and adaptive interest, study of genetic diversity in communities of agroforestry species and other organisms (animals and micro-organisms) associated with them.
  • Physiology - study of adaptive mechanisms to limiting environmental conditions, light stable isotope analysis and study of the processes of acclimatization and use of environmental resources along the continuum soil-plant -atmosphere system ; study of photosynthesis and primary productivity in relation to environmental stress , also as a result of climate change.
  • Ecology: analysis of ecosystem mechanisms and efficiency of use of environmental resources in the resilience of agro-forestry systems ; study of intra- and interspecific competition and population dynamics in semi-natural and human manipulated systems of multifunctional character; study of polyspecific cropping systems for integration between tree crops wood and herbaceous crops , development of cropping patterns for innovative agricultural food and woody production; comparison of innovative systems (silvoarable systems, buffer strips ) and traditional ( rural trees , trees outside forests), ecological networks of agro-forestry systems and their physiological and genetic functions.
  • Socio- ecology : the resilience of socio-ecological systems , analysis of rural development policies (such as the Rural Development Plans, PSR, as part of the Common Agricultural Policy , CAP); assessment of needs and expectations of the various stakeholders of the supply chains through agroforestry focus groups, interviews, questionnaires , study of innovative models for the socio-economic sustainability of agro-forestry systems; dissemination and communication of innovation.

The integration of genetic and phenotypic results with climatic data and socio-economic support is carried out by means of GIS. This allows to define strategies for the conservation and management integrating the biological and social components at different spatial scales.

Coordinator: Dr. Fiorella Villani

Research staff involved:
Dr.ssa Maria Emilia Malvolti, Researcher
Dr.ssa Claudia Mattioni, Researcher
Dr. Marco Lauteri, Senior Researcher
Dr. Piero Paris, Researcher
Dr. Andrea Pisanelli, Researcher
Marcello Cherubini, Technician
Luciano Spaccino, Technician
Dr.ssa Francesca Chiocchini
Dr. Marco Ciolfi
Giovanni De Simoni, Technician
Dr.ssa Silvia Portarena
Dr. Luca Tosi
Dr.ssa Daniela Di Baccio, Researcher
Dr.ssa Clelia Cirillo, Researcher
Dr. Isacco Beritognolo, Researcher
Dr.ssa Barbara Bertoli, Researcher
Dr. Andrea Scartazza, Researcher
Dr.ssa Muriel Virginie Gaudet

The main international collaborations are:

  • INRA - BIOGECO ( Biodiversity Genes & Communities ), Bordeaux, France
  • CEFE - CNRS ( Centre d' Ecologie et Evolutive fonctionnelle ), France
  • SLU ( Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) , Department of Forest Genetics, Uppsala, Sweden
  • Horticultural Research International, Dept. Plant Breeding and Biotechnology, East Malling, Kent, UK
  • University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Department of Agricultural Economics and Food Marketing, New Castle Upon Tyne, UK
  • Centro de Investigaciones y Forestales Ambientales de Lourizan , Xunta de Galicia, Spain
  • Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Department of Forestry and Natural Environment, Thessaloniki, Greece
  • University of Cordoba, Department of Genetics , Spain
  • BAS, Forest Research Institute , Sofia, Bulgary
  • Purdue University, U.S.D.A. Forest Service , Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, West Lafayette , USA
  • University of Oxford, Department of Plant Sciences , Oxford, UK .
  • MTA , Forest Research Institute ( ERTI ) , Hungary , Budapest
  • Technical University in Zvolen , Slovak Republic
  • CONYCIT - INFOR , Santiago, Chile
  • Forest Research Institute Baden- Württemberg ( FVA ) , Freiburg , Germany;
  • Institute for Forest Growth ( IWW ) , University of Freiburg , Germany;
  • Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA ) - Centre de Montpellier, France ;
  • Teagasc - Agriculture and Food Development Authority , Dublin , Ireland;
  • Department of Environmental Sciences and Technology, Cranfield University, UK ;
  • Euraf - European Federation Agroforestry ;
  • European Society for Rural Sociology ;
  • World Agroforestry Centre (formerly ICRAF ) ;
  • FAO;
  • West Hungarian University , University of Tirana (Albania)

At the national level , it is highlighted the close collaborations with the Universities of Tuscia, Torino, Perugia , La Sapienza (Rome) , the CRA Board , INEA , University Consortium for Research and Socioeconomic Environment ( CURSA , Italian Society of Silviculture and Forest Ecology ( SISEF ) , Ministry of Environment and numerous other CNR Institutes (especially IGV , ISAFOM , IBBA ) .