Archive Content

Please note: This page has been archived and its content may no longer be up-to-date. This version of the page will remain live for reference purposes as we work to update the content across our website.

© Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland
The Laghi Insubrici
The Laghi Insubrici area in Italy and Switzerland is one of the 24 priority conservation areas (Alpine gemstones) identified in the Alps. The WWF European Alpine Programme is using this region as a pilot area to test the most effective and efficient way to conserve biodiversity in the Alpine gemstones.

Location of the Laghi Insubrici area (green shading), one of 24 Priority Conservation Areas ... rel= © WWF European Alpine Programme

Natural value

The wealth of nature found in the Laghi Insubrici is one reason why WWF is working in this area. It's rich cultural heritage has created a variety of unique habitats that are essential to the survival of some species. Old church attics, for example, are important hiberbation and reproduction sites for bats. Dry meadows - formed over generations of extensive human use - are a prominent source of biodiversity in the region, offering refuge to many different plants and insects. There are also many rare or nationally protected amphibian species that thrive in this region, including the highly endangered Italian frog (Rana latastei).

Threats to nature

The abandonement of traditional agricultural practices is a common trend in the Alps. This is especially relevant for the Laghi Insubrici area where abandonement threatens the persistance of important habitats like dry meadows. In addition, the increasing occupation of formerly natural areas by large urban centres has caused major habitat fragmentation. The isolation of the last remaining wetland habitats is so severe that even in protected areas such as the Muzzano lake (Switzerland) and the Lake of Mezzola (Italy), biodiversity is decreasing.

What We Do 

The WWF EALP and its partners have developed a cross-border action plan for biodiversity conservation and on the ground projects are being implemented. The work being carried out in this area sets a road map for the development of similar biodiversity conservation projects across the Alps.

As a first step, the region’s natural value was characterized by identifying hotspots of biodiversity and the presence of rare or endangered species, as well as the factors threatening to destroy biodiversity in the region. Based on this, priority conservation themes were selected.

Conservation themes

  • Freshwater habitats
  • Connectivity in valley floors and urbanised areas
  • Dry meadows and vineyard biodiversity
  • Rare and traditionally managed forest formations

Action plan for biodiversity

Facts and Figures

1,816 km2
271 communities
805,000 inhabitants
385 inhabitants/ km2 (Italy)
670 inhabitants/ km2 (Switzerland)
2,800 farms
12,000 companies
0.36 km of roads per km2  

Photo Gallery

Ticino, Switzerland. The cultural landscape plays in important role in the region's biodiversity. 
© Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland

The Laghi Insubrici area has a rich cultural heritage where human-made habitats are essential to the existence of many species.

Paeonia officinalis with a wild bee in one of many dry meadows on the slopes of Monte Generoso, ... 
© Joy Cometta

The dry meadows of Monte Generoso are an important habitat for many species, like Paeonia officinalis.

Ticino canton 
© Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland

Urban sprawl is a major cause of habitat fragmentation in the Laghi Insubrici area.

Map developed for the Laghi Insubrici area, one of 24 priority conservation areas identified in the ... rel= © WWF European Alpine Programme

Nature has no boundaries, neither do the problems it faces. This map is a first attempt to depict the natural elements of the Laghi Insubrici area ‘boundary free’. Solutions need to be found and transnational (if not global) collaborations are increasingly necessary. For more information on the development of this map and on WWF's action plan for the area, refer to the attached document 'Action plan for biodiversity: Laghi Insubrici area'.


Where we work

Our Projects
Paeonia officinalis with a wild bee in one of many dry meadows on the slopes of Monte Generoso, Switzerland. © Joy Cometta

Dry meadows: Dry meadows are human-made habitats that support a variety of plants and animals, including economically important species like the honey bee. They are a haven for species that cannot survive in the more shaded undergrowth of forests. But dry meadows in the Alps are disappearing as the traditional management of these meadows is either abandoned or intensified.

WWF is working with its partners to restore dry meadows on the slopes of Monte Generoso. This effort will both enhance the region’s ecological richness and restore it’s unique cultural heritage. Collaboration with local communities who identify with the rich landscape will play a key role in restoring biodiversity.

The Laveggio River in Ticino, Switzerland. © Yannick Andrea / WWF

Rivers: WWF is working to restore the ecological integrity of the Vedeggio and Laveggio Rivers. In the Vedeggio River area, for example, WWF is helping to re-establish the ecological network. The aim is to promote connectivity between the few remaining natural and semi-natural zones within this highly urbanized area.

Safiental, Grisons, Switzerland. FSC certified forest © WWF-Switzerland / A. della Bella / WWF

Forests: WWF is working to protect and restore ecologically important forest habitats. Key conservation targets include traditionally managed forests like chestnut orchards and coppice forests as well as rare and/or species-rich forest formations. Training foresters and other professionals in pro-biodiversity management practices will play an important role in ensuring a successful conservation effort in the region.

Emerald environment, Ticino canton
The Emerald network is an ecological network to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats of Europe, which was launched in 1998 by the Council of Europe as part of its work under the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats or Bern Convention that came into force on June 1, 1982. It is to be set up in each Contracting Party or observer state to the Convention. © Yannick Andrea / WWF-Switzerland

Management Planning: WWF is developing the conservation management plans for a small but important protected Site of Community Importance (SCI) in the northeast section of the Laghi Insubrici area.