The project

  • alpi 1.png
From an idea of Paolo Pedrini and Fernando Spina

Brief history of the project

The Alpi Project was born in 1997 as a scientific ringing program coordinated by the Italian Ringing Center with the collaboration of the MUSE - Science Museum. Its main aim is to study the bird migration across the Alps throught the involvement of various ringing stations situated along the Italian Alpine territory. The project takes its cue from the Swiss experience of studying the migratory phenomenon on the transalpine side, particularly at Col de Bretolet, which is an example of an alpine ringing station. Its begginings were motivated by the fragmentary cognitive framework of the Italian context which, until the early nineties, was limited to historical knowledge and to the hypothesized migration route: the "Italo-Hispanic" current, described by A. Duse. Another factor contributing to the creation of the project was the result of the first scientific ringing experiences coordinated by the INFS and, before that, by the Laboratory of Zoology Applied to Hunting. The Project was initially conceived as a short-term program (1997-2002), but it was subsequently extended over the long term. However, the objectives, the activities program and the participation of the different stations gradually changed during that process. That was motivated by the different research and analysis problems that had emerged. In 2019, 43 stations have collaborated in the ringing program. They have been activated over the years thanks to the involvement of over one hundred ringers and the participation, often voluntary, of a few hundred collaborators and birdwatchers. This network of stations has operated in a coordinated manner according to the methods agreed in annual meetings and through the drafting of a Field Manual, progressively updated over the years.

Main objectives

The main objective of the Alpi Project has been to promote the creation of a ringing stations network capable of operating in a standardized manner for the permanent monitoring of post-reproductive migration, thus allowing a fruitful exchange of information for standardizing contemporary field activity. Through the ringing activity, we wanted to implement the existing knowledge and database in order to:

  1. describe the migratory component in transit and its specific composition;
  2. understand the times, methods and ecological strategies adopted by migrants during the crossing of the Italian Alps;
  3. increase our knowledge on the geographical origin of migratory birds;
  4. collect biometric and physiological data on migrants in transit;
  5. provide details and information useful for the conservation of habitats and species, particularly in the context of the Nature Network and the widespread conservation of “transient biodiversity”.

The ringing network

The stations included in the projects ringing network have three essential characteristics: they are suitable sites for passive capture, operating simultaneously and being capable of operating according to a standardized criteria in order to make comparisons possible. As far as possible, efforts have been made to encourage the activation of stations distributed all throughout the Italian Alps. Over the years, however, the logistic conditions as well as the availability of local research groups have conditioned the participation and limited the adhesion to the project. This has lead to the gradual selection of the most suitable stations, limiting the coverage to the central eastern, central and western geographic context of the Italian Alps. The stations that have participated in the project are mainly alpine pass stations, valley stations or stations located at the hillsides. Through the first type the transit of migrants at high elevations is monitored, while  the latter ones are more suitable for sampling the rest of the migratory birds plus their movement. As already mentioned, the activity has evolved over the years from an initial field activity conducted during short periods (in the years 1997-2002), to an activity characterized by the participation of stations during extended sampling periods. To date (2019), the tipology of participation of the various stations has been categorized as follows:

  1. stations that operate continuously within the entire migratory period from the second decade of August to the end of October;
  2. stations that operate in continuous but shorter periods to monitor only the late summer migration (trans-Saharan) or the autumn migration of the intrapalarctics (end of September-end of October);
  3. stations active for short periods (pentads or at least two days per pentad);
  4. experimental stations or stations activated in locations apparently suitable for migration, in order to explore (following the protocols of the Alpi Project) sites or protected areas worthy of investigation in the context of specific local initiatives. 

Total ringing by the years