last time I promised I would have talked to you about the amazing and noble nature of Gran Paradiso, my “royal mansion”. A nature which is peculiar of the alpine “high lands” (medium altitude about 2400 mt), but with altitudes from 900 mt to 4061 mt of Gran Paradiso peak, you certainly understand that, with a so huge altitude difference, the park hosts a large variety of habitats, as woods, characterized by larches and stone pines, spruce and deciduous trees. More frequent are the alpine meadows, with absence of tall trees, which guarantee the suitable habitat for a various species of animals (we too).
There are then the rocky areas, the glaciers and the high altitude lakes where sometimes we together with our chamois friends go for a ride.
This great variety of habitats corresponds to a great variety of flora and fauna. Alpine flowers are too many to name them all, just few examples such as the pulsatilla, the martagon lily, the artemisia, the saxifrage, the edelweiss, but there are many many others.
Then, regarding we animals, in short, the king is me, the Bec. The Surveillance Corps and the Scientific Service of the Park Institution have been monitoring and studying us for many years now (in short, no need to hide, We are the most important).
We boys are distinguished by two large horns that grow with age and are not lost during the year. Our females, who stay all year round on the steep rocky sides (it's hard to court them) have smaller horns but always with the same characteristics.
The other important ungulate is the alpine chamois, agile and fast, also equipped with horns, but smaller and hooked. You can meet them all year round at all altitudes, while we spend long months at higher ones. When you are racing the Royal take a look around and you will see that some of us are looking at you.
Among us ungulates there are then the roe deer and the deer, which on the contrary lose their antlers during the year and which inhabit more wooded areas.
Regarding the mammals, the alpine marmot is a must, a medium-sized rodent that can be easily observed, which lives in family groups, spending the winter and the night hours or the too hot summer ones in the system of burrows dug in its own territory. You will be then able to easily discover its presence from the alarm whistle, launched in dangerous situations, such as the presence too close of you humans or predators like foxes and eagles.
Yes, the eagle indeed, which here can only be royal, is present in all the valleys and has several nesting pairs that regularly generate small chicks.
The eagle feeds on marmots, young ungulates, and other small and medium-sized preys.
After become almost extinct at the beginning of the 1900s because of you, the bearded vulture, a huge vulture with a wingspan of up to three meters, has returned for some time. He instead eats carcasses and bones (everyone has his tastes !) and it is easy to see him flying high in the sky.
In recent years the wolf has returned, too, it lives in small packs and feeds mainly on wild ungulates.
Then there are numerous species of birds that inhabit the park depending from the altitude and the environments: in the woods Titmice, Woodpeckers and Nutcrackers, in the prairies and in the stony ground the Culbianco, the Spioncello and the Red-tailed Codirossone, etc. etc.
Up to high altitudes there are also reptiles, such as the viper, that if not disturbed does not represent a danger. Then there are the amphibians, the fish, the invertebrates (butterflies, grasshoppers, bees, bumblebees, spiders, …) : these are truly numerous and constitute an immense reservoir for the park's biodiversity;
in fact, it is precisely these classes of animals that are the subject of one of the longest-running study projects in the park, in which researchers measure the density of this fauna along the altitudinal gradient, to establish whether something, and what, is changing as a result of the ongoing climate change.
In short, skyrunners, you understand that in the park, my royal mansion, there is not only me. The flora and fauna biodiversity of this area is of great importance and therefore our friends of the park are busy studying to ensure the conservation of this extraordinary natural environment.
So I recommend when you are walking or running along the paths of the Royal Race, always on “tiptoe”, look around, prick up your ears and take a deep breath: at that moment the wonder of the Gran Paradiso will come true and I am sure you will come back to visit us many other times.