Isole Eolie (Aeolian Islands)

Italy
Inscribed in
2000
Criterion
(viii)

The Aeolian Islands provide an outstanding record of volcanic island-building and destruction, and ongoing volcanic phenomena. Studied since at least the 18th century, the islands have provided the science of vulcanology with examples of two types of eruption (Vulcanian and Strombolian) and thus have featured prominently in the education of geologists for more than 200 years. The site continues to enrich the field of vulcanology.
© UNESCO

Summary

2017 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
09 Nov 2017
Good with some concerns
Although the current state of the geological values for which the WH site was inscribed is good and their condition is stable, there are significant concerns regarding the deteriorating state of the site´s other important biodiversity values. These concerns are all the more noteworthy in light of the major threat of mass tourism, which has been compromising the conservation of the site´s natural heritage since its inscription and threatening the islands´ notable endemic species. The absence of a functioning management system to implement conservation measures is a major issue, compromising the site´s future capacity to conserve its values.

Current state and trend of VALUES

Good
Trend
Stable
The geological values of the site are in good condition and well preserved.

Overall THREATS

Low Threat
The geological values for which the site was inscribed do not appear to be impacted by any threats. However, important biodiversity values of the site are being seriously affected by a number of threats, namely mass tourism, erosion, invasive species. These threats are all the more significant in light of the fact that the site has various endemics due to it being an archipelago of isolated vulcanic islands. This isolation also makes the site highly vulnerable to any anthropogenic changes. Although the Lipari port enlargement project was suspended in 2010, a revision of the project was announced in 2016. There are also indications that the environmental impact could be significant. However, the available information does not indicate to what extent the World Heritage values of the site could be affected by this potential threat.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Serious Concern
The fact that no management entity has been effectively in place to manage the site since its inscription in 2000 is of serious concern. Also of concern is that the site´s management plan, which although detailed and comprehensive, was only prepared a decade after the site’s inscription and relies on a management structure that does not exist: the National Park that the State Party claimed was created in 2007 but that has not been instituted. Although the protected area legal framework is relatively solid, it is fragmented and has various loopholes that threaten the conservation of ecologically important areas. Some of the protected areas lack the necessary resources and implementation tools to guarantee effective conservation measures. The complex, weakly coordinated and multi-layered governance system in Sicily seems to be one of the main obstacles to the implementation of the nine World Heritage Center recommendations issued in 2007, only one of which has been implemented. The lack of a coordinated management system also explains the significant void that exists when it comes to stakeholder involvement and awareness-raising activities related to the World Heritage site and its values.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
09 Nov 2017

Description of values

Outstanding volcanic phenomena

Criterion
(viii)
The Aeolian archipelago is one of the most outstanding examples of volcanic island-building and destruction, and ongoing volcanic phenomena in the world (UNESCO website, 2013).

Geological processes

Criterion
(viii)
The islands represent a rich field for volcanological studies of on-going geological processes in the development of landforms (UNESCO website, 2013).

Contribution to volcanology and geology

Criterion
(viii)
The islands have provided two of the types of eruptions (Vulcanian and Strombolian) to the fields of volcanology and geology, and have featured prominently in the education of geoscientists for over 200 years (UNESCO website, 2013).
Wetlands
Although most of the archipelago´s wetlands have disappeared, there are two very significant – albeit small – and fragile wetland areas left, offering a key habitat for bird conservation. The Stagno di Punta Lingua saltlake on Salina and the marshland on the Isthmus on the island of Vulcano are the two main environments that offer an important stopover for migratory birds. In addition, the Punta Lingua swamp is populated by various halophytes, such as Salsola sola, Suaeda vera, Atriplex prostrata, as well as by a number of interesting luto-halobius invertebrates that can only be found on this site, like Tachys dimidiatus, Tachyura parvula, and Colotes obsoletus (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). Stagno di Punta Lingua and the lagoon of Vulcano Isthmus represent the only examples of “coastal lagoon” occurring in the whole archipelago. The coastal lagoons are listed as priority habitat in the Annex of 43/02 92 EU Directive. In particular, the Isthmus of Vulcano Island is considered the most important area for birds within the Nature 2000 Site ITA030044, which covers the whole archipelago. Most of the recorded species are listed in the Annex of 147/09 EU Directive (Regione Siciliana, Assessorato Territorio e Ambiente, 2009; Lo Cascio, 2012).
Rich seabed
The Aeolian archipelago´s seabed is one of the best conserved and richest in the Mediterranean Basin. Among the species found are Cnidarians such as Attinia equina, Condylactis aurantiaca, and Anemone suolcata, as well as a number of interesting echinoderms such as the five-point starfish (Echinaster sepositus), Ophioderma longicauda, various species of urchins, brightly coloured gorgonians (Paramuricea clavata, EFunicella cavolinii, EFunicella singularis) and the spirograph Spirographis spallanzanii. However, the most interesting species populating the Aeolian seabed are seahorses (Hippocampus hippocampus), Pinna nobilis mollusks (the largest bivalves in the Mediterranean) and exceptional corals, including the extremely rare red coral (Corallium rubrum), and Parazoanthus axinellae, a Cnidarian similar to that forming barrier reefs (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Unique evolution of natural environment linked to the volcanic nature of the islands
The particular interaction between the biotic and abiotic systems that has occurred throughout the archipelago´s evolution has provided a landscape and environment that are unique, comprising a multitude of geological, biological and anthropological elements; as islands, the Aeolians are an “ideal laboratory” for “studying the evolution of the central Mediterranean region´s ecosystems and communities” (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). The islands are also noteworthy for their endemic species (UNESCO website, 2013), which are inextricably linked to the volcanic nature and evolution of the islands (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Mediterranean island biodiversity
These islands make an important contribution towards the conservation of biodiversity in the Mediterranean basin (IUCN, 1999). This value also alludes to the presence of continental European species reaching their southern limit of distribution (UNESCO website, 2013), of regional and rare endemics and to the significant endemism that has evolved on these islands.
Protected bird species
All of the islands are International Bird Areas (UNESCO, 2007a). 47 species of nesting birds protected nationally and internationally have been recorded (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010) including 10 under the Sicilian Red List of threatened bird species (UNESCO website, 2013). The islands are an important stopover for migratory or wintering birds, specifically for more than 260 species. Approximately 50% of the Italian ornithological fauna passes through this archipelago (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010; Regione Siciliana, Assessorato Territorio e Ambiente, 2009; an updated list is given by Massa et al., 2015).
Endemic and threatened flora
900 plant species have been recorded in the Aeolian Islands, including eight four endemic species (UNESCO website, 2013). This accounts for almost 17% of all Italian flora when the archipelago represents only 0.038% of Italy´s surface area. While there are fewer endemic plants than on other island ecosystems, the exclusive Aeolian endemics are extremely interesting from the ecological and biogeographical perspectives and many are included in the protected lists of international conventions, such as CITES, Berne Convention, and the Habitats Directive. The islands are home to unique endangered species, such as Silene hicesiae, considered by IUCN as one of the fifty most threatened species of Mediterranean flora and categorized as critically endangered (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). The strict endemics of the Aeolian Islands now are six eight and include also the newly described (or taxonomically revalued) Bituminaria basaltica, Erysimum brulloi, Anthemis aeolica and Genista thyrrena. Both In particular, Bituminaria basaltica and , Erysimum brulloi and Anthemis aeolica are strictly endemic of only one island, respectively Filicudi, and Alicudi and Lisca Bianca islet (off Panarea island) (Ferro, 2009; Minissale et al., 2013; Brullo et al., 2016).
Important mammals
Mammals include one endemic subspecies, Eliomys quercinus leparensis, and seven species of bat have been reported (UNESCO website, 2013), including one on the IUCN Red List (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Newly discovered and endemic reptiles
Seven species of reptiles are present in the archipelago, including the recently described endemic lizard Podarcis raffoneaei (UNESCO, 2007a).
Endemic invertebrates
Invertebrate fauna seems relatively well known, with over 15many endemic species described (UNESCO website, 2013), some of them discovered just recently (for an updated list see Muscarella & Baragona, 2017) although it is quite likely that there are still endemic insects to be identified (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Seagrass beds
The limited sandy seabed found in this volcanic archipelago is populated by large meadows of Posidonia oceanica, serving as nursing grounds for numerous marine species (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Important fish species
The specific conditions of the Aeolian marine environment allow for the extensive growth of both pelagic microalgae and underwater vegetation, thereby ensuring the settlement of a large amount of plankton and benthic species while providing nurseries for numerous fish including those of commercial value. For example, there are 37 species of teleostei, the coastal fish group which includes the Dusky Grouper (Epinephelus marginatus), a rare species. Moving away from the coast, where the waters are deeper, there are a large number of fish that are rare in other areas such as amberjacks (Seriola dumerili), mackerels (Lichia amia), mahi-mahi (Coyphaena hippurus), tuna fish (Thunnus thynnus), and sword fish (Xiphias gladius) (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Important and rare cetaceans
5 species of cetaceans have been recorded in Aeolian waters, including 20 specimens of the common whale (Balaenoptera physalus), 16 Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus), and several groups of dolphins such as Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), and Stenellae (Stenella coeruleoalba). In addition, there have been a few sightings of the common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) which, despite its name is actually considered very rare, and Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus) (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).

Assessment information

Low Threat
The geological values for which the site was inscribed do not appear to be impacted by any threats. However, important biodiversity values of the site are being seriously affected by a number of threats, namely mass tourism, erosion, invasive species. These threats are all the more significant in light of the fact that the site has various endemics due to it being an archipelago of isolated volcanic islands. This isolation also makes the site highly vulnerable to any anthropogenic changes.
Fishing / Harvesting Aquatic Resources
Low Threat
Outside site
Fishing is mostly small-scale and artisanal. Nevertheless, fishing is a threat to cetaceans which are often caught in fishing nets, although this threat seems to have decreased in the recent years, and it is also significantly reducing the population of the protected deep-sea coral Corallium rubrum. Trawling activities affect numerous benthic species such as the protected bivalve Pinna nobilis. There is a certain risk of overfishing mainly due to an absence of a marine protected area which does not allow defining the restocking areas needed to compensate for fishing pressure. (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010; IUCN Consultation, 2014).
Shipping Lanes
Low Threat
Outside site
There is significant although heavily seasonalized maritime traffic which, although outside the WH site, negatively impacts some bird species, such as Hydrobates pelagicus, Calonectris diomedea and Falco eleonorae. Boat and vessel traffic reach the maximum intensity during the breeding season in the proximity of the only two reproductive sites of Hydrobates pelagicus so far detected in the Aeolian Islands, and especially one of them seems to be seriously threatened by direct and indirect human disturbance (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010; Lo Cascio, 2016).
Household Sewage/ Urban Waste Water
High Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
The new sewage treatment plant of Vulcano Island was built in the slopes of the active La Fossa crater but is not yet running. The new plant would dramatically disrupt the natural geometry and morphology of the valley formed by pyroclastic and sand deposits at the base of the crater. Also, a water pump belonging to this plant was built at short distance from the coastal lagoon of the Isthmus (priority habitat of 43/92/EU directive, code 1150). The Isthmus pump represents also a remarkable threat for several bird species included in 147/09/EU directive and for the whole integrity of the Natura 2000 Site ITA030044 (IUCN Consultation, 2014; various news sources).
Roads/ Railroads
Low Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Habitat fragmentation occurs mainly on the islands of Salina, Vulcano and Lipari where the road infrastructure overlaps with ecologically sensitive areas. The consequent habitat loss is adversely affecting numerous protected species (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Avalanches/ Landslides
Very Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
On Vulcano, landslides can threaten specific slopes of the volcanic structure (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Fire/ Fire Suppression
Low Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
The incidence of fires during the last years in Lipari has reached worrying proportions: just in July 2017, more than 15% of the island surface has been destroyed by arsons (various news sources 3, 4). Fires are threatening bird species such as the protected Dartford’s Warbler (Sylvia undata), Cetti´s Warbler (Cettia cetti), the tortoise Testudo hermanni, and the extremely rare Garden Dormouse (Eliomys quercinus liparensis) (nowadays considered extinct, see Lo Cascio, 2017), but also a not measurable number of endemic invertebrates and in general the whole fauna. Fires are also threatening the few island forests and the xeric grasslands that are identified as priority habitat (6220) in the Habitat Directive 43/92/EU (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). On the other hand, fires on Stromboli are mostly due to volcanic activity (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010) but the extent of their damage is unclear. Fires also accelerate the erosion of the slopes and the instability of the terraces, determining a strong impact on the structure of the semi-natural landscapes. The Regional Forestry Police, responsible for surveillance, has only two officers dislocated on Lipari. It is therefore difficult to contain the phenomenon of intentional fires, in most part of the cases presumably caused by illegal hunters (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species
High Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
Quite a few of the reforestation projects on the islands have made use of non-native species, such as acacia and eucalyptus, negatively affecting the growth of autochthonous populations. In addition, some invasive species such as eucalyptus make an already acidic soil even more acidic, preventing the growth of native species. Another problem concerns Carpobrotus which recently seems to have extended its distribution on coastal habitats (for instance, on Vulcano Island).Recently the expansion of other invasive plants, such as Paraserianthes lophanta has been observed (Lo Cascio, 2017). Especially exposed to exotic invasive species are the endemic species living on islands which, due to their geographical isolation, have no escape routes when a non-native species appears in their territory taking over their ecological niche. This is the well-known case of the Podarcis siculus or common Sicilian lizard which, once settled on the Aeolian archipelago, caused the almost total extinction of the endemic Podarcis raffoneae, the so-called Aeolian lizard. The most recent populations of Podarcis raffoneae survive, paradoxically, precisely because of their extreme isolation, entrenched in some rocks and stacks that have not yet been reached by its competitor (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). The last population of Vulcano Island (the only main island still inhabited by the species) perhaps has recently been extinct and now Podarcis raffoneae occurs only in 3 tiny islets (Lo Cascio & Ficetola, 2016).
Household Sewage/ Urban Waste Water
Low Threat
Outside site
Non-toxic algal blooms are common in the summer months when the pressures of tourism are highest, breaking the ecological balance of marine ecosystems (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Water Pollution
Low Threat
Outside site
Marine pollution and, in particular, oil slicks and plastic micro-particles, are threatening the Storm-petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus), the smallest marine bird in the Mediterranean. Other birds, such as the rare Manx Shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), Scopoli’s Shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) and marine organisms, such as the bivalve Pinna nobilis, are also threatened by environmental pollution. The quality of subterranean waters throughout the islands is also jeopardized by the uncontrolled use of herbicides in agriculture or mainly by organic pollution from sites used for the dumping of solid urban waste. Although these sites are no longer used, they have not witnessed any restoration projects. This, coupled with the high permeability of the volcanic terrain which permits extensive percolation and leaching, has led to groundwater pollution (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Solid Waste
Low Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Waste (from building materials, abandoned cars and construction machinery) is filling up a vast volcanic beach on Stromboli (IUCN Consultation 1, 2013). On Lipari, the Vallone fiume Bianco riverbed is still used as an illegal dumping ground for old cars, refuse from an olive oil press and other garbage (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). Open landfills are also a threat to local bird species, although decreasingly so due to the closure and decommissioning of public landfills(Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). In natural contexts, illegal landfills play also a role as sources for the dispersal of several nitrophilous and/or ruderal alien and invasive plants, such as Paraserianthes lophanta, Carpobrotus sp.pl. etc. (Lo Cascio, 2017)
Agricultural/ Forestry Effluents
Low Threat
Outside site
Numerous protected species living on the Aeolian Islands are threatened by the use of pesticides and weed-killers, such as the Eleonora´s Falcon (Falco eleonorae) and many other protected bird species. Of particular concern are chlorine-based pesticides which are particularly dangerous to the Aeolian birds of prey as they are the most susceptible to the negative effects of bio-accumulation (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Erosion and Siltation/ Deposition
High Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
In recent decades, most of the islands have suffered the consequences of agricultural abandonment which have increased erosion and caused geological instability. The cessation of cultivation activities has led to the progressive deterioration of slopes which had been previously modified through water channelling, furrowing, terracing, and the construction of dry stone walls. In some islands, such as Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea, Salina, terraced landscapes cover between 50% and 70% of the island surface (Barber a et al., 2009); in the terraces vegetation structure may differ in relation to the age of abandonment of the agricultural use, and often there is interesting shrub formations (with Erica arborea, Arbutus unedo and other woody species). The progressive erosion of dry stone walls may determine strong changes in the whole landscape structure with dramatic consequence for the local biodiversity, but this issue have not yet claimed the attention from local municipalities and/or protected areas managers. These uncultivated areas only have thin vegetation coverage, leading to widespread runoff and a consequent increase in the loss of useful surface soil (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010) . Another case concerns the northeastern part of Lipari, where the progressive stripping of land has been aggravated by extensive pumice stone extraction (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). Currently, Lipari´s abandoned quarry and its old mining spoil banks are suffering serious erosion problems, threatening the area´s hydrogeological balance (IUCN Consultation 2, 2013). This hydrogeological instability is creating serious safety hazards, especially given that even basic security measures have not yet been employed (Legambiente, 2011). The integrity of the geological values that merited inscription on the WH List does not seem to be threatened (IUCN Consultation Form 2, 2013), although it would be interesting to understand whether there is a risk of crater instability in Monte Pelato as alluded to by the World Heritage Centre in 2006 (UNESCO, 2006).
Flight Paths
High Threat
Outside site
Despite the ban on helicopter flying over the Nature 2000 sites of the Aeolian Islands, in force under the regulations of the Natural Reserves (RNO) of Alicudi, Filicudi, Panarea, Salina and Stromboli (D.A. n° 484 0f 25/07/1997, D.A. n° 485 of 25/07/1997, D.A. n° 483 of 25707/1997, D.A. n° 87 of 14/03/1987 and D.A. n° 819 of 20/11/1997) and reiterated by the Regional Council of Territory and Environment (Assessorato regionale Territorio e Ambiente) with the note n° 64408 of 28/08/2009, helicopter flights continue in absence of any effective control. The reproductive season of the Eleonora’s falcon coincides with the peak of flights (summer). A decline of the Panarea population of this species and a strong reduction of the number of breeding pairs has been documented during the last decade (Corso & Gustin, 2009; Massa et al., 2015; Lo Cascio, 2016) (see also various news sources 5, 6, 7)
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
High Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Mass tourism has been the answer for local communities seeking economic growth (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010), and it still seems to be the only type of tourism encouraged by local tourist operators (IUCN Consultation 1, 2013). Tourism is highly seasonal (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010), notwithstanding the promising push in 2007 in support of de-seasonalizing of the industry which was supported by many local stakeholders (UNESCO, 2007a). In fact, everything is geared towards a summer seaside tourism comprised of brief visits, intensive consumption and exploitation of resources with a high environmental impact (IUCN Consultation 1, 2013). Except for Salina, where the walks within the Natural reserve are already easily accessible and well indicated, a better management of several old trails existing in the islands and promotion of a new local identity through the National Park proposed in 2007 may instead help de-seasonalize tourism. The increasing number of tourists and their lack of environmental sensitivity is a threat to the delicate ecological balance of the islands, as well as to specific species such as Eleonora´s Falcon, Falco eleonorae (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010), as revealed by the recent decline of the colony in Salina Island. Also, the occurrence of excessive nautical tourism (for instance, in the Pollara Bay, Salina Island) represents the main threat that affects the reproductive success of the local population of Mediterranean Storm Petrel, Hydrobates pelagicus (Lo Cascio, 2016). Uncontrolled tourism has led to the repopulation of some islands, such as Vulcano and, in some areas, the population doubles in the summer, such as in the Malfa municipality on the island of Salina (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010; Corso et al., 2009). Smaller islands lack the necessary regulations to manage the daily influx of tourists (IUCN Consultation 2, 2013). In other cases, legislation exists but is not enforced. For example, the protected Strombolicchio Reserve receives daily visits from unauthorized tourists who are unaware of the fragility of the islet´s ecosystems and who consequently threaten its endemic species (IUCN Consultation 1, 2013; Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). Additionally, the large seagrass meadows of Posidonia oceanica, which are already limited to the few areas of sandy seabed, have been severely impoverished over the last few decades due to excessive and uncontrolled anchoring by tourist boats (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Data Deficient
Although the Lipari port enlargement project was suspended in 2010, a revision of the project was announced in 2016. There are also indications that the environmental impact could be significant. However, the available information does not indicate to what extent the World Heritage values of the site could be affected by this potential threat.
Shipping Lanes
Data Deficient
Outside site
The Lipari port enlargement continues to be a highly controversial topic, notwithstanding the Regional government´s suspension of the proposed project in 2010 (Legambiente, 2011). In fact, it seems to still be a very real possibility with a potentially large environmental impact on the island (IUCN Consultation Form 2, 2013). The private company which would carry out the port enlargement, Società Condotte d´Acqua, has huge economic interests in the port´s enlargement and has lobbied to obtain the local government´s backing (Legambiente, 2011).
Although the WHC recommended an EIA for the Lipari port enlargement (UNESCO, 2007b), including an assessment of whether or not it affects the OUV (UNESCO, 2010a), this has not yet been provided by the SP. In 2010, however, it assured the WHC that there was no effect on the WH site (UNESCO, 2010a; UNESCO, 2010b) but it still is an issue of concern for IUCN and WHC (UNESCO, 2010b). In 2008, the SP itself recognized that the port enlargement would have a significant impact and would be more than what is necessary on the island (Repubblica Italiana, 2008). It claims the site´s management plan addresses alternatives (Repubblica Italiana, 2008), but the only reference seems to be in Section 1 of Chapter 6 which very generically mentions the “use of low-impact removable structures” (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
According to Section 3.9 of the mission report, port development was not regulated by the Landscape Territorial Plan or by any other regulatory framework (UNESCO, 2007a). Therefore, the same concerns expressed during the monitoring mission are valid today: is the intention still to bring in large cruise ships, and what are the indirect effects of port enlargement on the WH site, such as a significant increase in tourists.
The available information does not indicate to what extent the WH site´s values and integrity are jeopardized by this particular threat.
The geological values for which the site was inscribed do not appear to be impacted by any threats. However, important biodiversity values of the site are being seriously affected by a number of threats, namely mass tourism, erosion, invasive species. These threats are all the more significant in light of the fact that the site has various endemics due to it being an archipelago of isolated vulcanic islands. This isolation also makes the site highly vulnerable to any anthropogenic changes. Although the Lipari port enlargement project was suspended in 2010, a revision of the project was announced in 2016. There are also indications that the environmental impact could be significant. However, the available information does not indicate to what extent the World Heritage values of the site could be affected by this potential threat.
Relationships with local people
Some Concern
Given the absence of a management entity and the lack of awareness within the local population relative to the WH site [refer to section on “Education and interpretation programs”], participatory approaches are very limited if not non-existent. In fact, there seems to be a general lack of communication with local stakeholders, and local sustainable initiatives are not encouraged (IUCN Consultation Form 2, 2013). There are also direct references to the difficult relations between local populations and the organizations managing protected areas. For example, local stakeholders have appealed the creation of a new Regional Nature Reserve on the island of Vulcano (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). Similarly, the creation of a NP for the Aeolian archipelago was opposed locally partly due to a lack of stakeholder involvement (Legambiente, 2011; IUCN Consultation Form 2, 2013). In addition, although the management plan for the site is thorough and comprehensive, it is not clear how involved local stakeholders were in its creation. Furthermore, traditional knowledge regarding the use of natural resources (local craftwork, medicinal plants) is disappearing across the islands (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010) making it all the more important to tap into this know-how before it is lost.
Legal framework
Some Concern
From a legal perspective, a significant portion of the Aeolian archipelago´s terrestrial surface is protected, enough to guarantee appropriate protection from anthropogenic pressures. All of the islands are partially or totally included in the WH site, and have a portion of their surface area designated as a Site of Community Interest (SCI) under the European Union´s (EU) Habitats Directive. In addition, the entire archipelago (both land and sea) is protected as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EU Birds Directive (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). Although the WH site lacks any management plan and entity (see “Management System”), the legal constraints imposed by the Natura 2000 network (SCI and SPA) seem to be granting the area sufficient protection (IUCN Consultation 2, 2013).
Nevertheless, there are several ecologically important areas that lack protection. For example, the Scoglio Faraglione, on the island of Salina and located in the middle of one of the most popular bays in the area (Pollara), does not have any protection status notwithstanding the fact that it hosts several species protected by European regulations (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). There is also serious concern regarding the smaller islets which lack regulations to manage the daily access of tourists (IUCN Consultation, 2013).
On the other hand, some areas have an adequate legal framework but lack implementation measures, resources or the necessary monitoring activities to ensure appropriate protection.
The whole Natural Reserve of Strombolicchio also lacks any form of control and protection due to its geographical isolation and to the inadequate resources of its management authority. The islet is in a state of semi-abandonment, which is a significant threat given the extreme ecological fragility of the site and its very high naturalistic and biological value (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). Regulations actually prohibit access to the islet (except for scientific reasons) due to its status as an “integral reserve”, but there are no active measures in place to enforce this (IUCN Consultation 1, 2013). In fact, concerns regarding the non-implementation of protection measures on some islands were already expressed in the 2007 Mission Report (UNESCO, 2007a).
Enforcement
Data Deficient
Due to the lacking of an effective management of the sSite, the accomplishmentenforcement of relevant laws and regulations is doneundertaken by local or regional authorities (Superintendence, Municipality) with particular reference tofocus on the control of building activities.
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Some Concern
In 2007, the Landscape Territorial Plan for the Aeolian Islands (Piano Territoriale Paesistico delle Isole Eolie) was the main guidance mechanism for the protection of all the archipelago and had been effectively implemented since 2004 (UNESCO, 2007a; UNESCO, 2007c). At the time, the two responsible agencies (the Regional Authority for Cultural Heritage and the Regional Authority for Territory and Environment) were well-coordinated, even though this had not always been the case (UNESCO, 2007a). More information is needed regarding its current application and effectiveness, as well as whether or not it has been improved or weakened given that it was due for revision in 2007 (UNESCO, 2007a). At the regional level, there is also a Master Plan Agreement for the Minor Islands (Isole Minori), which in theory plays a coordination role on all issues affecting Sicily´s islands (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010; UNESCO, 2007a) but the actual implications of this plan on the WH site are not apparent., while iI In 2013 the Regional Government has approved the Management Plan for the Nature 2000 sites of the Aeolian Islands (Piano di Gestione dei Siti Natura 2000 delle Isole Eolie), that includes an updated and detailed analysis of the biological and natural context and provides a list of conservation measures and actions in order to improve the natural values of the islands (D.D.G. n° 120 of 08/03/2013). Similarly, it is unclear how well-integrated national, regional and local policies are in Sicily, as the National Park for the Aeolian Islands was opposed locally (Legambiente, 2011; IUCN Consultation 2, 2013). Concerning the MPA (Marine Protected Area), after a convention held in Panarea in August 2016 with the participation of the Italian Ministry of Environment, the Municipality of Lipari has expressed the intention to evaluate its feasibility and to restart its institution process, which was provided by the Laws n° 979/1982 and n° 394/1991 but has beenwas suspended in late 1990s and uncomplished during the last 30 years. In September 2016, the Regional Authority for Territory and Environment declared that the MPA zonation would be ready after two months (November). However no further actions and/or proposals have been submitted and the iter seems to be stopped again (various news sources 10).
Management system
Serious Concern
A detailed and comprehensive management plan was commissioned by the Regional Government and drafted in 2008 (IUCN Consultation 2, 2013). It was deemed satisfactory by IUCN (UNESCO, 2007c; UNESCO, 2010a; UNESCO, 2010b) and a subsequent review, as per this assessment, came to a similar conclusion: the plan identifies the site´s values, threats and objectives and goes into thorough details on many aspects. However, concerns exist about whether this plan has been implemented at any level (IUCN Consultation 2, 2013). In fact, the plan relies on a management structure that does not exist. It mentions that “the National Park of the Aeolian Islands [was] established through Law 244 dated 24 December 2007...[and] is responsible for safeguarding, valorising and promoting the Aeolian Islands and implementing [the management plan].” (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). Various sources assert that the NP has not been instituted (Legambiente, 2011; IUCN Consultation 2, 2013) and, in fact, it is not listed officially as an Italian NP (Federparchi website). Throughout the years, the SP´s reports on the management structure have been confusing and contradictory, referring to three different management entities (Rappresentanza Permanente, 2009; Repubblica Italiana, 2008) which never seem to have translated into an effective and coordinated management system (IUCN Consultation 2, 2013; UNESCO, 2007a). Recently (2015) the Aeolian municipalities (Lipari, S. Marina, Leni and Malfa) approved a resolution for the institutionestablishment of thea Lead Committee (Comitato Guida) that, according to the Management Plan of the UNESCO Site, is composed by the four mayors of the archipelago (Comune di Lipari, 2015). After this ratification, however, nothing was done aboutno further progress has been achieved towards defining the site management (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Management effectiveness
Serious Concern
Absence of an effective and coordinated management system is of serious concern.
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Some Concern
The SP has implemented only one out of nine recommendations issued by the WHC in 2007 in its Decision 31COM 7B.24, which were based on the UNESCO/IUCN monitoring mission of that same year. In 2010, the SP confirmed that the quarries on the island of Lipari had been permanently closed on 31 August 2007 (UNESCO, 2010b). In fact, in November 2008 the Catania Mining District inspected the area and confirmed the closure of the problematic PUMEX mine (Rappresentanza Permanente, 2009). In 2010, IUCN and WHC consider this point “comprehensively addressed” (UNESCO, 2010b). The key limitations to fully implementing other recommendations are mainly related to the absence of a coherent and well-coordinated governance and to a lack of the necessary management instruments, including specifically earmarked funds (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). It is worth noting that unclear management has always been an issue, as the initial nomination was deferred in 1999 on the basis that management issues had to be clarified (UNESCO, 2007a). In 2016, the Municipality of Lipari promoted collaborations with some Italian universities (especially with the Architecture Faculty of the Politecnico of Milan) in order to delineatevelop projects hypotheses concerning the future of the whole former quarries area and its eventual re-qualification, but until now the results are only limited to a preliminary phase.
Boundaries
Some Concern
Fragmented protected areas, jagged borders, and weak buffer zones seem to be placing unnecessary pressures on the protected habitats that fall within the WH site. Another factor limiting the effectiveness of the protected areas is their low perimeter/area ratio (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Sustainable finance
Some Concern
There is no indication that any funds have been allocated to manage the site, even though in 2010 the SP claimed that there was stable funding coming from the national and regional governments (UNESCO, 2010b). Supposedly, in March 2008 the UNESCO Sicily Foundation, which at one point was designated as the management entity received €70,000 (Rappresentanza Permanente, 2009) but no further information is available. Similarly, in December 2008 the national government allocated €500,000 to Sicily to raise awareness on WH sites. Additionally, in the event that the National Park proposal goes ahead, there are concerns that the budget cuts to Italy´s NP system could compromise the creation of this much-needed protected area (Legambiente, 2011).
Staff training and development
Data Deficient
Data deficient
Sustainable use
Effective
It seems like the Landscape Territorial Plan (PTP) of the Aeolian Islands is still the main guidance mechanism for the protection of the archipelago, including as a mechanism to restrict natural resource use especially through mining activities (UNESCO, 2007a). In general, natural resource use seems to be quite traditional both on land and at sea (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Education and interpretation programs
Some Concern
Despite assurances by the SP that resources had been committed to “educational/interpretive actions” (IUCN, 2000), more than a decade after the site´s designation there is still no collective understanding amidst the Aeolian residents regarding the significance of having WH status (Legambiente, 2011; IUCN Consultation 2, 2013).
Tourism and visitation management
Some Concern
Given the lack of any management system, there are no awareness-raising programs related to the WH site. Neither do the existing Nature Reserves promote the natural values nor have visitor centers (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). For example, on Stromboli tourists are completely unaware of the richness of the area, and nothing is done to value the site or to attract quality tourists capable of appreciating it (IUCN Consultation 1, 2013). On the other hand, there are various well-prepared brochures on the nature trails of most islands but, unfortunately, these are not well-distributed (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). In addition, the ecotourism potential – the development of which was included as an unofficial recommendation in the 2007 monitoring mission report (UNESCO, 2007a) – has not been leveraged and remains generally untapped. The potential geo-tourism (i.e. linked to the geological and volcanic attributes of the site), which could help deseasonalize tourism, also remains undeveloped (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). However, during the last years have been increased positive experiences carried out by a private publisher and local associations of guides have developed activities in order to improve the eco-tourism opportunities for visitors, such as the recently published maps of the walks of the islands and that of some books dedicated to the knowledge of the natural heritage etc. (see the web sites of Arbatus publisher, Filicudi Wildlife Conservation, Nesos association etc.).
Monitoring
Serious Concern
There seem to be no monitoring programme for the World Heritage values of the site in place.
Research
Data Deficient
The management plan makes reference to numerous and varied scientific sources (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010). However, there is no information on the knowledge base as a whole; neither is there any mention of research cooperation programs.
The fact that no management entity has been effectively in place to manage the site since its inscription in 2000 is of serious concern. Also of concern is that the site´s management plan, which although detailed and comprehensive, was only prepared a decade after the site’s inscription and relies on a management structure that does not exist: the National Park that the State Party claimed was created in 2007 but that has not been instituted. Although the protected area legal framework is relatively solid, it is fragmented and has various loopholes that threaten the conservation of ecologically important areas. Some of the protected areas lack the necessary resources and implementation tools to guarantee effective conservation measures. The complex, weakly coordinated and multi-layered governance system in Sicily seems to be one of the main obstacles to the implementation of the nine World Heritage Center recommendations issued in 2007, only one of which has been implemented. The lack of a coordinated management system also explains the significant void that exists when it comes to stakeholder involvement and awareness-raising activities related to the World Heritage site and its values.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Data Deficient
Data deficient
World Heritage values

Outstanding volcanic phenomena

Good
Trend
Stable
There is no evidence to suggest that this value is threatened in any way; on the contrary, there are recent claims that the integrity of the geological values for which the site was inscribed is satisfactory (IUCN Consultation, 2017).

Geological processes

Good
Trend
Stable
Geological processes remain undisturbed (IUCN Consultation, 2017).

Contribution to volcanology and geology

Good
Trend
Stable
There is no evidence to suggest that this value is threatened in any way; on the contrary, there are recent claims that the integrity of the geological values for which the site was inscribed is satisfactory (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
Good
Trend
Stable
The geological values of the site are in good condition and well preserved.
Assessment of the current state and trend of other important biodiversity values
High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
Most of the site´s important biodiversity values are being adversely impacted and their conservation status is deteriorating over time.

Additional information

Traditional agriculture
Although the predominance of tourism has led to the decline of traditional agricultural practices, and a consequent loss of economic value on all islands except for Salina, there is an untapped potential linked to sustainable development. In fact, not only is the primary function of agriculture on the islands to preserve the landscape, but the integration of agricultural and touristic activities could be a good opportunity to promote tourism-related quality products produced locally. For example, there are several Aeolian specialties such as capers, raisins and Malvasia wine which are appreciated and sold nationally and internationally (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
History and tradition
The archipelago boasts several archaeological sites of great interest, as well historic areas of high cultural value. Its main island, Lipari, has an archaeological museum which has the potential to be amongst the most important in the Mediterranean basin, if properly promoted. This benefit could be further developed through the creation of the long called-for scientific or eco-museum related to the old pumice mining industry on Lipari. This “regional Pumice museum” proposal is detailed in the WH site´s management plan and consists of an exceptional testimony of industrial archaeology, which once formed the basis of the island’s economy. The creation of this new museum, as well as the promotion of the existing archaeological one, could contribute significantly to the island economy by increasing jobs and creating an appeal for cultural tourism, thereby helping to deseasonalize current tourism patterns (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Outdoor recreation and tourism
Tourism is the main economic driver, but is limited to seasonal mass tourism focusing on brief seaside visits. There is significant potential to tap into the favorable climate, widespread tourism facilities, well-established service sector, and local hospitality to promote a year-round quality tourism based on the islands´ rich cultural, historical and natural heritage (IUCN Consultation Form 1, 2013; Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Overexploitation
Impact level - High
Trend - Continuing
The over-exploitation and massive occurrence of visitors that characterizes especially the summer season seems to reduce the poerception of natural and cultural values of archipelago.
Importance for research
The values for which this site was inscribed demonstrate how the Aeolian Islands are an invaluable resource in the study of volcanic island-building and destruction, as well as other volcanological phenomena (UNESCO website, 2013). In addition, the particular geographical position of the archipelago makes it a potential research laboratory (biogeography, ecology, geology, volcanology, sustainable development) contributing significantly to the conservation of biodiversity in the Mediterranean bioregion (Ministero dell´Ambiente, 2010).
Factors related to anthropogenic disturbance, including invasive species and habitat disruption, affected the maintenance of the local biodiversity.
Contribution to education
The site was inscribed for its priceless contribution to the fields of volcanology and geology, providing two types of volcanic eruptions which have featured prominently in the education of geoscientists for over two centuries. Once an effective management entity is created, it could use awareness-raising and educational activities to share this knowledge outside expert circles and bring it down to the local level.
This site´s benefits revolve around the tourist industry, which is already extensively developed but needs to be diversified and deseasonalized, shifting its focus to attracting quality tourists. The potential to develop a tourist industry based on sustainable development and year-round economic returns is significant due to the unique resources the Aeolian Islands can tap into. For example, it can promote local quality products produced by traditional agricultural practices. It could also foment alternative types of year-round tourism based on existing and potential cultural, archaeological, geological and environmental attractions.
Organization/ individuals Project duration Brief description of Active Projects
1 Associazione pro Stromboli per la difesa del sito (Pro-Stromboli Association) Created in 1994, this association of Stromboli´s local residents and regular visitors works to protect the island´s natural and historical heritage while promoting sustainable development initiatives. They are involved in a variety of projects, from beach cleanups to environmental education and awareness-raising activities with local residents, as well as setting up a voluntary fire brigade for the island.
2 Associazione Nesos – Island Biodiversity Research The work of this NGO founded in 2011 focuses on the production of nature guides, ecotourism activities (trekking, nature walks for schools, etc.), and scientific research to obtain updated data on the biodiversity of the Aeolian and other Mediterranean islands.
3 Filicudi Wildlife Conservation Filicudi WildLife Conservation is a non-profit association based in Filicudi Island aimed at the study and conservation of the marine resources of the Aeolian Archipelago through an integrated approach and concrete actions throughout the area.  The activity included research and monitoring of marine vertebrates, mainly cetaceans (common bottlenose dolphin, striped dolphin and sperm whale) and sea turtles (loggerhead sea turtle Caretta caretta).

References

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