The project “Checklist of the Italian fauna” allowed for the first time in Europe the complete inventory of the animal species of a whole country. The idea of the Checklist was born during a meeting of a small group of zoologists at the entomological laboratory of the Museum of Natural History of Verona (Minelli, 1996), held in 1991. The idea became a project during the following months, mainly through the work of prof. Sandro Ruffo, at that time president of the Fauna Commission of the Ministry of Environment; he obtained from the Nature Conservation Service of that Ministry the interest and the financial support allowing the development and publication of the Checklist during the following three years (Minelli et al., 1993-95). The project was developed through an agreement between the Nature Conservation Service and the Scientific Committee for the Fauna of Italy, which is an expression of the Italian Zoological Union and the National Academy of Entomology. 272 specialists from 15 countries were involved in the project.

Completing the Checklist allowed a new project to start, this time involving the Italian Ministry of Environment and the Museum of Natural History of Verona. The new project dealt with the computerization of the check-list of the Italian fauna and the distributional data of 6500 invertebrate species for the identification of priority areas for biodiversity conservation in Italy. Thus the basic role of the Checklist for Nature conservation, already suggested by Minelli (1995), became evident. Moreover, the database embodied in the Checklist allowed a simple but detailed analysis of species richness in Italy (Minelli, 1996); after the conversion of the Checklist into a database, its importance for  biogeographical and ecological studies, mainly on endemics, became apparent (Stoch, 2000). Nowadays, the Checklist is an important operational tool to organize and plan projects dealing with mapping of the distributional data of the Italian fauna (Stoch, 2000). The publication of its updates started recently (Minelli et al., 1999).

The results of the analysis of the data extracted from the Checklist will be concisely described below; the reader is referred to the extensive contribution by Minelli (1996) for a detailed analysis of the general aspects of the project as well as for the comparison with the faunal inventories from other countries.




The Checklist of the species of the Italian fauna lists all species known up to the year of its publication (Minelli et al., 1993-95); species are uniquely identified by numerical codes. The work is divided into 110 issues; in every issue, taxa are ordered following the systematic sequence at least above the genus level; within genera, species are usually listed following the alphabetical order. Every species in the Checklist is identified by a numerical code including three parts (code of the issue, code of the genus, code of the species); every part is formed by three digits. The codes of genera and species have an extension which allows new species to be inserted without changing the order of the whole list.

The Checklist has a very simple structure including some important informations. The  choice to keep information complexity to a minimum allowed the completion of the project (Minelli, 1996): similar projects started in other European countries, very rich in data and informations, remained incomplete. The informations included in the Checklist was: a) distribution of terrestrial and freshwater species in 4 geographical regions of the Italian territory (North, South, Sicily, Sardinia); distribution of marine species in 3 areas (western basins, upper and middle Adriatic sea, remaining basins); b) status of endemic or threatened species; c) concise data on the host species (for parasites) and nesting (for birds). Notes and synonymy are reduced to a minimum.

The Checklist was recently transformed into a hierarchical database (Stoch, 2000); the species were ordered in a simple tree structure similar to Windows® Explorer. The aims of the program are as follows: a) the data set is organized following a hierarchical structure which reproduces the classification of animal taxa following the Checklist; b) the tree is user-friendly, and may be used also by the non-taxonomist.

The hierarchical structure of the database was achieved giving a code to the taxonomic categories above the genus level (phylum, class, order, family); moreover, subspecies were coded as well.

The database is relational and includes only two linked tables: the first tables includes taxa above the genus level; the second one includes genera, species, and subspecies, and other information on species distribution and notes.



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