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by Jeff Matthews

The Montagna di Sopra (“Mountain on Top) World Wildlife Foundation oasis is in the province of Benevento. It is a mountainous area in the heart of the Partenio Regional Park. The WWF oasis is 312 hectares/770 acres and presents a variety of Mediterranean as well as Apennine flora. It is an area widely known for its dedication to everything connected with the traditions of the European sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). They WWF reminds us that Sunday, 23 October is the beginning of the Welcome Back to Caldarrosta Festival! (Hot Roasted Chestnuts!) and that it will be held as scheduled in spite of everything.

If that sounds ominous, it is. It refers to the disaster that has overtaken the production of chestnuts almost everywhere in Europe due to the infestation from the OCGW (Dryocosmus kuriphilus), a parasite insect. The infestation is now considered the most serious threat to the European chestnut ever! Italy has traditionally been the largest European producer of chestnuts, but production in various places in Italy (including the local area) has dropped by over half and in some cases as much as 80%. It is a major crisis.

The OCGW came from China thanks to the marvels of globalization, arriving in northern Italy in 2002; it has worked its way south into the local area. It's not just that people like chestnuts; areas in the Campania region (and elsewhere) have built up traditions over centuries. There is an entire chestnut tourist industry—festivals, dances and songs; schoolkids go on field trips and study their chestnut heritage—that sort of thing. There are agricultural counter-measures, but most sources I have seen claim it will take some years before castanea sativa can be expected to make any sort of a real comeback comeback.

More on the Pannaro WWF oases and the Partenio park here.


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News from Abroad

17 February 2019

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