Monte San Giorgio
The pyramid-shaped, wooded mountain of Monte San Giorgio beside Lake Lugano is regarded as the best fossil record of marine life from the Triassic Period (245–230 million years ago). The sequence records life in a tropical lagoon environment, sheltered and partially separated from the open sea by an offshore reef. Diverse marine life flourished within this lagoon, including reptiles, fish, bivalves, ammonites, echinoderms and crustaceans. Because the lagoon was near land, the remains also include land-based fossils of reptiles, insects and plants, resulting in an extremely rich source of fossils.
2020 Conservation Outlook
Current state and trend of VALUES
Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT
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Description of values
Exceptional record of marine life from the Triassic Period and important remains of life on land
In Switzerland, Monte San Giorgio is identified within the Canton Development Plan as a Landscape Protection Zone and is similarly recognised in relevant Development Plans as a Nature Reserve. The fossil remains are specifically protected by the ‘Cantonal law on nature protection (2001)’ of Ticino Canton which requires a permit for any collecting (IUCN, 2002; State Party of Switzerland, 2002).
In Italy, regional, provincial and local legislative frameworks are in place to protect the integrity of Monte San Giorgio and were considered effective at the time of inscription. It is also noted that the municipalities of Besano, Porto Ceresio and Viggiù applied for additional palaeontological ‘restraint’ in 2007 (IUCN, 2010; State Party of Italy, 2010; Monte San Giorgio, 2018).
In Switzerland, the landscape of Monte San Giorgio is identified on the ‘Federal Inventory of Landscapes, Sites and Natural Monuments’ which encompasses the core World Heritage site and its buffer zone.
In Italy, the World Heritage site and its buffer zone lie within a Landscape Protection Zone recognised within national law. The palaeontological heritage (considered to be the equivalent to cultural heritage) is the property of the state and regulated by national law requiring permits for collecting.
In 2013, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies took note of the collaboration between the State Parties of Italy and Switzerland to ensure effective management of the transboundary property, and recommended them to urgently ensure that the Transnational Board become operational as soon as possible (World Heritage Committee, 2013). The Transnational Board (TNB) met infrequently in 2014 and 2015. As such, joint projects advanced slowly and with difficulties. In 2014, a new transboundary agreement was presented based on the ‘Accordo quadro tra la Confederazione Svizzera e la Repubblica italiana per la cooperazione transfrontaliera delle collettività ed autorità regionali e locali’.’ (The Swiss Federal Council & the Government of Italy, 1993). As of April 2020, the agreement has not been signed.
No excavations could take place on the Swiss side in 2015 and 2016 due to financial restrictions. Since 2017, excavations on the Swiss side have resumed. An updated list of fossil excavations can be found online (Monte San Giorgio, 2019a). On the Italian side, excavations have not taken place for many years for several reasons.
In Italy, a site manager has been established to coordinate the goals of the management plan. Further support is provided by the community of Piambello (State Parties of Italy and Switzerland, 2013). There are also trained official guides associated with the site and some volunteers. The Visitor Centre of Clivio is not regularly open.
Since 1994, excavations have re-examined classic fossiliferous levels (Cava Inferiore, Cava Superiore, Kalkschieferzone, Cassina beds) and investigated the Sceltrich new fossil horizon (e.g. Stockar & Garassino, 2013; Renesto & Stockar, 2018). Excavations and associated research continue to widen understanding of vertebrate palaeontology (in particular fish, e.g. Lombardo et al., 2012; López-Albarello and Sferco, 2019), refined dating (Stockar et al., 2012a) and modelling of basin evolution (Stockar et al., 2013) and the study of new fossil groups, including insects (e.g. Bechly & Stockar, 2011; Montagna et al., 2019), radiolaria (Stockar et al., 2012b) and crustaceans (Larghi et al., 2020).
There is ongoing research on fossil material of Monte San Giorgio (MSG) in the collection of the Paleontological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich (PIMUZ), the Museo Cantonale di Storia Naturale di Lugano (e.g. Spiekman et al. 2019) and the Università degli Studi di Milano. Overall, research is collaborative, linking universities and museums from across Switzerland and Italy and more widely, on specific projects, with institutions from around the world (e.g. Jadoul & Tintori, 2012). Undergraduate and postgraduate study of vertebrate palaeontology has also been possible (State Parties of Italy and Switzerland, 2013; State Party of Switzerland, 2002; State Party of Italy, 2010). A Transnational Scientific Commission was formed at the beginning of 2014. An updated list of scientific publications can be found online (Monte San Giorgio, 2019a).
Direct participation of students and professors from schools in the region (e.g. University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland) in the design and implementation of projects for the Museum and the heritage site of fossils and the Monte San Giorgio site. This approach could be applied at other similar localities.
The current situation of Lilyleaf ladybell (Adenophora lilifolia) in Monte San Giorgio (only known population in Switzerland where it is considered critically endangered) is very precarious. A 2017 survey found 118 individuals, placing this among the smallest populations in Europe. Almost half of individuals are small and sterile. Only a third of reproductive adults produce fruit but some do not complete its development (Valenti et al., 2018).
|№||Organization||Brief description of Active Projects||Website|
|1||Monte San Giorgio Foundation (Meride, Switzerland)||Monte San Giorgio and Museum of fossils website and social media – ongoing updates||
|2||Monte San Giorgio Foundation (Switzerland) and Commission for Planning and Management of the Monte San Giorgio UNESCO site (Italy)||Development of a network of walking trails, valorisation of historical paleontological excavation sites and development of a didactical excavation place for kids in Meride|
|3||Monte San Giorgio Foundation (Meride, Switzerland)||Museum of fossils in Meride (opened 2012) – ongoing development of new exhibition projects, projects to ensure the conservation and monitoring of fossil material, historical and scientific documentation, cultural mediation and divulgation of knowledge, programme of activities with the involvement of visitors and the general public||
|4||Municipality of Besano (Italy)||Besano Fossil Museum||
|5||Museo cantonale di storia natuale (Lugano, Switzerland)||Palaeontological excavations and geological investigations throughout the Middle Triassic sequence – ongoing – Switzerland||
|6||Commission for Planning and Management of the Monte San Giorgio UNESCO Site (Italy)||Clivio Museum and visitor centre – ongoing development – Italy||
Civico Museo Insubrico di Storia Naturale di Clivio e Induno Olona. http://www.unescovarese.com/code/14977/Clivio-VA-Civico-Museo-Insubrico-di-Storia-Naturale-e-Visitor-Center-Monte-San-Giorgio-UNESCO
|7||Monte San Giorgio Foundation (Meride, Switzerland)||Ongoing development of a new project for an outdoor didactical path (Meride) with augmented reality stations and with the direct participation of students and professors from schools in the region (e.g. University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland, SUPSI)|
Albisetti, D. and Zulliger, L. (2019). Website of the Museum of fossils from Monte San Giorgio www.museodeifossili.ch. Fondazione Monte San Giorgio.
Beardmore, S.R., Albisetti, D., Zulliger, L., and Furrer, H. (2018). “Tanystropheus – A life on land or in water?”, Fondazione Monte San Giorgio, 01-2019, 1-12.
Beardmore, S.R., Albisetti, D., Zulliger, L., and Furrer, H. (2019). “Saurichthys. The preservation of the predatory fish from the Triassic of Monte San Giorgio.” Fondazione Monte San Giorgio, 02-2019.
Bechly, G. and Stockar, R. (2011). The first Mesozoic record of the extinct apterygote insect genus Dasyleptus (Insecta: Archaeognatha: Monura: Dasyleptidae) from the Triassic of Monte San Giorgio (Switzerland). Palaeodiversity, 4, pp. 23–37.
Codoni, G, Furrer, H., Scheffold, B. and Vandelli, A. (2015). 3D animation Paleorama – Un tuffo nel Triassico. Fondazione Monte San Giorgio.
Furrer, H. (2016). Mines and quarries at Monte San Giorgio. Fondazione Monte San Giorgio.
Furrer, H. (2016). Paleontological excavations at Monte San Giorgio. Fondazione Monte San Giorgio.
Furrer, H. and Vandelli, A. (2014). Guide of the Museum of Fossils from the Monte San Giorgio, Fondazione del Monte San Giorgio.
Furrer, H. and Zulliger, L. (2016). Interactive model of Monte San Giorgio. Fondazione Monte San Giorgio.
Furrer, H. and Zulliger, L. (2016). Triassic reptiles of Monte San Giorgio. The origin of the fossils. Fondazione Monte San Giorgio.
Furrer, H., Albisetti, D., Zulliger, L., Jost, B. and Stockar, R. (2020). “Eine Reise in die Vergangenheit. Geologische Geschichte des Monte San Giorgio.” Fondazione Monte San Giorgio, 01-2020.
IUCN. (2002). World Heritage nomination – IUCN Technical Evaluation, Monte san Giorgio (Switzerland) ID no 1090. [Online] Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/uploads/nominations/1090bis.pdf (Accessed 12 November 2018).
IUCN. (2010). World Heritage Nomination – IUCN Technical Evaluation, Monte San Giorgio (Italy) In: IUCN World Heritage Evaluations 2016, IUCN Evaluations of nominations of natural and mixed properties to the World Heritage List. WHC/10/34.COM/. [Online] Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/uploads/nominations/1090bis.pdf (Accessed 12 November 2018).
Jadoul, F. and Tintori, A. (2012). Pan-European Correlation of the Triassic, 9th International Field Workshop, 1-5 September 2012, The Middle-Late Triassic of Lombardy (I) and Canton Ticino (CH).
Larghi, C., Tintori, A., Basso, D., Danini, G., Felber, M. (2020) A new Ladinian (Middle Triassic) mysidacean shrimp (Crustacea, Lophogastrida) from northern Italy and southern Switzerland. Journal of Paleontology, 94(2), pp.291-303.
Lombardo, C., Tintori, A. and Tona, D. (2012). A new species of Sangiorgioichthys (Actinopterygii, Semionotiformes) from the Kalkschieferzone of Monte San Giorgio (Middle Triassic; Meride, Canton Ticino, Switzerland). Bollettino della Società Paleontologica Italiana, 51(3), pp. 203-212.
López-Arbarello, A. and Sferco, E. (2018). Neopterygian phylogeny: the merger assay. Royal Society Open Science, 5: 172337.
López-Arbarello, A., T. Bürgin, H. Furrer and R. Stockar (2019). Taxonomy and phylogeny of Eosemionotus Stolley, 1920 (Neopterygii: Ginglymodi) from the Middle Triassic of Europe. Palaeontologia Electronica 22(1): 1-64.
Meride Fossil Museum (2019). [online] Available at: <https://www.museodeifossili.ch/museo.html>. [Accessed 14 February 2020].
Montagna, M., Tong, K.J., Magoga, G., Strada, L., Tintori, A., Ho, S.Y.W., Lo, N. (2019). Recalibration of the insect evolutionary time scale using Monte San Giorgio fossils suggests survival of key lineages through the End-Permian Extinction. Proceedings Royal Society B, 286:20191854.
Monte San Giorgio (2019a). Research. [online] Available at: <http://www.montesangiorgio.org/en/Ricerca.html>. [Accessed 14 February 2020].
Monte San Giorgio (2019b). Val Mara visitor platform. [online] Available at: <http://www.montesangiorgio.org/en/Territorio/Val-Mara.html&…;. [Accessed 14 February 2020].
Monte San Giorgio. (2018). [online] Available at: www.montesangiorgio.org (Accessed 12 November 2018).
Renesto S. & Stockar R. (2018). First record of a coelacanth fish from the Middle Triassic Meride Limestone of Monte San Giorgio (Canton Ticino, Switzerland). Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia (Research in Palaeontology and Stratigraphy), 124(3), 639–653. Doi: 10.13130/2039-4942/10771.
Riva, A., Maggiori, M. and Panzini, F. (2008). I funghi del Monte San Giorgio. Rassegna Micologica Ticinese, 6.
Romano, C., Furrer, H. and Zulliger, L. (2016). Evolution of fishes. The Triassic fishes of Monte San Giorgio. Fondazione Monte San Giorgio.
Spiekman, Stephan N.F. & Scheyer, Torsten M. (2019). A taxonomic revision of the genus Tanystropheus (Archosauromorpha, Tanystropheidae). Palaeontologia Electronica 22.3.80 1–46. https://doi.org/10.26879/1038
State Parties of Italy and Switzerland. (2013). Report of the State Parties to the World Heritage Committee on the state of conservation of Monte San Giorgio (Italy/Switzerland). [Online] Phnom Penh: World Heritage Centre. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/archive/2013/whc13-37com-7B-Add-en.p… (Accessed on 24 July 2019).
State Party of Italy. (2010). Nomination of Monte San Giorgio (Italian extension of Monte San Giorgio, Switzerland, inscribed in 2003) for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site. [Online] Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/uploads/nominations/1090bis.pdf (Accessed on 24 July 2019).
State Party of Switzerland. (2002). Nomination of Monte San Giorgio for inclusion on the World Heritage List. Bern, Switzerland: Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape (SAEFL). Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/uploads/nominations/1090.pdf (Accessed on 23 July 2019).
Stockar, R. and Garassino, A. (2013). Meridecaris ladinica n. gen. n. sp. (Crustacea, Decapoda, Clytiopsidae) from the Middle Triassic (Ladinian) of Monte San Giorgio (Canton Ticino, Switzerland). Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, 270(3), pp.347–356.
Stockar, R., Adatte, T., Baumgartner, P.O. and Föllmi, K. (2013). Palaeoenvironmental significance of organic facies and stable isotope signatures: The Ladinian San Giorgio Dolomite and Meride Limestone of Monte San Giorgio (Switzerland, WHL UNESCO). Sedimentology, 60, pp.239–269.
Stockar, R., Baumgartner, P.O. and Condon, D. (2012a). Integrated Ladinian bio-chronostratigraphy and geochronology of the Monte San Giorgio section (Southern Alps, Switzerland). Swiss Journal of Geosciences 105(1), pp.85–108.
Stockar, R., Dumitrica, P. and Baumgartner, P.O. (2012b). Early Ladinian radiolarian fauna from the Monte San Giorgio (Southern Alps, Switzerland): Systematics, biostratigraphy and palaeo(bio)geographic implications. Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia 118: pp.375–437.
The Swiss Federal Council & the Government of Italy. (1993). Accord-cadre entre la Confédération suisse et la République italienne sur la coopération transfrontalière des collectivités et autorités régionales et locales. [Online] Available at: https://www.admin.ch/opc/fr/classified-compilation/19930044… (Accessed on 14 July 2019).
UNEP-WCMC. (2011). Monte San Giorgio – Switzerland and Italy. UNEP-WCMC World Heritage Information Sheets. Cambridge, UK: UNEP-WCMC. [Online] Available at: https://www.unep-wcmc.org/resources-and-data/world-heritage…. (Accessed: 23 July 2017).
UNIMI (2020). Collaborazione ai fini della realizzazione del progetto "Aggiornamento Piano di Gestione" del Sito UNESCO di Monte San Giorgio. [online] Available at: <http://www.dipterra.unimi.it/ecm/home/ricerca/progetti-fina…;. [Accessed 14 February 2020].
Valenti, P., Maspoli, G., Marazzi, B. (2018). L’ultima Adenophora (Campanulaceae) svizzera: situazione attuale e prospettive. Bollettino della Società ticinese di scienze naturali, 106, pp.53-62.
Vandelli, A. and Furrer, H. (2015). Audio guides for adults of the Museum of fossils from Monte San Giorgio. Fondazione Monte San Giorgio.
World Heritage Committee. (2003). Decision 27COM 8C.7. Inscription of Monte San Giorgio. [online] Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/702 (Accessed 12 November 2018).
World Heritage Committee. (2010). Decision: 34 COM 8B.6.
Natural Properties – Monte San Giorgio (Italy). Monte San Giorgio approval of extension. [Online] Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/3986 (Accessed 12 November 2018).
World Heritage Committee. (2013). Decision : 37 COM 7B.103- Monte San Giorgio (Italy / Switzerland). [Online] Phnom Penh: Cambodia. Available at: https://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/5098 (Accessed on 24 July 2019).
Zulliger, L., Furrer, H., Ortelli, M. and Plebani, F. (2018). Audio guides for kids of the Museum of fossils from Monte San Giorgio. Fondazione Monte San Giorgio.
Zulliger, L., Furrer, H., Ortelli, M. and Plebani, F. (2020). Fred e i fossili del Monte San Giorgio. Scopri un mondo scomparso da 240 milioni di anni. Fondazione Monte San Giorgio.
Zulliger, L., Landi, G., Furrer, H. and Albisetti D. (2019). Immersive room Triassic Park in Virtual Reality (VR). Fondazione Monte San Giorgio and SUPSI.
Zulliger, L., Landi, G., Furrer, H. and Albisetti D. (2019). Triassic Aquarium in Augmented Reality (AR). Fondazione Monte San Giorgio and SUPSI.