Fiore di Loto

Investigation into the invasive Lotus species in the Valli del Mincio wetland.

Italian Tropics / Fiore di Loto is an investigation into the effect climate change is having on the biodiversity, local economies and the attempts at preserving these, within Italy.

Specifically Fiore di Loto focuses on the almost 100 year long presence of the Nelumbo Nucifera species, also known as Sacred Lotus, in the Valli del Mincio wetland, bordering the city of Mantua, a Unesco historical center located 131 km from Milan.

 

The Valli del Mincio is one of the widest and most important internal freshwater wetlands in Italy, and achieved Ramsar Wetland Protective Status in 1971 for its role as a stopover for migrating birds.

 

In 1921 Maria Pellegreffi, a botanist from the University of Parma, transplanted a few kilos of Lotus rhizomes in the Lago Superiore to test the growth feasibility, in an Italian climate, of a plant renowned in Asia for its culinary and medical properties.

Just one year later, she moved away abandoning the experiment and the Lotus was left to grow undisturbed, allowing it to transform from an introduced species into an invasive one.

Because it was barely contained, the Lotus has continued to grow, enjoying the consistent rising of temperature in the region, and formed two almost impenetrable main islands as well as several smaller clusters. Due to biomass deposits and rhizome growth, the wetland bed, in some locations, has been raised from 3 m to 20 cm. This gradual reduction in the water level threatens to terrestrialise the entire wetland, which already suffers from water being diverted-away for agricultural use.

 

As a result of the political decision to pursue industrial monoculture in the region, as well as the disappearance of the local economy, the landscape continues to undergo a transformation phase.

In the valley there were once thriving economies based on the local ecosystem, from crafts connected to a variety of reeds, to fishing.

These economic systems aimed to protect the land and wildlife, while also, taking local people’s rights, knowledge, culture and skills into consideration.

 

Around the 60s global changes affected the local economical infrastructure. With the decline of the local economy around reeds, the plants themselves, no longer taken care of, started disappearing, leaving space to the Lotus and transforming the local landscape.

The valley, transformed into a natural protected area, finds itself regulated, disregarding community-based conservation systems where communities can coexist with wildlife.

 

A new relationship between the inhabitants of the area and nature has been established; one that focuses its attention on the beauty of the plant transforming it into a tourist attraction, ignoring the unfavourable consequences that the species is having on the ecosystem.

Concentrating on the potential that the Lotus biomass could have to develop a new local economy, Italian Tropics / Fiore di Loto explores the use of design as a potential tool for social and ecological restoration.

We imagine a more hands-on bio-regional economy that could attempt to cover the costs of maintenance of the natural park, and foster a new relationship between local communities and the environment.

Through material experimentation and the investigation of traditional crafts and knowledge we initiate the process of changing the perception of the Lotus. We try to present it not as a marketable experience or an invasive species, but rather, as a resource, as a potential raw material for new local crafts.

As man continues his estranged relationship with nature and forgets to look and listen for the biodiversity that once called the wetland home, we have taken the decision to make the invisible visible by showing the hidden reality beneath the water’s surface.

 

The invisible stories and choices that lead us up to today, the invisible impact that the Lotus has had on the ecosystem and the invisible knowledge and skills almost lost in such a transformed territory.

 

Creating awareness of this deceptive entanglement is the first step to start a constructive discussion regarding the future of the imported Lotus species and its place within the Valli del Mincio ecosystem.

A future that we envision constructed on local knowledge, local multicultural resources, and on interspecies relations.

Self initiated research by:
The Future Continuous

 

On location in:

Valli del Mincio wetland, Mantua, Italy

 

On show:
March 1st – September 31st 2019

Broken Nature

XXII Triennale di Milano, Milan, Italy