The current global loss of biodiversity is unprecedented in the history of the planet. It is estimated that around one million animal and plant species (corresponding to 1/8 of the Earth’s biodiversity) will disappear, in the next decades, at a rate of hundreds to thousands of times higher than the natural extinction rate. The main cause of this unparalleled phenomenon is anthropic pressure, direct (human activities such as urbanization and intensive agriculture) or indirect (global climate change). Like all plants, orchids suffer the deleterious effects of these pressures.
In addition, however, orchids are particularly “demanding” plants due to their special biology and ecology: for their reproduction they depend not only on pollinators, but also on specific microscopic fungi, which are indispensable, in nature, for seed germination and orchid survival itself. As a consequence of this double and extreme dependence, orchids are considered to suffer a greater risk of extinction than other plants, as they are linked to other organisms (pollinators and fungi) that are in turn threatened by environmental changes.
In addition, high biodiverse grassland environments rich in orchids (habitat 6210* in the classification of European Union habitats), once widespread throughout Europe, are disappearing. Such kind of habitats are defined as semi-natural because their maintenance requires mowing or grazing activities now abandoned. In the absence of these traditional agro-pastoral activities, orchids are replaced by invading shrubby and arboreal plant species.