The "fontanili" are artificial aquatic ecosystems, typical of the lowland plains of Northern Italy, exploiting natural resurgences of deep groundwater. These habitats are characterized by low variation in hydrologic, hydrochemical and thermal conditions throughout the year. Proper management is required to prevent the spring clogging by biomass accumulation. In spite of their importance as refugia for endangered species, many springs were completely abandoned in the last years and several of them will disappear. We report the results of a study carried out in 2001 on 31 springs of the provinces of Piacenza and Parma, distributed in seven areas defined on hydrological and geological considerations. Physical and chemical variables and parameters of waters were measured and ostracod samples were collected. Most of the springs showed high nitrate concentration, due to a diffuse pollution of agricultural origin. Twelve ostracod species in four families were identified. Ostracod valves were analysed by scanning electron microscopy. Cypria ophtalmica was found in all the springs; other relatively common species were Cyclocypris laevis,Notodromas persica, and Prionocypris zenkeri.The maximum number of species per site was four. Cypridopsis vidua,P. zenkeri, and N. persicashowed a very localized distribution in the study area. The ostracod fauna of the "fontanili" was compared to other species assemblages found in spring habitats and to the available information on recent freshwater ostracods reported for Italy.
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