Which are southern Italy's fastest growing tree species? Lessons from the past for future perspectives, with a special focus on Sicily.
Fast growing tree species can generate high wood production in a short time frame. However, maximum productivity is dependent on environmental and management conditions as well as intrinsic plant traits. Within this framework, our research was into tree species with the highest Mean Annual Increments (MAIs) in southern Italy, particularly in Sicily. Eucalyptus spp., Acacia saligna Labill. H. L. Wendl., Ailanthus altissima Mill. (Swingle), Pinus halepensis Mill. (including Pinus brutia Ten.), Pinus canariensis C.Sm. and Pinus radiata D. Don. were identified. In particularly suitable conditions, the MAI of eucalypt coppices ranged from 8 to 12 m3 ha-1, and from 13 to 19 m3 ha-1, in Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehnh. and Eucalyptus globulus Labill., respectively. The MAI of E. camaldulensis high forests was slightly over 6 m3 ha-1, while that of E. globulus high forests was very similar to its coppice value. Considering the preliminary data, Acacia saligna Labill. H. L. Wendl. can achieve good wood production. Pinushalepensis Mill. and Pinus brutia (Ten.) Holmboe achieved MAIs of 5-7 m3 ha-1. Other species may be promising but either data is very limited or their invasive potential requires careful consideration. This historical review has shown that with optimal tree species-planting site-cultivation technique combinations, tree species can achieve wood yields typical of fast-growing species in Mediterranean Italy, too.