The Virtual Museum of Ecosystems and Natural Environments

EXPLORE the beauty and complexity of nature, LEARN ABOUT the mechanisms and processes of nature and DISCOVER the challenges and strategies for conserving ecosystems, an essential asset for our survival.

The museum

This virtual museum is an information and learning tool primarily devoted to high school and university students, but also by anyone interested in understanding how the natural world around us works.
It may be ‘virtual’ but it cannot and must not replace direct real-world experience: a walk in a natural park, on a mountain, in a forest or in a wetland area... It is therefore an invitation for you to get to know and experience, first-hand, the importance and beauty of nature, enjoying the wind, smells, sounds and colours all around us.

The museum’s ‘rooms’

This virtual museum includes four instances of natural environments, each with its own complete room: the mountains, marine coastal wetlands, semi-arid regions and the Arctic. The first three ecosystems are found in Italy. Arctic areas, on the other hand, are important for the relationships they have, in terms of ecology and climate, with the other regions of the planet. They have been studied for decades by the Italian scientific research community. Inside each room, we will find ourselves in a main location described in detail, but we can also make short visits to other areas showing the same type of environment, but with different features. We enter each room through an intro space, a sort of prelude to the visit that describes what ecosystems are, what biodiversity is, how they can be studied, as well as how they can and must be preserved.


Biodiversity is the totality of life forms occurring on Earth. The number of species present in a region is one of the most used ways to express its biodiversity. But biodiversity is also the variety of ecosystems, which in turn are made up of the habitats where the different species of plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms live. And each species, in its turn, can be divided into different populations that are also subject to internal genetic diversity, since no one individual is the same as another. Biodiversity is currently under severe threat from human activities that have wiped out a great number of species and caused widespread natural habitat loss. Conservation and restoration of biodiversity are therefore a global priority today.

Giuseppe Bogliani is a leading Italian ornithologist. He has taught at the University of Pavia and since 2015 has been president of CISO (Italian Centre for Ornithological Studies). Author of many scientific publications, he is deeply committed to dissemination activities.


Geodiversity – also known as ‘biodiversity’s silent partner’ – is the totality of forms, materials and processes that make up the Earth’s geological, geochemical and geomorphological component. Geodiversity has its origins in phenomena happening inside the Earth, in the diversity of rocks and in the processes that generated them, in the diversity of minerals – with their multitude of forms, colours, crystalline structures – and in the complex geomorphology of the surface of our planet. Geodiversity underlies the wealth of natural landscapes and governs the biodiversity of living organisms, as well as of ecosystems and environments, controlling and altering them, and being in its turn deeply influenced by biological processes.


An ecosystem is a set of living organisms, physical, chemical and geological variables, and the processes and interactions occurring among them, giving rise to a complex interacting system. The concept of ecosystem has ushered in a new way of approaching the study of nature: in ecology, the line between energy and matter is more blurred and the focus of attention is increasingly on the totality of relationships and interactions between species, as well as between species and the environment. This approach is based on the work of the great naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, who in the late 18th and early decades of the 19th century laid the foundations for a vision of nature as a large complex of interconnected cycles and processes.

Elisa Anna Fano is a leading expert on the ecology of freshwater and coastal wetland environments in Italy. A former president of the Italian Society of Ecology, she has taught at the University of Ferrara and is currently president of the FISNA (Italian Federation of the Sciences of Nature and Environment).

Mountain ecosystems

Due to the great variety of their physical, topographical and climatic conditions, mountain environments create a mosaic of habitats that changes with altitude and generate a huge amount of biodiversity. Some of the rarest ecosystems in the world are to be found in the mountains. These ecosystems are capable of withstanding harsh conditions and are home to very special animal and plant species.

Here you will find

Semi-arid ecosystems

Only the hardy survive where water is scarce. And surviving is even harder where too little water can suddenly become too much, as is the case in a significant proportion of the Mediterranean’s semi-arid ecosystems. Arid and semi-arid environments are often harsh and at first sight inhospitable, but on closer observation and study they reveal themselves to be home to an unexpected wealth of life, adaptations and ecosystems. Up close, they become some of the most fascinating environments on our planet.

Here you will find

Coastal wetland ecosystems

Coastal areas are a mosaic of different ecosystems with high animal and plant biodiversity. These unusually beautiful wetland areas are full of life and home to plant communities that become ever more complex the further inland they are located. They offer shelter to many species of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals that could not survive elsewhere.

Here you will find

Arctic ecosystems

The Arctic is not a continent, but a region made up of a combination of water and land, sea ice and continental glaciers. What is amazing about the Arctic is the complex system of relations that it has with the rest of the planet, including the great influence it has over the climate at our latitude. Here, plants and animals are highly specialised to adapt to the harsh climate. However, global warming is much more pronounced in the Arctic than elsewhere, which means that these fragile ecosystems need to be studied by researchers and given as much protection as possible.

Here you will find

Visit the ecosystems!

A 360° journey to get to know the Museum’s ecosystems and explore contents, curiosities and information.

Can’t you see the 360° images?

Here you can see all the contents

The archive

The archive constitutes an enormous memorial heritage, the place to reconstruct the traces of the human, environmental, cultural passage, the evolution of daily life marked by the norms of civil life. For these reasons it is now necessary to give the archive a completely new and "sentimental" attention, taking care of the historical documents and moving among them, as if they were the documents of our personal family.

The digital library

External resources


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The Virtual Museum promotes, organises or supports scientific initiatives for research on biodiversity and ecosystems. Follow our events to be updated on the latest activities, to access programmes and materials about the most important events