The Salt Pans: Environment and Work
Comacchio: Flora and Avifauna
The area of Comacchio salt pans (covering about 510 hectares) is a basin developing among dunes where there are traces of delta branches of the river Po dating back to the Roman Age.
The area of Comacchio has been providing salt to all the Po Plain since ancient times. In the past, the basins were fed by the water supply of the tide and the positive height of the seabed enabled the evaporation; today, since the basins are situated below sea level, the water is taken by canal Logonovo.
The salt production was abandoned in 1984 and today Comacchio Salt Pans are exclusively managed with naturalistic purposes. The salt pans are situated within the territory of the Po Delta Regional Park.
The local flora is characterized by specialized vegetal communities bearing the presence of high salt concentrations. In the basin open waters, at low depths where vegetation is lacking, it is possible to observe a considerable development of unicellular algae (CHLOROPHYCEAE like DUNALIELLA and CYANOPHYCEAE like CHROOCOCCUS). On the slimly beds that have been flooded for a long time, a community of annual halophyte called SALICORNIA settles, with a high naturalistic value. The edges of the less flooded areas are characterized by a perennial halophyte vegetation with ARTHROCNEMUM FRUTICOSUM. The driest summer periods are characterized by another perennial halophyte formation called ARTHROCNEMUM GLAUCUM, growing together with a few more species. The high content in salts favors the growth of the sub-association HALOCNEMUM STROBILACEUM.
Wintering, nesting, and migratory birds make Valle Bertuzzi one of the most important wetlands in Italy, one of the RAMSAR sites.
Basins with different depths favour the presence of a great diversity of birds.
Low-water areas are populated by CHARADRIFORMES, TEALS, SHELDUCKS, FLAMINGOS, while the deep-water areas, in particular Valle Uccelliera, are populated by DUCKS and COOTS.
Dozens of bird species regularly spend the winter in Comacchio Salt Pans: among them, MALLARDS, WIDGEONS, TEALS, SHELDUCKS, COOTS, HERRING GULLS, BLACK-HEADED GULLS, AVOCETS, STINTS, DUNLINS. For their importance at a national level, we should also mention colonies of AVOCETS, BLACK-WINGED STILTS, COMMON REDSHANKS, SNOWY PLOVERS, COMMON TERNS, SANDWICH TERNS, MEDITERRANEAN GULLS, BLACK-HEADED GULLS, HERRING GULLS, LESSER CRESTED TERNS, SLENDER-BILLED GULLS.
Sweet Salt, Bitter Salt
The origins of Cervia Salt Pans date back to ancient times, and without a doubt during the Roman period the salt production was flourishing and represented a source of rich trades developing along Via Emilia and Via Romea.
The salt of Cervia is a particular "sweet" salt, since it lacks in magnesium and potassium, two bitter elements which, both for the climatic conditions and extraction method only appear in a very low percentage in the composition of the deposit of Cervia.
The salt harvesting is carried out according to the multiple harvesting, an ancient system suiting the particular climatic conditions of the Adriatic area. The harvesting was carried out every day: each salter divided his own harvesting basin - the last one after several evaporation stages - in 5 small sections. Every day, for 5 days in a row, the salt content of a section was harvested, and in 5 days the salt was finished. This method prevented the formation of "bitter" salts, which need more time to crystallize.
Pupils, during a visit to the ancient Camillona salt pan, the last example of multiple harvesting salt pan, talked to the old salters and observed their traditional handmade wooden tools. Later, they reproduced these tools in small miniatures made with toothpicks.