The regional Nature Reserve of the Isonzo river’s Mouth is a 2400 hectares area which stretches along the last 15 Km of the Isonzo’s course.
Funding support: Local council and regional administration, plus entrance fees.
Number of staff: 20
Number of visitors per year: 40,000
Overall aims of the centre
Provide good quality interpretation and visitor facilities whilst maintaining and enhancing the biodiversity of this coastal wetland site.
Description of the centre
Size of site: The regional Nature Reserve of the Isonzo river’s Mouth is a 2400 hectares area which stretches along the last 15 Km of the Isonzo’s course.
Types of habitats and species supported:
Plain forest: The reclamation works mostly carried out between 1927 and 1938 in the Southern plain of Monfalcone saved only a few strips of the large marshy plain forests that originally flourished in the whole area.
Despite man’s intervention and their fairly small dimensions the so called “Bosco Grande” (Big wood) and the Alberoni wood represent the remains of such environments that present peculiarities as far as vegetables and fauna are concerned. Some rare bird species usually nest in the area: diurnal and nocturnal birds of prey, the wood pigeons, the Eurasian Nuthatch, the Eurasian Wryneck and more recently the Black Woodpecker.
Woods and floodplain woods: Woods and undergrowth flourish in the floodplains of the Reserve, particularly in the northernmost part and in the Southern strip of the bridge on the provincial road Monfalcone Grado.
The main arboreous species are the White Willow, various types of the Populus, the Fraxinus Oxifillus, the Black Alder and the Robinia. Marginal strips are covered with brambles, as well as the river banks that are often covered with Robinia. Large areas are colonised by the Amorfa Fruticosa, a weed shrub that originally grows in Northern America. These environments are of vital importance for some species of birds both during nesting and during migration when they host a high number of passeriform birds.
Salt marshes: Salt marshes are areas that rise out of the sea water in the Reserve. They are generally covered with low vegetation and they are exceptionally submerged by sea water only during high tides. The soil of salt marshes is characterised by a high percentage of salt and this factor is the reason for the thriving of the typical halophilic vegetation (they live in environments with very high concentrations of salt) such as the Sea Rush or Juncus maritimus, the Limonium etc.
Transition areas between floodplains and mud flats are usually filled with cordgrass strips (Spartina). Sea water seeps into the floodplains through tortuous channels and gullies During high tides Isola della Cona hosts some birds’ dormitories in the most quiet sandy areas. Some of these birds are the Eurasian Curlew (the symbol of the Reserve) and the Grey Heron.
Mud flats: Velme are muddy or sandy sea floors that cyclically emerge from the water thanks to low tides. They account for about one third of the entire surface of the Reserve. Velme are partially populated by meadows of Zostera noltii and seaweeds but sometimes there is no vegetation on their surface (on muds, on fine sands and near the mouth bar).
Many different species live in such environments and they represent the favourite food of limicolous birds such as the Eurasian Curlew and the Dunlin. In Winter, after hunting was officially prohibited in the Reserve, large flocks of aquatic birds flood mud flats where the Wigeon and the Eurasian Cood are among the most numerous species.
Sandy deposits and gravelly isles at the river’s mouth: Punta Spigolo, the left side area of the Isonzo river’s mouth, is characterised by an extraordinarily dynamic environment. It is shaped by the sea, by the wind (Bora) and by the river that deposits large amounts of sand and gravel when frequently flooding. External sandy isles, sometimes covered with thin vegetation, are key to the nesting of some vulnerable and threatened species such as the Little Tern and the Eurasian Oystercatcher. Besides, when there is high tide they represent a good perch for other birds like Cormorants, limicolous birds and Seagulls.
The exposed gravelly river bed and the river environment :In the Northern area of the Reserve, from the confluence with the Torre river to the bridge of the provincial road Monfalcone Grado, the Isonzo’s course is characterised by large gravel and sandy layers that are visible when there is the minimum flow. In the highest parts of these isles there are often thick willow woods that resist the strength of the river’s impact during floods. Open gravelly environments particularly suit birds when nesting (the Little Ringed Plover and the Common Sandpiper).
Farming: Some areas of the Reserve are dedicated to farming, mainly corn, soy and beetroots besides considerable artificial implantations of populus hybridus for cellulose. Usually, farming lands are poor in spontaneous vegetation and animal species, made exception for some banks covered with bushes and some artificial channels with resurgence water where the typical aquatic vegetation firmly resists. Birds such as the Crested Lark and the African Stonechat nest on the strips of the farming land while the European Golden Oriole prefers Populus woods. In Winter farming lands are populated by the Ardea and the Common Buzzard (Poiana).
Grazing and meadows: Some areas of the Reserve are dedicated to grazing lands where big herbivores like horses and bovines play an important role. In the 80s, after grazing had been temporarily set aside, the area was gradually populated by reed beds and bushes. At the moment this trend is encouraged by denying cattle access to some areas. In other cases, the reintroduction of cattle allowed to reclaim meadows besides considerably increasing the biodiversity of many vegetable and animal species.
Temporary and perennial fresh water marshes and environmental restorations: Such environments had almost completely disappeared in the Reserve because of extensive reclamation works. Only in the 90s they were gradually restored. In Isola della Cona those areas which had been reclaimed and embanked were reshaped later. These changes occurred by excavating and by planting the existing sluice gates in the ground. In a second phase they were flooded with rainwater and artesian aquifer water.
This is how freshwater marshes originated and how they became characterised by different depths.
In addition, such marshes are managed in order to make them a sort of rescue and a food source for all numerous species of birds in all seasons. In the restored areas surrounding the visitors’ centre there are many couples of nesting limicolous birds such as the Northern Lapwing, the Black-Winged Stilt and the Little Ringed Plover. During Autumn and Winter these areas host many ducks and geese as they like to enjoy the quiet atmosphere and the deep waters.
During Spring and Autumn migrations, limicolous birds go hunting invertebrates in the wet meadows and in low waters. In Summer, Ardeas feed on frogs and fish in low waters that underwent a process of evaporation while many ducks complete their moult. Reed beds (the Phragmites australis or the common reed, the Bulrush or Schoenoplectus lacustris and the Typha) and wet meadows with different species of herbs are the main vegetation. After vegetation is partially mown in Summer, open large areas become very attractive for aquatic birds. Besides, the periodic drying up and the sudden flood of some marshy areas are key elements to increase the number of species in the Reserve.
Reed Beds: Punta Sdobba’s large reed ticket, called “Caneo”, is affected both by the Isonzo’s fresh waters and by the sea salty waters. The reed beds are higher and denser in those areas which are close to the river while their height and density tend to decrease where there are gullies and channels communicating with the sea. Here is where the Common Reed is replaced by the Bulrush (Schoenoplectus lacustris).
Meadows of the Sea Rush (Juncus Maritimus) and of the Saltmarsh Rush (Juncus Gerardii) are very widespread as well. Less large but highly interesting Reed beds grow along the final strip of the river’s left bank, in the area of environmental restoration and in just a few fresh water marshy areas.
This is where the process of reproduction occurs for different species of birds, such as the Little Bittern, the Purple Heron, the Reed Warbler and the Great Reed Warbler.
Underwater seaside areas: In the Reserve the seaside areas are not very deep (maximum 3 – 4 metres of depth) and the seafloors are mainly composed of muddy sands and superficial fine sands. This is where wide meadows of sea phanerogams (herbs) develop. Such habitats rescue a great number of species of fish, crustaceans, molluscs and other invertebrates during all the phases of their evolution. In addition, in Winter they are populated by many different birds and particularly by the Western Grebe, the Great Cormorant, the Seaduck and the Eurasian Coot while in Summer it is possible to observe the European Shag. The Mute Swan is always present throughout the year.
Exhibits: The first exhibit is included in the visitors’ centre. The museum in the visitors’ centre was thought to become an experience that involves all senses! Dioramas, tactile tanks, the reconstruction of various environments and audio- visual aids lead visitors to the discovery of the Isonzo river’s mouth, of its habitats (avifauna, vegetation, food chains, ecosystems) and of those areas that underwent environmental restoration and reclamation. The guests can enjoy direct contact with the Reserve’s organisms by spying them through the glass of the tactile tanks. Besides, it is possible to examine the details of living forms under the microscope and a sound reproduction system permits to listen to the animals’ cries.
The second exhibit is The Museum Of Renewable Energy Sources. This part of the Reserve provides visitors with a unique experience which leads them to the discovery of the main renewable energy sources. Small working models, explicative panels and free educational material help visitors (of all ages and with different levels of interest) deeply understand issues such as the energy sustainability and the transition from the oil era to the “hydrogen” era.
The third exhibit is The “Duck” Museum In this museum there is a small exhibition of duck models and other objects concerning the ancient relationship between man and ducks. All the phases of this relationship are reconstructed from its origins to nowadays. Different issues arise from the “Duck” museum where tradition and topical subjects mingle together to discover the different species living in the Reserve and the hunting techniques. The two floor museum is located above the bar “Il pettirosso” and it architecturally resembles the ancient local “casoni” (The typical fishing huts of the Lagoon) Besides the exhibition, the museum provides visitors with one of the best observatory points. From there it is possible to observe in greater detail the wide reclaimed areas and the rich fauna, also thanks to the powerful telescope that is available to everyone.
Location of the site: From the Northernmost side of the Adriatic sea, where the Timavo river flows, arises a shallow water shore characterised by a complex lagoon structure that includes Venice and finishes with the delta of the Po river. The Isonzo river rises near the Timavo river’s mouth in the Giulie Alps in Slovenia and flows into the gulf of Triest between Monfalcone and Grado. The regional Nature Reserve of the Isonzo river’s Mouth is a 2400 hectares area which stretches along the last 15 Km of the Isonzo’s course. Its territory is included in the municipalities of Staranzano, San Canzian d’Isonzo, Grado and Fiumicello.
Main CEPA work areas
The Nature Reserve provides about approximately 4000 – 5000 students with a wide range of activities concerning environment oriented education. Thanks to classes, laboratory activities and guided trips, students learn to know the local biodiversity and the techniques implemented in order to restore and conserve wetlands. As for communication, participation and awareness-raising, many projects are carried out every year:
• Guided birdwatching specific activities concerning the migrating goose
• Volunteer camps in collaboration with leading association for environment protection
• Summer school for junior naturalists
• Summer festival of arts experiencing the relationship between mankind and nature
• Charity long swimming race
• Horse riding
• Festival on sustainable tourism
• Kayak lagoon trip
Top three successes
1) The restoration of fresh water wetland habitats in formerly cultivated areas, visible by a high number of visitors from screened paths and hides had the major effect of an increase of both rare species and awareness level about conservation problems (our experience was of great importance for the start of similar projects in Italy and abroad. A similar new wetland Nature reserve has been created by Slovenia near Koper as a consequence of our success and cooperation activities)
2) The creation of local jobs linked to wetland conservation
3) Promotion of research and cooperation at an international level.
Creating signage / site information; using audio-visual tools; producing written materials; developing nature trails.
Managing / creating habitat; running a visitor centre; building maintaining structures.
Working with disabled people; engaging young people; working with volunteers; engaging hard-to-reach groups; engaging the local community.
Education and communication
Early years education; working with primary schools; working with secondary schools; delivering adult education; lobbying / running campaigns; developing resources / materials.
Auditing / assessing effectiveness; running effective administration; fund-raising; PR and marketing; health and safety; project planning.
Dr. Fabio Perco
Touristic activities: Il MOSAICO – Consorzio di Cooperative Sociali
48 – 33050 San Vito al Torre (UD)
T: 0039 0432 997320
F: 0039 0432 997814