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Comacchio salt pan



The environment

The salt pan of Comacchio is an area of about 600 ha, located in the NW part of the district of the Comacchio Valleys, an area in which there are still traces of delta ramifications of the Po river dating back to old Rome. The area of the salt pan is a basin among dunes, whose eastern limit is the dune area of the late Roman period, along which today’s Romea road is located. In the northern part it borders on the Torre Rossa Canal (Fosse Foce canal), in the eastern part it borders on the Bayon canal and in the southern-eastern part on the Campo Valley.

The area of Comacchio has been supplying salt for the whole Po area since ancient times , but it is not certain whether the oldest plants were in the same area. In order to seize the area, the Republic of Venice mad war, more than once; then the salt pans were disputed between Ravenna and Ferrara and, in the seventeenth century, they started to be ruled by the Papal state. The current morphology of the salt pan is due to the interventions carried out by the government of Napoleon in 1808, when Comacchio became part of the Cisalpine Republic. The main traits of that project survived up to the present (Bondesan in Corbetta 1990).

In ancient times the basins were supplied by the hydraulic input of the tide, and the positive quotas of the sea bottom enabled an intense evaporation, now the basins are below sea level, so the water is taken from the Longonovo canal and distributed inside through water pumping plants. The salt pan mainly consists of tanks for water and, to a lesser extent, of land surface, made up of separating banks on the land. Thanks to its function, the salt pan has basins with different salinity levels and canals with deep water, this increases the morphological and ecological diversity of the area.

The production of salt in the Comacchio salt pans ceased in 1984, now the salt pans are managed only for naturalistic purposes. The salt pan was established as wildlife sanctuary by the Provincial Administration of Ferrara on August 1, 1979, besides it is included among the stations that make up the territory of the Regional park of the Po delta, established with the Regional law no. 27 of July 2, 1988. At present the management of the park has been entrusted to the General Management of state monopolies, which manages the Cervia salt pan, including also the part of the former salt pan of Comacchio.

Now in the salt pan of Comacchio the works of the “LIFE project” are being carried out, and they are in an advanced phase, this project was financed by the European Union in 2001 to recover the hydraulic functionality, demolishing more than 3 kilometers of the old electric line and laying the new one underground, and for works aimed at recovering the artisan production system, for an area of 4 hectares of the salt pan, carrying out environmental engineering works.


The flora

The salt pan has plant species that can also live in areas characterized by a high concentration of salt. In the open water of the low-water basins vegetation is sparse or absent, and there can be many unicellular algal species (Chlorophycheae such as Dunaliella and Cyanophyta such as Chroococcus), (AA.VV. 1987). In some basins with deeper water (in the part that is North from the draining pumps) there is submerged grassland with Ruppia cirrhosa (spiral ditchgrass, synt. Ruppietum cirrhosae) with a more or less considerable algal component consisting of Ulva, Chaetomorpha, Cladophora, Ceramuim (synt. Ruppietalia). On loamy soils that are flooded for long periods there is a community of annual pioneer halophytes, of very high naturalistic value, because it is dominated by the Venetian glasswort, an endemic species of the high Adriatic area (synt. Salicornietum venetae). At the sides of the rises, in the areas that are slightly less flooded than the previous one, there is a perennial halophilous vegetation, dominated by Arthrocnemum fruticosum (synt. Puccinellio festuciformis-Sarcocornietum fruticosae), which can be accompanied by hydrophilic species such as Juncus maritimus and Puccinellia palustris or less hydrophilic species such as Arthrocnemum glaucum and Halimione portulacoides. In more extreme conditions, with a stronger aridity in summer, there is a perennial halophilous vegetation, dominated by Arthrocnemum glaucum (synt. Puccinellio convolutae-Arthrocnemetum macrostachyi) with few other species (very high naturalistic value); in the Comacchio salt pan the high salt content facilitates the subassociation with Halocnemum strobilaceum (cf. Sacca di Bellocchio). On the top of sandbanks or of artificial bumps there is thick grassland, dominated by Elytrigia atherica (Corticelli 1999).



The fauna

The bird fauna with wintering, nesting and migratory species makes the area of the Bertuzzi Valley one of the most important wetland areas of Italy, which was included in the list of the Ramsar areas, together with the whole area of the Comacchio valleys. The salt pan was identified as area to be protected, according to the Ministerial Decree of May 3, 1993 (known as Rutelli decree).
In the first evaporation tanks (Uccelliera Valley) it is possible to find a fish population that is typical of the salty areas (eel, mullet, etc.), from the second evaporation tanks onwards there is only the South European toothcarp (Aphanius fasciatus). The high salinity of water (in particularly of the tanks that are immediately South from the draining pumps) enables the presence of the typical crustacean Artemia salina, which is present in the Comacchio salt pan with a parthenogenetic population of female components only.

The presence of basins of different depths determines a high diversity of the bird fauna. In the low water areas there are charadriiformes, teals, shelducks and flamingoes, in the high water areas, in particular in the Uccelliera valley, there are anatids and coots. Dozens of species winter regularly in the Comacchio salt pan, the main ones are the mallard, the wigeon, the teal, the shelduck, the coot, the herring gull, the black-headed gull, the avocet, the little stint and the dunlin (Pagnoni et al. 1997). The couples of the main nesting species in the salt pan change from year to year because the colonies move throughout the area of the Comacchio Valleys and the Bertuzzi Valley.


The most important colonies at a national level are the colonies of avocets, black-winged stilts, redshanks, Kentish plovers (26-66 couples), common terns, little terns, sandwich terns, Mediterranean gulls, black-headed gulls, herring gulls, lesser crested terns (1 couple since 1985) and slender-billed gulls (Toso et al. 1999). In 2000 more than 60 couples of greater flamingoes nested in the Lamenterio valley, the first nesting in the Po delta.


At present the area is not accessible to the public, but the characteristic environmental emergency situations can be clearly seen on the dirt patch that leads to the entrance of the salt pans. For information please turn to the Cervia salt pans (Saline di Cervia), tel. 0544/971123.

History in stones
Near the entrance there is the tower called “Torre Rossa” (or Forte S. Giuseppe), a star-shaped building of the sixteenth century with defense bastions (demolished around 1940). The tower, probably the only building that existed before the creation of the salt pan, was used to provide housing to soldiers first, and then to customs officers. On the back there is a very interesting small building on the Torre Rossa canal, which was once used as entry for boats (AA.VV. 1987).

On the path that leads to the entrance there is the artesian well of 1907, which extracted drinkable water from the subsoil by means of a wind pump; it was in operation until 1956.


Lagoons and salty valleys


CTR 1:25.000 - 205 SE, 205 SW, 223 NW, 223 NE


600 ha



Owned by

Independent state monopoly company


Independent state monopoly company



Area of outstanding natural beauty, according to Law 1497/1939 and environmental restriction, according to Law 431/1985, currently subject to a restriction by the decree-law 490/1999.

Wildlife sanctuary called “Comacchio salt pans” (“Saline di Comacchio”) (593 ha).

The salt pans are part of the Comacchio valleys, and lie within the boundaries of the Po Delta Park, according to the Regional Law 27/1988, and within the boundaries referred to in the Station Territorial Plans, deliberation of the Provincial Council Fe 88/25001 of June 25,1997 (B.SAL; B.SMT) and deliberation of the Provincial Council Fe 119/10013 of July 1,1991 (Area C), that are currently in force, dealing with compulsory protection, according to the Regional Law 11/1988.

The area is included in the Ramsar area called “Comacchio valleys and adjacent territories” (13,500 ha), established with the Ministerial Decree of 13/07/1981, published on “Gazzetta Ufficiale” no. 203 of 25/07/1981.

The Comacchio salt pans were identified as natural areas to be protected, according to the Ministerial Decree of May 3, 1993, and as such they were subject to specific protection measures provided for in the decree itself. Such decree of the Ministry of the Environment identifies the area that is the object of intervention measures as area to be protected, and in Art. 2, subparagraph d) it prohibits fishing in that area. The Art. 7 subparagraph 13 of the Technical Regulations for the Implementation of the Station Territorial Plan (1997) specifies that that area was the object of a specific provision due to its high environmental interest, so it should be subject to the protective measures of a State Nature Reserve (“… for that area it is implied that the directives, limitations and regulations of the mentioned provision will be applied” ). At present the Consortium of the Delta park has noticed that the boundaries identified in the above-mentioned decree in the cartography referred to in Annex A ignored the existence of the Logonovo Channel, so it could be changed according to the most recent geo-morphological, hydraulic and environmental conditions, in line with the boundaries and the zoning of the Station Territorial Plans “Comacchio old town center” and “Comacchio Valleys”. The latter was adopted with a deliberation of the Provincial Council Fe no. 88/25001 of  25/06/1997. The decree includes in the boundaries the old North-Eastern part of the salt pans, which is now separated by the salt pans by the Logonovo Channel, and which is excluded by the Territorial Plan “Comacchio Valleys” and included in the Area C of the Plan “Comacchio old town center” (Art. 7, subparagraph 1, letter C).

Besides the salt pans are a special protection area (IT4060002) called “Comacchio Valleys” according to the directive 92/43/EEC (12745 ha) and a site of community importance according to directive 79/409 EEC(12745 ha).




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