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Nature reserve Grotari and Vulcan valleys

Photo by: Glauco Vicario


Text by Carlo Guzzon.

The Grotari and Vulcan valleys are two small fishing valleys that belong to the local authorities, situated just before the town of Marano. These valleys spontaneously returned to their original state after the fish farming activities here came to an end.

Originally part of the lagoon, the Grotari Valley was created after 1930 by building embankments to isolate a stretch of the lagoon, whereas the history of the Vulcan Valley dates further back. Both remained active until the mid-1970s; from 1980 to 1990 some peripheral sections were urbanized, with rows of villas and an industrial estate being built.

Today, they are some of the most spectacular examples in Friuli Venezia Giulia of how small, abandoned wetland areas (of only approx. 12 Ha) can become an extraordinary haven of nature and biodiversity.

In fact, after the fish farms were closed, rainwater was able to accumulate here once again, turning the valley into a fresh water area which gradually transformed into a large reed bed with no tidal activity, dotted with shallow pools, with the surrounding embankments becoming full of shrub-like vegetation and with a discreet presence of blackthorns growing in the reed bed: a precious habitat that hardly exists in our region any more.

Over 210 species of birds have been spotted in this area to date, 60 of which are listed in Annex I of the EU Birds Directive 2009/147/EC, with incredibly high levels of biodiversity when considering the size of the area in question, so much so that the valley has become a “competitor” of the nearby Canal Novo Valley Nature Reserve.

There are definitely 52 species of breeding birds, in addition to another seven that are probably and potentially breeding here. Among these, the most representative species building nests here are: The Mute Swan, Wild Goose, Pochard, Marsh Harrier, Water Rail, Black-Winged Stilt and the colourful Bearded Reedling. The most important feature, however, is undoubtedly the spectacular heronry, where Grey Herons, Cattle Egrets, Egrets, Night Herons and Squacco Herons, as well as the rare Pygmy Cormorant, come to breed. The Grotari and Vulcan valleys are the only areas in the region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia where, in the last 15 years, all breeds of nesting heron have reproduced, including the uncommon Great Bittern.

Currently, the two valleys, situated next to the SCI and SPA “Grado and Marano Lagoon”, are named in the Italian list of IBAs (Important Bird Areas) and it is hoped that they will soon be given “Regional Nature Reserve” status, considering their objective value.