The four WWF oases in Sicily

Sicily has a unique natural and landscape heritage. This immense environmental wealth must be protected and preserved from possible damage and neglect that could alter its beauty and the great biodiversity it encompasses. Precisely for this reason, the WWF has decided to establish four oases in Sicily, as well as recreating a solid network of volunteers in the territory aiming to protect the immense natural heritage of the island.

The four WWF oases in Sicily are represented by the Torre Salsa Oriented Reserve, the Saline of Trapani and Paceco, the Capo Rama Oriented Reserve and the Integral Reserve of Lago Preola and Gorghi Tondi.

So here is some more information about these wonderful places that can be included in the itinerary of your Island journey!

Torre Salsa Oriented Reserve

The Oriented Reserve of Torre Salsa is located in the province of Agrigento. It is an area covering more than 760 acres, with the oasis protecting about 6 kilometers of almost completely unspoiled coastline with cliffs, dunes and beaches.

The name of the Reserve comes from its main attraction, the Salsa Tower. This is an ancient watchtower located on top of a small clay promontory.

Within the Reserve, the land is characterized by soft terraces, a vast depression of the quagmire (wetland) and the jagged cliff. The shoreline has stretches of high coastline where blue clays, wind-eroded white marls and limestone stratifications with gypsum beds prevail. The marls form spectacular sheer cliffs and loose sand in the lower zone, the coastal dunes.

Various agricultural activities are conducted within the territory of the Torre Salsa Reserve, which in recent years have been evolving toward the rediscovery of traditional flavors. The cultivation of olive groves and vineyards are mainly practiced. Also typical of this area is the “dry tomato.” The most fertile territories of the chalk hills are mainly occupied by the cultivation of almond trees.

Spring is the best season to observe over 20 different species of wild orchids. These flowers bring unforgettable and spectacular scents and colors!

The fauna is also rich and varied, especially the different species of birds that inhabit the Reserve. The wetland area is home to porcupines, while the beaches provide the perfect breeding ground for the Caretta caretta sea turtle.

The Salt Pans of Trapani and Paceco

The Salt Pans of Trapani and Paceco constitute an authentic treasure in which biodiversity and human activity coexist in perfect harmony. It is an area of great scenic, architectural and anthropological value.

The oasis covers over 980 acres and features ponds, salt piles, canals and mills. Here salt workers, aided by natural elements like wind, sun and sea, through the passage of water in tanks of different sizes and depths, obtain the precious layer of crystals from which sea salt is made during the summer season.

The territory of this Oasis lies along one of the most important migratory routes of waterfowl between the African and European continents. Currently, there are over 240 species of birds surveyed that can be spotted in the salt marshes! For example, pink flamingos are regular visitors to the oasis, and in spring several species can be found nesting at the salt marsh banks. These include the Kentish plover, little tern, moorhen and egret.

The vegetation is also rich and lush with a wide variety of plant and flower species that fall under the Mediterranean scrub. Of notable importance is the Sea Marigold, which is included by the IUCN in the list of endangered Mediterranean island plants.

There is no shortage of rare species among insects such as the Teia dubia. This insect is native and found only in this area, because the female is wingless which prevents it from propagating.

Capo Rama Oriented Reserve

The Capo Rama Oriented Reserve was established by the Sicilian Region in 2000 and entrusted for management to WWF Italy. It is located on a high limestone cliff, in one of the most striking and spectacular stretches of the entire Sicilian coast. It is also characterized by a 5-hectare expanse of dwarf palm scrub. The reserve covers an area of 57 hectares.

The flora is rich and varied, characterized mainly by typically Mediterranean species such as limonium, sea fennel, horned poppy, iberis, prickly rush and wild violacea. Among animal species, however, we have those typical of coastal environments, including Wagler’s lizard, a species endemic to Sicily. Capo Rama is located along migratory routes, and ducks, herons, cranes and raptors can be seen during migration.

Mammals inhabiting the Reserve include the wild rabbit, hedgehog and some bat species. The Reserve is populated by a great multitude of insects, including the praying mantis and numerous lepidopterans. Of great historical interest is the ancient watchtower that towers over the promontory of the same name.

The Integral Reserve of Lake Preola and Gorghi Tondi

The Integral Reserve of Lake Preola and Gorghi Tondi consists of a set of bodies of water, mainly of karst origin. The oasis covers 335 hectares and is located in the municipality of Mazara del Vallo, in the province of Trapani. It is also a Special Protection Area.

It is a unique area in the world, a wetland of karst origin characterized by natural brackish lakes, historically called the Cantarro lakes, surrounded by cordons of marsh vegetation and typical Mediterranean scrub.

The reserve is home to five basins: the Murana quagmire, Lake Preola and the three round, upper middle and lower Gorghi. The surrounding agricultural landscape is characterized by traditional crops, presenting mainly vineyards and olive groves.

As for the fauna, there are several species of birds inhabiting the Oasis, especially during migration periods. Mostly anatids, herons and waders can be spotted.

During migration, as well as in the winter season, the Reserve is populated with many species of birds of prey, such as marsh harrier, honey buzzard, osprey and lesser eagle. Several specimens of the endemic Sicilian marsh tortoise can be found at the whirlpools, while porcupines, weasels and martens live along the ridges. Amphibians include mainly the emerald toad and tree frog.

The oasis is also active in the LIFE ConRaSi Project for the protection of raptors in Sicily, hosting a feeding site for the Egyptian vulture, the only species of the genus Neophron Savigny, a small vulture on the European continent.

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