THE ORIENTED NATURE RESERVE “SALTFLATS OF PRIOLO”
was formally instituted by Ordinance no. 807/44 of 28th December 2000 (Codice EUAP 1099) and was assigned to the LIPU (Italian League for the Protection of Birds). It was formed in order to “protect the system of basins which make up the saltflats that host Phragmites and Salicornites which, together with the actual wetlands area, attract the rich migratory and resident birdlife.”
The Saltflats of Priolo Nature Reserve, founded by the Sicilian Region, protects a small but interesting remnant of the wetlands which used to extend along all the coastline of south-eastern Sicily.
The protected area is also a Natura 2000 site, cod. ITA 090013. Recently the area, with the publication of the “Seventh updated list of sites of community importance for the Mediterranean biogeographical region” in the Official Journal of the EU (OJEU) of 21/12/2013, was the subject of a plan for enlargement which extended the area of the Natura 2000 site from 50 hectares to over 232 hectares, including many priority habitats located to the south of the area, and above all, the Magnisi Peninsula.
A very ancient activity, salt production in this area was already mentioned by Pliny the Elder in the I century A.D. Up until the Sixties, the saltflats “delli Magnisi” extended for over 80 hectares, divided into service pans and salting basins. The industrialisation of the coastal area from Siracusa to Augusta greatly changed the appearance of this corner of Sicily, as large areas of the saltflats were filled in for the construction of the ENEL facility and the consortium water-works, or simply used as a dump.
An oil-pipeline, now dismantled, ran across it from 1956 to 2006. For the dismantling and clearing of the pipeline, a project was drawn up which led to the removal of the structure over a year and a half. and allowed the area to reclaim some of its ancient splendour. Fortunately the renewed awareness of the cultural and scientific value of the wetlands has made it possible to save part of the saltflats: around 40 hectares which include the area closest to the Magnisi Peninsula, a real “oasis amongst the smokestacks” of great educational interest and testimony to not just the natural, but also the human history of this area.