This paper provides a preliminary account of the wetlands (lakes, permanent and temporary ponds, brackish or freshwater marshes, often mentioned with the vernacular names “gorgo”, “biviere”, etc.) present on the island until a few centuries or decades ago. The first data of this research – derived either from reports on land reclamation for agricultural purposes or to fight against malaria or from botanical, historical and geographical literature – highlight a surprisingly large number of water bodies and emphasize the paramount role played by riverbeds and estuaries in the overall dynamics and richness of past flooded areas. These ecosystems have played a crucial role as stepping-stones for numerous aquatic and hygrophilous organisms (e. g. plants, algae, birds, amphibians, mollusks, crustaceans, and insects), once much more common on the island but nowadays often threatened or even extinct at regional level. Over the last centuries these environments have been reclaimed, i. e. deeply transformed through drainage and/or burial interventions, by the deviation and regulation of river courses, by the excessive exploitation of the watershed leading to water shortage or salinization. This has led to the strong reduction and often irreversible alteration of entire ecosystems, such as high-altitude peatlands and numerous coastal marshes, which have long since disappeared together with their rich biological heritage. The same fate has befallen many humid environments of the satellite islands, “vulnerable by nature” due to their small size, isolation, and extreme location. Other wetlands have been erased by urbanization (Palermo, Catania, Trapani, Messina) or industrialization (Gela, Milazzo, Augusta-Melilli-Priolo Gargallo, Termini Imerese), land reclamation and/or intensification of agricultural practices (e. g., Simeto Plain, Calatino district, Plain of Gela, plains between Termini Imerese and Campofelice di Roccella, Scicli and Ispica, Acate, Comiso and Vittoria, Scicli and Ispica, Pozzallo and Pachino, Castelvetrano and Menfi). Many of these environments disappeared before they were studied by biologists. The first analyses of regional toponyms reveal the great abundance of wetlands also in inland areas. The lack of attention and memory of these places is underlined by the scarce information available and the difficulty of correctly locating many of them. An ex-post evaluation of the reclamations carried out between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries highlights the contradictions of the declared agricultural and health purposes (fight against malaria) of these interventions and their partial failure in the medium term. The continuation of the reclamation and indiscriminate disruption of lentic environments, in defiance of laws and regulations in force, and in spite of international directives and conventions, is also denounced. Finally, mention is made of the few best practices so far implemented in favor of some Sicilian wetlands, aimed at their dynamic protection and enhancement, and the concrete possibility of restoring some of the most interesting ghost ponds.

Questo lavoro fornisce un resoconto preliminare degli ambienti umidi (aree lacustri, stagni permanenti e temporanei, pantani salmastri o d’acqua dolce, spesso indicati coi nomi vernacolari “gorgo”, “biviere”, ecc.) presenti in Sicilia fino a pochi secoli o decenni fa. I dati di questa ricerca - desunti sia da resoconti sulle bonifiche a scopo agricolo e per la lotta alla malaria sia dalla letteratura botanica, storica e geografica - evidenziano un numero sorprendentemente elevato di corpi idrici ed enfatizzano l’importante ruolo giocato dagli alvei e dagli estuari dei fiumi nella dinamica e ricchezza complessiva delle aree inondate del passato. Questi ecosistemi hanno svolto un ruolo cruciale come stepping stone per numerosi organismi (es.: piante, alghe, uccelli, anfibi, molluschi, crostacei e insetti) acquatici e igrofili, un tempo decisamente più comuni sull’isola ma oggi spesso minacciati o persino estinti a livello regionale. Nel corso degli ultimi secoli questi ambienti sono stati “bonificati”, cioè profondamente trasformati attraverso interventi di drenaggio e/o interramento, dalla deviazione e regimazione dei corsi fluviali, dall’eccessivo sfruttamento della falda con la conseguente scomparsa o salinizzazione delle acque. Ciò ha comportato la forte riduzione e l’alterazione spesso irreversibile di interi ecosistemi, come le torbiere d’alta quota e numerosi pantani costieri, scomparsi ormai da tempo insieme al loro ricco patrimonio biologico. Stessa sorte è toccata a molti ambienti umidi delle isole satelliti, “vulnerabili per natura” per le loro ridotte dimensioni, l’isolamento e l’estrema localizzazione. Altre zone acquitrinose sono state cancellate dall’urbanizzazione (Palermo, Catania, Trapani, Messina) o dall’industrializzazione (Gela, Milazzo, Augusta-Melilli-Priolo Gargallo, Termini Imerese), dalle bonifiche e/o dall’intensificazione delle pratiche agricole (es.: Piana del Simeto, Calatino, Piana di Gela, pianure costiere fra Termini Imerese e Campofelice di Roccella, fra Acate, Comiso e Vittoria, fra Scicli e Ispica, fra Pozzallo e Pachino e fra Castelvetrano e Menfi). Molti di questi ambienti sono scomparsi prima che fossero studiati dai biologi. Le prime analisi sulla toponomastica regionale rivelano la grande abbondanza di aree umide anche nell’entroterra. La scarsa attenzione e memoria di questi luoghi è sottolineata dalla scarsezza delle informazioni disponibili e dalla difficoltà di localizzare correttamente molti di essi. Una valutazione a posteriori delle bonifiche effettuate fra il XIX e il XX secolo pone in risalto le contraddizioni delle dichiarate finalità agricole e sanitarie (lotta alla malaria) di tali interventi ed il loro parziale fallimento nel medio termine. Viene inoltre denunciata la prosecuzione delle bonifiche e manomissioni indiscriminate degli ambienti lentici in barba a leggi e regolamenti vigenti e a dispetto di direttive e convenzioni internazionali. Si accenna infine alle poche best practice finora realizzate a favore degli ambienti umidi siciliani, volte ad una loro tutela dinamica e valorizzazione, e alla possibilità concreta di ripristinare alcuni dei ghost pond di maggiore interesse.

Tommaso La Mantia, S.P. (2023). Declino degli ambienti umidi in Sicilia: primo elenco delle zone scomparse. NATURALISTA SICILIANO, 46(2), 159-202 [10.5281/zenodo.7712925].

Declino degli ambienti umidi in Sicilia: primo elenco delle zone scomparse

Tommaso La Mantia;Angelo Troia
2023-03-09

Abstract

This paper provides a preliminary account of the wetlands (lakes, permanent and temporary ponds, brackish or freshwater marshes, often mentioned with the vernacular names “gorgo”, “biviere”, etc.) present on the island until a few centuries or decades ago. The first data of this research – derived either from reports on land reclamation for agricultural purposes or to fight against malaria or from botanical, historical and geographical literature – highlight a surprisingly large number of water bodies and emphasize the paramount role played by riverbeds and estuaries in the overall dynamics and richness of past flooded areas. These ecosystems have played a crucial role as stepping-stones for numerous aquatic and hygrophilous organisms (e. g. plants, algae, birds, amphibians, mollusks, crustaceans, and insects), once much more common on the island but nowadays often threatened or even extinct at regional level. Over the last centuries these environments have been reclaimed, i. e. deeply transformed through drainage and/or burial interventions, by the deviation and regulation of river courses, by the excessive exploitation of the watershed leading to water shortage or salinization. This has led to the strong reduction and often irreversible alteration of entire ecosystems, such as high-altitude peatlands and numerous coastal marshes, which have long since disappeared together with their rich biological heritage. The same fate has befallen many humid environments of the satellite islands, “vulnerable by nature” due to their small size, isolation, and extreme location. Other wetlands have been erased by urbanization (Palermo, Catania, Trapani, Messina) or industrialization (Gela, Milazzo, Augusta-Melilli-Priolo Gargallo, Termini Imerese), land reclamation and/or intensification of agricultural practices (e. g., Simeto Plain, Calatino district, Plain of Gela, plains between Termini Imerese and Campofelice di Roccella, Scicli and Ispica, Acate, Comiso and Vittoria, Scicli and Ispica, Pozzallo and Pachino, Castelvetrano and Menfi). Many of these environments disappeared before they were studied by biologists. The first analyses of regional toponyms reveal the great abundance of wetlands also in inland areas. The lack of attention and memory of these places is underlined by the scarce information available and the difficulty of correctly locating many of them. An ex-post evaluation of the reclamations carried out between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries highlights the contradictions of the declared agricultural and health purposes (fight against malaria) of these interventions and their partial failure in the medium term. The continuation of the reclamation and indiscriminate disruption of lentic environments, in defiance of laws and regulations in force, and in spite of international directives and conventions, is also denounced. Finally, mention is made of the few best practices so far implemented in favor of some Sicilian wetlands, aimed at their dynamic protection and enhancement, and the concrete possibility of restoring some of the most interesting ghost ponds.
9-mar-2023
Settore BIO/02 - Botanica Sistematica
Settore BIO/03 - Botanica Ambientale E Applicata
Settore AGR/05 - Assestamento Forestale E Selvicoltura
https://zenodo.org/records/7712925
Tommaso La Mantia, S.P. (2023). Declino degli ambienti umidi in Sicilia: primo elenco delle zone scomparse. NATURALISTA SICILIANO, 46(2), 159-202 [10.5281/zenodo.7712925].
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10447/621895
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