The Po river Delta, a Waterbird Heaven

The Po Delta is one of the most important Mediterranean Wetlands. With over 380 species of birds, it is an exceptional place to visit.

Po River, Latin Padus, longest river in Italy, rising in the Alps on Italy’s western frontier and emptying south of Venice into the Adriatic Sea in the east after a course of 405 miles (652 km). The Po extends along the 45th parallel north and its drainage basin covers 27,062 square miles (70,091 square km), forming Italy’s widest and most fertile plain. Its delta covers a whole area of about 140.000 hectares in two regions and is among the most complex of any European river, with at least 14 mouths, usually arranged in six groups (from north to south): the Po di Levante, Po di Maistra, Po della Pila, Po delle Tolle, Po di Goro e Gnocca and finally Po di Volano. South of this system there is a belt of coastal lagoons from Comacchio to Cervia and around the town of Ravenna, famous for its history and art.

The natural areas in the Delta include riparian woodlans, extensive reclaimed agricultural land, freshwater swamps, brackish marshes and large estuarine areas. All these wetlands have been protected by the institution of two regional parks in the regions in which it is situated: Veneto in the north and Emilia-Romagna in the south. In 1999 the southern park was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and was added to “Ferrara, City of the Renaissance, and its Po Delta.” Moreover, in June 2015, the International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) added the Po Delta site to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR), because of the richness of stunning landscapes, architecture and urban settlements. Moreover, the site, Italy’s only delta, represents an exceptional heritage of biodiversity due to its range of habitats. Tourism, agriculture and fish farming are the main economic activities. The decision to add the Po Delta to UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves recognises the high natural value of the area, helping to safeguard a landscape that is unique in Italy and to promote sustainable development. This is reflected in the increasing number of tourists visiting the area. The inclusion of the Po Delta is a recognition at the international level of the high value of its environmental assets and socioeconomic dynamics. It provides the local stakeholders with a unique opportunity to promote their territory as a destination of national and international importance, and to strengthen development processes that could assign a brighter future to a territory left aside from the main development stream for too long.

The two parks have a high biodiversity, with 1000-1100 plant species and more than 450 vertebrate species. Among these, you can find over 380 species of birds throughout the year (cfr. Passarella 2004 and further addictions), making one of the areas with highest diversity of birds in the whole of Europe. Among them, a number of species of European conservation concern can be found in the Delta, including: Pygmy Cormorant, Ferruginous Duck, Eurasian Spoonbill, Lesser Kestrel, Little Bittern, Purple Heron and Scops Owl.