La Riserva Naturale «Valli del Mincio»
The Mincio Valleys
The Reserve "Mincio Valleys" is mainly made up of marshes which wind along the middle course of the Mincio River, upstream at the town of Mantua, among the inhabited areas of Borgo Angeli and Rivalta.
The extent of the marshy system is about 1,100 hectares, occupying a stretch of 7-8 Km of the river.
Declared as Natural Reserve from the Region of Lombardy in 1984, it represents a "Humid Area of International Importance espescially for Acquatic Birds" as it has been defined and classified by the International Convention of Ramsar in 1971.
It also falls within the "Nature Net 2000", which includes the most relevant natural areas in Europe, denominated "Sites of Communal Importance”.
THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
In the Mincio Valleys one can find the typical vegetation normally grown in the marshy areas of the planes, planted in succession according to the level of humidity on the ground.
A uniform extension of reeds, made up of very common marsh stems and by a few other types, offer the most outstanding characteristic of the Valleys. They border the river on its left and right banks, along all the reserve, covering completely the islands surrounded by the various branches of the Mincio.
The reeds are particularly important to some birds to nidify, as the Botarus stellaris, the Ardea purpurea, the Circus auruginosus, the Rallus aquaticus, the Porzana porzana and the Porzana parva; to other birds, normally flocks, they serve as a protcted area to rest.
But it is the point in which the reeds touch the waters that offers a rainbow of colours, sounds and movements; here together with the stems it is possible to find a variety of plants and flowers, including the Carex, the Typha, the Lythrum salicaria, the Epilobium, the Hibiscua palustris; and it is here that most birds build their nests: hung onto the canes the ones of the Acrocephalus scirpaceus and the Acrocephalus arundinaceus, hidden amongst the tangled plants and bent canes the ones of the Botarus stellaris, the Panurus biarmicus, Locustella luscinioides and the Acrocephalus melanopogon, floating among the bare canes the nests of the Tachybaptus ruficollis and Podiceps cristatus, and on raised platforms of marsh plants the ones of the Fulica atra and the Gallinula chloropus.
Other plants, including the Nycticorax nycticorax, Ardeola ralloides, Egretta garzetta, Ardea cinerea, Cygnus olor and many ducks, come here in search of food being more abbundant here than elsewhere; the Alcedo atthis dives from the outstrecthed canes to capture small fish; the Circus auruginosus and the other Circus, the main predators which live in the valleys, patrol the borders of the reeds picking up exposed birds and tiny mammals.
The "chiari" (cleared areas)
The "chiari", so called "ex-games", are crystal-clear parts of water covered in summer by floating vegetation, entirely surrounded and protected by the plants of the reeds.
Realized as areas to lie in wait for hunting, their artificial origin is also witnessed by the local names to it attributed: the “Vignale”, the “Baracca”, the “Teste”, the “Bascone”, the “Mulinello”, the “Lusièn”, the “Puntassa”, the “Arse” and others. These open areas are remarkably important to the ecological aspects as well as to the landscape and are essential for the resting, feeding and nesting of numerous birds. They are visited by lots of ducks, Fulica atra and Gallinula chloropus, by Podiceps and Tachybaptus, by Sterna and Chlidonias; a great number of seagulls, Larus canus and Phalacrocorax carbo stop to rest in winter.
The carice prairies
The carice prairies represent one of the richest and most important growing vegetation of the Mincio Valleys. Each season offers various shades: the uniform green carpet is coloured in Spring and in Summer by the flowering of the orchids and the white fruitful Eriophorum; in the late Summer one can notice among the tall plants, the flowers of the Gentiana pneumonanthe and of the wild garlic.
Being areas of delicate transition and of easy transformation, the prairies, which were once extended along the entire left riverbank of the Mincio valleys, have been drastically reduced due to agricultural reclamation.
As the reeds, the “cariceto” has always been utilized by man due to the fact that its fine and resistent leaves supply excellent material to straw chairs and benches.
Among the birds which build their nests in these prairies there are between 20 and 30 nidifying couples of Acrocephalus, probably forming the most important Italian population; this species, which can just be found in one other site of the Padana Planes, is considered to be at risk of extinction.
Other species which nidify in these prairies are the Motacilla flava, the Emberiza schoeniclus, the Cisticola juncidis, the Miliaria calandra, the Alauda arvensis, Anas querquedula, Vanellus vanellus, Circus pygargus and the Circus auruginosus.
Among the amphibians, besides the common Green Frog found everywhere, we can find tree-frogs and the rare “rana di lataste” present in a great number.
The Visiting Centre of Rivalta
Etnografico Museum of the Trades of the river
The knowledge and the environmental theories are essential instruments to obtain collaboration from the inhabitants and the visitors in the safeguarding of nature. To achieve this aim, the Mincio Park and the Comune of Rodigo have established the Visiting Centre where it is possible to receive scientific information about the "functioning" of the marshes and to learn about its origin,its history and the traditional activities of the valley.
The centre can be reached following the directions at the entrance of the village of Rivalta;it is open on Sundays and on holidays from March to October; on weekdays opening is on reservation made at Pro Loco in Rivalta.
From the landing-stages in Grazie, Rivalta and Belfiore near Mantua it is possible to go on boat excursions visiting the internal valleys; Covering the course of the Mincio and the small water-ways which wind among the reeds, it is possible to observe closely the plants and animals which inhabit the marsh.
Extracted from the pamphlet "Le Valli del Mincio" - (C) 2000, Parco del Mincio
Text of Marcella Ghidoni, Cesare Martignoni, Susanna Perlini
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