Massenzatica fossil dunes

Located inland from Ferrara between the Po di Volano and Po di Goro rivers, the reserve protects a sequence of fossil dunes unique in the regional landscape that testifies to the location of an Adriatic coastline dating back to the Bronze Age, about 3,000 years ago. The gentle undulations of the terrain, covered by low grasslands, alternate with depressions reoccupied today by shrublands and patches of woodland, rise only a few meters above ground level, but contrast sharply with the boundless surrounding cultivated plain, a landscape profoundly altered by human activity that reclaimed the vast marshy areas of yesteryear.

Today, the Adriatic Sea is a dozen kilometers away, and the dunes cover a frontage of one and a half kilometers and an average width of four hundred meters, in a direction almost parellel to today's coastline. They are reminiscent of an important stage of the Po delta, which in recent millennia has seen the slow advance of land at the expense of the sea.

The surveyed area of the dunes was also the site of early local human settlements, evidenced by archaeological finds. The main creator of the dunes is the strong sea wind that lifts the sand and releases it on the back of the beaches, where it accumulates forming the characteristic dune cordons. Once incorporated inland and no longer fed by the littoral sand, a dune becomes fossilized and tends gradually to be dismantled by the same agent that created it, the wind, especially in sections devoid of vegetation. The area still constitutes a good biological diversity and serves as a refuge for various species.

Characteristic herbaceous plants called psammophiles live on these poor and arid substrates, creating preferred habitats for some reptiles and many invertebrates that have been the subject of recent studies: beetles, hymenoptera and lepidoptera of great interest, which in turn are sought out by migratory birds such as hoopoe and bee-eater, linked to such now very rare arid grassland environments.

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