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Simeto Oasis

Oriented Nature Reserve “SIMETO OASIS”


» Information for visits
» How to reach the reserve

Informazioni per le visite Visitor center and nature trail open every day.

Come raggiungere la riservaAlong the main road from Catania to Siracusa 114, just before the “Primosole” bridge on the Simeto river, at km 109 (in front of the “white horse” restaurant), turn left and after a few hundred meters you come to the reception point for the guided tour, where you leave the car and starts one of three locations. 

Video

Pollo Sultano... un capolavoro ritrovato
Storia della reintroduzione in Sicilia
Production: Provincia Regionale di Catania

Oriented Nature Reserve "Simeto Oasis"
Acqua, Terra e Fuoco, viaggio nella terra del mito
Production: Provincia Regionale di Catania

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Simeto Oasis

Established in 1984 to preserve the natural environment of particular interest seriously threatened by the actions of man, the nature reserve "Oasi del Simeto" is typologically identified as a nature reserve in order to promote and enhance the conditions for resting and nesting fauna and restoration of Psammofila and Mediterranean vegetation.

 

Where
The Natural Reserve Simeto Oasis is located on the border between the province of Catania and Syracuse.
Surface-1859, 16 has

Managing body
Province of Catania - Year of establishment-1984

 

Level of protection
Oriented Nature Reserve
The reserve Oriented Natural Oasis Simeto is divided into two areas with different levels of protection: Zone A and Zone B.


The Wildlife

Environments that make up the Simeto Oasis, each for its own characteristics vegetation, provide shelter to a wide variety of birds, many of which find there suitable conditions  for nesting. In addition  to sedentary species, many migratory species, some of which stop for the winter, can be observed during the spring and step fall.
la raganellaEach environment has its inhabitants, so on the shore you can see different species of gulls as: the Yellow legged Gull (Larus cachinnans), the Lesser Balck-backed Gull (Larus fuscus), the Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) and the Mediterranean Gull (Larus melanophalus).  Waders such as the European Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucus), the Little Stint (Calidris minuta), the Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) and the Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula). Other guests of sandy coastline are:the Cory's Shearwater (Procellaria diomedea), the Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea), the Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), the Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus), the Little Tern (Sterna albifrons), the Black Tern (Chlidonias niger).
The dunes area, because of its  typical vegetation, hosts just a few  bird species such as:
The European Nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), the Common Tearn (Sterna hirundo), the Black-eared Wheateared (Oenanthe hispanica), the Trumpeter Bullfinch (Rhodopechys githaginea).
The marsh and river areas, because of their typical vegetation, are home to almost all species of birds of the Oasis.

Among them: the Mallard (Anas platyrynchos), the Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata), the Common Teal (Anas crecca), the Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), the Eurasian Widgeon (Anas penelope), the Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), the Night Raven (Nycticorax nycticorax), the Great White Egret (Egretta alba), the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), the Gadwall (Anas strepera), the Common Pochard (Aythya ferina), the Tufted Duck (Aythia fuligula), the Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), the  European Golden Plower (Pluvialis apricaria), the Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) and the Sandwich Tern (Sterna sandvicensis). la Cannaiola


During the spring migration, we can see: the Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides),  the Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea),  the Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), the Black Tern (Chlidonias niger), the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), the Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) and the Moustached Warbler Lusciniola melanopogon).
During the summer the reserve is home to rare species nesting at times in Sicily such as: the Ferruginous Duck (Aythya niroca), that  nests in the thicker reeds, the Little Bittern (Ixobrycus minutus), and the Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), which prefers wooded areas and, in particular, willows.
Since 2002, thanks to a recent reintroduction, also the Sultan Chicken nests there; it’s a  flightless rail by an iridescent blue plumage  which had disappeared from Sicily since the fifties.
Other breeding species are: the Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), the Ashy–headed Wagtail (Motacilla flava cinereocapilla), the Eurasian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), the Eurasian Penduline Tit (Remiz pendulinus), the Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra), the Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus), the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), the Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti) and the Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus).


In the sea area in front of the territory of the reserve lives the Northern Garnet (Sula bassana), from the Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus), the Black-necked Grebe (Podiceps migricollis) and the Little Grebe (Podiceps ruficollis).
la GarzettaThe continuous presence in the winter of the Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) is interesting. The Simeto Oasis apart from  being a wetland of great ornithological importance is also characterized by the presence of small mammals, insects, reptiles and amphibians.
Unlike as to the bird wildlife, knowledge of these animal groups is still quite limited. Of small mammals, the most common is the Wild Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).
Very common are  small rodents like the House Mouse (Mus domesticus)  and the Wood Mouse (Apodemus silvaticus).
There are also the  Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis) and the Fox (Vulpes vulpes). Less common is the Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus).
Some insects in the Reserve have their own special importance.
In the Orthoptera family,   the cricket Brachytrupes Megacephalus  deserves a mention;  the most important coleoptera are   ground beetles like  the Scarites Laevigatus and the Scarites Buparius . You can also watch the Pachypus Caesus, a local scarabeidae and Poliphylla Ragusai, a  very rare coleopter.
Among reptiles: the Leopard Snake ,  the Natrice of the Collar, the Sicilian Wall  Lizard (Podarcis wagleriana and Podarcis sicula), the Green Lizard and the  Ocellated Skink.
Another particularly significant  presence is that of the Bog Turtle, which is now less common due to human settlement of the area. Until a few years ago, even the famous Sea Turtle (Caretta Caretta)  used to come and  lay its eggs on the beaches at the mouth of the Simeto river.
Finally, as regards to the amphibians, is easy to observe the Common Toad, the European Tree Frog and the Edible Frog.

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Vegetation

Dla Santolina delle spiaggeespite the persistent human settlement, the territory within which  the Simeto Oasis nature reserve falls, is affected by aspects of the natural vegetation of great value, including certain relics of primitive marsh ecosystem. Currently we can recognize three different types:

1) Dune vegetation
At some distance from the sea, in addition to the dune belt, there is an irregular complex of consolidated dunes with a  typical psammophile vegetation. These ones, which are sometimes poorly differentiated, include the typical floristic elements of these unique environments. The pioneer vegetation consisting predominantly of Salsola Grass-cali (Salsola kali), Sea Euphorbia (Euphorbia peplis), the Sea Polygon (Poligonum maritimum), the Cenchrus (Xanthium italicum), appears on the first dunes, thanks to the presence of several perennial species such as the Sea Bermuda Grass (Agropyron junceum), the Sea Stock (Mattiola sinuata), the Forsskal (Cyperus calli) and the Sea Santolina (Othantus maritimus). Where there is less human disturbance there are a few scattered consolidated dunes with Marram Grass (Ammophyla littoralis), with its large and dense clumps slowing the wind activity on the sand.

2) Marsh vegetation
Salt marshes, often separated from the sea by species  of Tamarix that stabilize the dune cordon, extend inland. And there predominates the Spiny Rush (Juncus acutus) and the Red Clover (Aster trifolium) vegetation. Where the soil is  periodically flooded and not toosalty, the Sea Juncus maritimus) and the Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) are quite common.Pancrazio

 

Elsewhere and in conditions of high salt concentration in  the soil, we can find some  halophilic species such as Rooting Salicornia (Arthrocnemum  perenne), Samphire Plant (Salicornia europaea), Glaucous Glasswort  (Salicornia glauca), and also the Tall Wheat-grass (Agropyron elongatum), the Sea Purslane (Atriplex portulacoides), the Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea) and Coastal Bermuda Grass (Agropyron pungens). Areas not subject to flooding are populated by: The Wormwood Shrub (Artemisia arborescens), the Mediterranean Saltbush (Atriplex halimus), the Shrubby Seablite (Suaeda fruticosa) and the Purple Mistress (Moricandia arvensis).



3) Riverine vegetation
Along the banks of Simeto settles a typical plant of the wetlands, the Reed (Phragmites australis), which is replaced, in the long marshy sites, by the Lesser bulrush (Typha angustifolia).
On the banks, which are very dry in the summer, the Kalhua (Bolboschoenus maritimus), that bears even a moderate soil salinity, is quite common.
The  driest Simeto shores host parts of shrub vegetation with interesting populations of tamarisks (Tamarix gallica) and willows(Salix alba).

Vast areas of the pre-reserve (zone B) are affected by cultivation of cereal crops,  forage and citrus; here we find the  crop weed vegetation with its well-known and changing seasonal patterns.

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The River Habitat

The river banks are home to a Simeto hygrophilous vegetation  dominated by the Common Reed (Phragmites australis)  which is a typical vegetation of these mainly monophyte environments.
The sites subjected to drying during the summer are characterized by more or less extensive Scirpetum,  less hygrophilous associations  that bear even a modest soil salinity.
Tamarix woodlands (Tamarix africana and gallica), often in association with interesting willow woodlands are also frequent, notwithstanding the significant human disturbance. Of particular interest is the presence, along the middle course of the Simeto, of an endemic Willow vegetation (Salix gussonei).

l'elegante Cavaliere d'ItaliaIn this environment,  many species of nesting birds find a  shelter; in particular, the Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca), the Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus), the Little Bittern (Ixobrycus minutus),the Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea),                                         
the Marsh (Acrocephalusscirpaceus), the Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti),  the Pendulum bird (Remiz pendulinus), which nests in the willow bush and recently, due to its reintroduction after its extinction in Sicily  in the fifties,  the Sultan Chiken (Porphiryrio porphyrio) also nests there.
The area of the mouth is also a resting place for migratory species.
In this environment more animal species can also be seen, many of which live in close contact with water, such as amphibians of which  the Little Green  Frog (Rana esculenta) and the European Tree Frog (Hyla arborea),  and the Common Toad (Bufo bufo).
Among the reptiles  the European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis), the Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus), the Sand Lizard  (Coluber viridiflavus) and the Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) can be found.

 Among rodents you  can see the Vole Earth (Arvicola terrestris).

 

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The Marsh Environment

The dune belt  has separated  some salt marshes from the sea; they  are often protected by large specimens of Tamarisks (Tamarix gallica and africana) which stabilize the dunes and protect the marsh depressions.
The dune belt  has separated  some salt marshes from the sea; they  are often protected by large specimens of Tamarisks (Tamarix gallica and africana) which stabilize the dunes and protect the marsh depressions.

la Moretta tabaccataIn the outer end of the marshes  some rushes (Juncus acutus and maritimus) are visible. In some areas, the presence of isolated specimens of sclerophyllous is a sign of favorable conditions  to the reconstitution of the original vegetation.

Of  scenic and scientific interest is the limited presence of  the Wild Olive (Olea europaea), the Mastic (Pistacia lentiscus) and the Phillyrea (Phyllirea latifolia).
There is an interesting  presence of  nitrophilous and alonitrofile entities.
Near the Gornalunga and in areas near the coast  salicorne vegetation is more or less present.

These aspects are dominated, in the spring and in the summer by the presence of the European Salicorne (Salicornia europea).
On the contrary, on predominantly silty, clayey and less salty soils, the grass vegetation is quite common.
The Low Atriplex Halimus (Atriplex halimus) is also wide spread.
Bird observing is particularly interesting in this environment.
Among the most important presences are to mention:  the Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), the Gadwall (Anas strepera), the Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), the Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus) and the Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), and most recently, as a result of its reintroduction, the Sultan Chicken (Phorphyrio phorphyrio).
Such alerts also affect the presence of small mammals, reptiles and amphibians related to wet environments.

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The Dune Environment

It 's circumscribed by dune and dune-like aspects. These are mostly affected by reforestation with native species only in part.
The real dune environment, despite of human action, still mantains some aspects of psammophile vegetation, characterized by the presence of pioneer and  dunes growing species (Agropyron junceum, Ammophila littoralis, The Dune EnvironmentPancratium maritimum, Echinaphora spinosa). Of particular interest, on the purpose of environmental restoration, are the relics of vegetation behind the dunes that may evolve towards the formation of stain in Mastic (Pistacia lentiscus),  Phyllirea (Phyllirea angustifolia and latifolia) and wild olive (Olea europaea).Ginepro
Of particular importance was the presence, in the past,  of Juniperus macrocarpa . This type of vegetation  is undergoing an intervention of reintroduction. This environment is also populated  by  peculiar birds such as the Cory's Shearwater (Procellaria diomedea), the Sandwich Tern (Sterna paradisea), the Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) and the Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides).
There are also many sea-gulls: the Mediterranean Gull and Audoin’s Gull (Larus melancocephalus and Larus sudcunii).
A characteristic feature of the reserve is given by some insects (Coleoptera and Orthoptera ) living in dune areas, just like  the Brachytrupes Megacephalus, the Scarites Laevigatus and the Scarites Buparius.

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The Human Presence

Especially since the 50s,the wide range of human activities in the protected area, have largely transformed and reduced the original natural environment.
la GarzettaAt present, a very small part is left of the vast wetland behind the dunes referred to as Pantano di Catania, mainly as a result of the adjustment of the final course of the Simeto river.
Changes have occurred with the creation of a network of canals, which originally distributed rainwater (Channels Buttaceto, Jungetto, etc.), and now also discharge wastewater.
Even the past reforestation with the use of plant species not typical of the area such as eucalyptus and  pine tree etc., have changed the original natural environment. Only recently a conversion is in
progress with the use of native species.

But the human activity that still puts in serious trouble the protection and pursuit of institutional purpose of the reserve, is the presence of hundreds of illegal buildings, grouped into several villages, built since the 70s and located in the surroundings, or even at the limit of  the area reserve.

The resulting negative impacts are manifold: for example, just think that the lack of urban planning and the use of typological  inhomogeneous contructive criteria have caused , apart from the  excessive human pressure in the protective area, an excess of perpetual degradation.

High vulnerability of the environment under protection with severe alterations, is given by excessive water withdrawals throughout the course of the Simeto river.
Finally, it should be remembered that the agricultural activities, while in the past have transformed and reduced the width of original natural areas, on the other hand have certainly ensured the preservation of the countryside from land abandonment with consequent negative effects (fire, concrete, etc.).


Texts by the Office Nature Reserves, illustrations of Santo Pappalardo.

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Managing body

Città Metropolitana di Catania

II DIPARTIMENTO GESTIONE TECNICA
4° Servizio
Ambiente - Energia - Polizia Provinciale e Protezione Civile

UFFICIO GESTIONE RISERVE NATURALI
Via Nuovaluce, 67a
95030 - Tremestieri Etneo (CT)



pec: protocollo@pec.cittametropolitana.ct.it

e-mail: riserve.naturali@cittametropolitana.ct.it

Contacts

Direttore Riserve:
Dr. Agr. Gaetano Torrisi
Phone. 095 401.2485

Fruzione:
Istr. Amm. Sebastiano Fichera
Phone. 095 401.3625/2931
Istr. Amm. Francesca Giammona
Phone. 095 401.3145

Istruttoria Nullaosta/Autorizzazioni:
Istr. Dir. Antonino Casabianca
Phone. 095 401.2092/2970

Sorveglianza:
Ispettore Francesco Lo Tauro
Phone. 095 401.2046/2445