The Venetian Lagoon is the largest wetland in Italy, covering 55,000 hectares, which with the lagoons of Grado and Marano, is the last reminder of the great strip of lagoon and delta that once stretched from the mouths of the Timavo to Ravenna.

It has highly original features as regards both flora and fauna, with
environments forged by the action of the tides and sea currents, contrasting the
action of the rivers that flowed into the sea there, but also modified by the
continuous work of man who has built and dug canals, embankments and homes.
The result is an ecosystem with expanses of water with different degrees of
salinity, which conditions the presence of the different animal and plant
species, temporarily emerging land (salt marshes and mud flats), different
microclimates. Man has been the decisive factor in the process which inverted
the natural tendency of the lagoon to become silted up, using it as a natural
barrier to defend himself against enemies arriving from the sea and as a source
of wealth, with its harbours and its inhabited and farmed islands.

Coastal lagoons are shore children. They come into being when the sands
carried to the sea by rivers, owing to currents and backwash, heap up
in lines parallel to the coast, trapping portions of sea which actually
become lagoons. As it happens with rivers in the plain, the natural canals in lagoons
have winding, meandering courses. Straight courses and geometrical
shapes always show artificial work, alien to spontaneous dynamisms and
environmental balances. The rivers which flow into lagoons tend to
quickly fill them with the sediments they carry; at the same time their
fresh water stream, let into the lagoon, digs courses in direction of
the sea, producing typical lagoon canals. The Canal Grande is nothing
but an old lagoon portion of the river Brenta. Lagoon canals do not
only have fluvial origins. Sea water, getting into the lagoon through
the mouths during high tides, creates a current which digs wide and
branched canals from the sea towards the land. This sea current flows
along canals and penetrates also into very internal lagoon portions,
carrying water masses which later, with the ebbing tide, follow the
opposite course. The incoming and outgoing water movements grant a high
turnover to wide lagoon areas.

Paesaggio lagunareBoth fluvial and sea waters carry sediments, which tend to spread and
settle onto the shallows along the canals. This way shoals come into
being, which in the Venetian Lagoon are called velme. The velme are regularly above water during low tides. When other
sediments, by settling, increase their height above the average sea
level, these velme get covered with some typical vegetation and turn
into barene.
The typical embroidery of the lagoon shapes is the joint issue of the
lines engraved by the currents and the marks drawn by the settling of
sediments. The dynamic balance between erosions and natural
sedimentation represents the main factor from which the look and the
functionality of the lagoon surfaces derive.

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