The World Heritage Site on the west coast of Corsica includes the coastal region around the Gulf of Porto including its underwater habitats as well as the islands of Elbo and Gargallo. The award was not only given for the beauty of the landscape and its importance as a protected area for endangered bird species such as the bearded vulture, but also for the cultural landscape characterized by traditional agriculture and grazing.
Scandola peninsula in Corsica: facts
|Official title:||Cape Girolata, Cape Porto, Scandola Nature Reserve and the Piana Calanques in Corsica|
|Natural monument:||World heritage area 118 km²; 420 km² marine reserve; Part of the 3,000 km² regional park of Corsica, including La Réserve Naturelle de Scandola with an area of 19.9 km²; since 1975 under protection with Cape Girolata and Cape Porto; two sectors of the reserve are the Scandola peninsula and the Elpa Nera bay, including the Cinto massif and the Fango valley, coasts with red-colored cliffs up to 900 m high and with sandy beaches|
|Location:||West coast of Corsica, in the municipalities of Osani, Ota, Partinello Piana, Serriera and Galleria|
|Meaning:||bizarre coastal landscape of volcanic origin|
|Flora and fauna:||On the cliffs there was the rare Armeria soleirolii, otherwise comparatively dense maquis with tree heather and holm oak as the predominant vegetation type, but also wolf milk and sea carnation plants as well as strawberry and rockrose; Bird species such as peregrine falcon, shag, common buzzard, osprey, pale and Alpine swift, blue roe, wren, kestrel and peregrine falcon, song thrush, robin, blackcap; Amphibians such as the common tree frog and Sardinian disc beater and mountain newt; 6 bat species such as bulldog bat and lesser horseshoe bat, but also gray long-eared bat; Marine fauna such as grouper, dentex, crocodile, Lusitan limpet, stone sea urchin and pen shell|
Rugged citadels of nature
Like an impregnable citadel of nature, gigantic, reddish shimmering mineral rock has guarded the rugged coast of the Scandola peninsula for around 250 million years. Raised from the sea during a volcanic eruption in the Permian Age, Scandola fascinates with strange rock shapes, the color of which ranges from ocher to beige. Outflow rocks such as rhyolite and porphyry have created needle-shaped columns and conical cliffs. Another peculiarity of the Corsican landscape are the blue-gray, but sometimes also white and yellowish colored algae reefs, popularly known as “sidewalks”, which extend up to a length of a hundred meters and whose growth lasted almost a millennium.
Until the 1930s, farm workers burned down forests in order to be able to grow vegetables and grain after the slash and burn. Today the maquis grows here: “Home of the Corsican shepherds and everyone who had fallen out with the judiciary”, Prosper Mérimée, the French writer and inspector for historical monuments, called this impenetrable vegetation in the 19th century.
According to estatelearning, Scandola is partly in the hands of private landowners who dreamed of a major tourism project in the early 1070s. However, their planned holiday homes failed due to the stubborn resistance of the majority of the locals, who were not very keen on building up the landscape.
All traces of human existence – simple huts and beaten paths – have long since disappeared under the scrub of the maquis since the peninsula was placed under nature protection in the 1970s. Together with the neighboring areas around Cape Girolata, it is now one of the best protected natural landscapes on the Mediterranean island.
If the majority of the protected area, which is divided into a land and a sea section, remains open for commercial use and visitors, a “Réserve intégrale” is set up in the center, in which nature is left to its own devices and for that only Scientists are allowed access. Meanwhile, marine biologists are researching here how the break affects the sea section of the closed nature reserve. Because the crystal clear water is hardly polluted by industry, the “Réserve intégrale” offers optimal conditions for Neptune grass, a sensitive species of seaweed to thrive, in whose underwater forests young fish find shelter and food.
During regular dives, defined areas are examined and the existing marine fish population is estimated. Wreck bass can be found here as well as tooth bream and red mullet. It is not allowed to fish in the core of the protection zone, so the animals can develop there largely undisturbed and form larger schools. Since the current also drives young fish into neighboring sea sections, it is ensured that the nets of the Corsican fishermen are always full despite the establishment of the core zone.
Encouraging successes in the conservation of flora and fauna have also been recorded on the mainland. Whereas the number of ospreys that build their nests on dizzyingly high cliffs had dwindled to a maximum of four pairs in the 1980s, today five times as many live in the protected area again. In the meantime, the stock of bearded vultures and peregrine falcons has also recovered noticeably.
Even with the strongest mistral wind, the mighty ospreys circle over the coast and keep an eye out for prey. Sometimes you can see them swooping down to pull a small red mullet out of the water to feed the hungry offspring. Even if the core zone of the nature reserve is very small, protecting it is increasingly causing problems: the number of boats passing through is increasing year after year. In order to limit the number of water sports enthusiasts who dare to venture into the coastal caves with their diving equipment, the cave entrances are secured with steel chains. Biologists have found that the air we breathe damages the fauna of the caves just like the motor oil that boaters dispose of by negligently dumping it overboard.