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Friuli Venezia Giulia - The Natural Environment

From a morphological point of view, Friuli-Venezia Giulia can be divided into two parts: a mountainous area to the north (Carnia) and a plain to the south. The mountainous area includes the southern side of the Carnic Alps (Mount Coglians, 2,780 m.) and the western section of the Julian Alps (Jf di Montasio, 2,754 m.). South of the long Tagliamento-Fella-Resia valley lie the Prealps of Friuli, transversely divided by the Tagliamento river into the Carnic and Julian Prealps.

To the south lies the low marly-arenaceous sub-alpine hills and then the wide Friuli plain, divided into high permeable level ground and a stony low impermeable plain separated by a line of springs. The coastline is low to the west, where the lagoons of Merano and Grado open, but highland craggy to the east, where the mountains of the `Triestino' Karst stetch steeply as far as the sea.

The chief river is the Tagliamento, into which flow the waters of the Fella; its last stretch marks the boundary with Venetia. The rivers that rise on the south side of the Prealps, the Livenza, Cellina, Meduna, Arzino, Torre, Natisone and the Iudrio, are smaller. Special mention must be made of the Isonzo and Timavo rivers, of which only the lower course belongs to this region.

There are considerable differences between the climate of the coastline where the sea has a marked influence and that of the inland mountainous areas. While average temperatures fall progressively from the sea towards the north, the precipitations increase up to a maximum of over 3,000 mm. in the prealpine zone, decreasing to lower values (1,500-1,600 mm. annually) in the Carnic and Julian Alps. Nearly everywhere the wettest months are in autumn and spring. The centre of Musi (635 m.) in the Julian Prealps is considered to be the wettest place in Italy, with 3,346 mm. per year. Another climatic feature is the Bora, a strong cold wind which often blows in winter across the eastern part of the Province from north-east.

Woods cover 22% of the region and are mainly in Carnia. Up to an approximate altitude of 500 m., there are chestnut and oak trees, followed by beech which, above 1,000 mm, is replaced by conifers, mainly Norway spruce. At roughly 800 m. a low bushy zone (rhododendrons, dwarf pines, junipers) separates the conifer belt from the high pastures. For the purpose of reforestation, large pine woods have been planted along the coast, as at Lignano Sabbiadoro and Belvedere. The flowers of this area are exceptionally beautiful and interesting.

Together with typical mountain flowers such as the edelweiss and rock rampion, distinctive indigenous species, such as lilium carniolicum and the attractive Wulfenia carinthiaca grow here. The Karst region is one of the most famous zones in Italy for surface and underground phenomena giving rise to the typical Karst topography (dolinas, pools, furrowed or rutted fields, caves, and the like), with many characteristic indigenous animals and plants. Another typical and almost unpolluted environment is that of the lagoons. The Marano and Grado lagoons, though separate from each other, form a fairly homogeneous stretch of water covering 16,000 hectares, for approximately 32 km. between the Isonzo river to the east and the Tagliamento river to the west. The principal wildlife consists of large flocks of aquatic birds, including mallard, garganey and coot.

Worthy of mention is the Parco Marino di Miramare, near the famous castle of the same name, stretching for approximately thirty hectares in an area particularly suited to marine plants and animal life, and also the barren magredi, on the high Friuli plain, very permeable rough alluvial land, bare except for thin grass providing, at the most, meagre grazing.

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