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Veneto - The Natural Environment

The morphology of Venetian territory presents a variety of aspects which of its kind is unique; it is characterized by seven physically homogeneous zones which stretch from north to south: the Alpine, Prealpine and Subalpine zones; the upper and the lower plain; the lagoon systems and the Po delta. Part of Lake Garda also belongs to this territory. To the north lie the Carnic Alps, which reach their highest altitudes at the Vanscuro peak (2,678 m.) and Mount Peralba (2,693 m.).

The Monte Croce of Comelico Pass divides the Carnic Alps from the eastern Dolomites, which include peaks over three thousand metres: Marmolada (3,342 m.), Antelao (3,263 m.), the Tofane (3,243 m.), Civetta (3,218 m.), Cristallo (3,216 m.).

The Venetian Prealps, farther to the south, consist of mountain groups and plateaux. From east to west, stretch the Cavallo-Col Nudo chain, the Cansiglio plain, the Prealps of Belluno, Mount Grappa, the Asiago plateau, the Pasubio, the Lessini mountains and the Mount Baldo range. Karst phenomena are present in Cansiglio (dolinas) and in the Lessini mountains (the `Spluga della Preta' ravine, 889 m., is the deepest in Italy). The subalpine zone includes the Conegliano hills, Montello, the Asolo hills and the morainic hills of Lake Garda.

Like Piedmont and Lombardy, Venetia also has an upper plain, characterized by the permeability of the ground, and a lower plain, with impermeable soil, just below some springs. Two rivers of a certain importance are fed by sources (springs) on the plain: these are the Sile and the Bacchiglione. Water is plentiful and there are considerable irrigation systems in the intensively cultivated lower plain, sloping uniformly towards the Adriatic, interrupted only by two reliefs, the Berici mountains (444 m.) and the Euganean hills (602 m.), of volcanic origin.

Of the ancient lagoon system which, until last century, was far more articulated before land reclamation, there are still two small lagoons, Biblione and Caorle, and the wide Venetian Lagoon. The natural conformation of the latter was created by the Republic of Venice which controlled the outflow of the following rivers: the Piave, Sile, Dese, Marzenago, Brenta and Adige. The Po Delta begins in the vicinity of Papozze, where the river branches off as the Levante, Maistra, Pila, and Gnoccas, in a picturesque landscape where reclaimed valleys alternate with dead lagoons, marshes, little islands and cane-brakes: this is an ideal habitat for the numerous species of avifauna present. Apart from the Po other important rivers are the Piave (completely Venetian), the Brenta, Adige, Livenza and Tagliamento. The lakes, except for Lake Garda, all small and often artificial are: Santa Caterina, Pieve di Cadore, Pontesei, Misurina.

The variations in climate are influenced, by the particular morphology. Continental on the plains, the climate is milder along the Adriatic coast, round Lake Garda and in the open hilly areas. The winter is harsh everywhere, due to northeasterly winds. Precipitation is scarce (750 m. annually) on the lower plain, more abundant (750-1,000 m.) on the upper plain; the highest values (1,500 mm.) are recorded in the Bellunese Prealps and on the Asiago plateau.

Woods of alders, poplars, willows and elms are found in the vicinity of San Don di Piave, Cessalto and in some parts between Conegliano and Oderzo. Around the lagoons, other than the vegetation typical of humid zones, survive the black pine, the maritime pine and the evergreen oak. The flora of Lake Garda is decidedly mediterranean. The alpine zones are characterized by oak trees, chestnuts and broadleafed trees (up to 1,100 m.), beeches and conifers (up to 2,200 m., rhododendron and dwarf pines (over 2,200 m.). The protected areas are numerous; the Parco delle Dolomiti Bellunesi and the Po Delta park will shortly be established.

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