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The Venetian Lagoon

The Venetian Lagoon is the enclosed bay of the Adriatic Seamarker in which the city of Venicemarker is situated. Its name in the Venetian language, Laguna Veneta— cognate of Latin lacus, "lake"— has provided the international name for an enclosed, shallow embayment of saltwater, a lagoon.

The Venetian Lagoon stretches from the River Sile in the north to the Brenta in the south, with a surface area of around 550 km². It is around 8% land, including Venice itself and many smaller islands. About 11% is permanently covered by open water, or canal, as the network of dredged channels are called, while around 80% consists of mud flats, tidal shallows and salt marshes. The lagoon is the largest wetland in the Mediterranean Basin.

It is connected to the Adriatic Seamarker by three inlets: the Lidomarker, Malamocco and Chioggiamarker inlets. Sited at the end of a largely enclosed sea, the lagoon is subject to high variations in water level, the most extreme being the spring tides known as the acqua alta (Italian for "high waters"), which regularly flood much of Venice.

The Lagoon of Venice is the most important survivor of a system of estuarine lagoons that in Roman times extended from Ravennamarker north to Triestemarker. In the sixth century, the Lagoon gave security to Romanised people fleeing invaders (mostly the Huns). Later, it provided naturally protected conditions for the growth of the Venetian Republicmarker and its maritime empire. It still provides a base for a seaport, the Venetian Arsenalmarker and for fishing, as well as a limited amount of hunting and the newer industry of fish farming.
The Lagoon was formed about six to seven thousand years ago, when the marine transgression following the Ice Age flooded the upper Adriatic coastal plain. Deposition of river sediments compensated for the sinking coastal plain, and coastwise drift from the mouth of the Pomarker tended to close tidal inlets with sand bars.

The present aspect of the Lagoon is due to human intervention. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Venetian hydraulic projects to prevent the lagoon from turning into a marsh reversed the natural evolution of the Lagoon. Pumping of aquifers since the nineteenth century has increased subsidence. Originally many of the Lagoon’s islands were marshy, but a gradual programme of drainage rendered them habitable. Many of the smaller islands are entirely artificial, while some areas around the seaport of the Mestremarker are also reclaimed islands. The remaining islands are essentially dunes, including those of the coastal strip (Lidomarker, Pellestrinamarker and Treporti).

The Venetian Lagoon Islands
The largest islands or archipelagos by area, excluding coastal reclaimed land and the coastal barrier beaches:

Other inhabited islands include:

See also


  1. Poggioli, Sylvia (January 7, 2008). "MOSE Project Aims to Part Venice Floods". Morning Edition, radio program.
  2. This geological history follows Brambati et al. 2003 (references).

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