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7. On the Salt Marshes



Admission fee
Free of charge

Reservation is required at info@ocean-space.org


17:30 meeting at Piazzale Roma | 18:00 meeting at Passo Campalto, in front of "Trattoria Al Passo".



Lagoon Micro-ecologies, is the title of the second series of itinerant conversations “Venice as a Model for the Future?” curated by Barbara Casavecchia and Pietro Consolandi for TBA21−Academy and Ocean Space.

This new chapter moves beyond the urban boundaries of the city of Venice towards the islands of its lagoon. The participants direct their steps and gazes to the land and the seascapes created by the interaction between various species, not only human, that inhabit them: from coastal sand to garden soil, from salt marshes, a thriving home to wild plants and birds, to seabeds populated by tiny fish and molluscs.

In inviting us to rethink landscapes as “assemblages” of coexisting life forms, requiring “habits of noticing”, scholar and anthropologist Anna Tsing reminds us that they are “open-ended gatherings. They allow us to ask about communal effects without assuming them. They show us the potential histories in the making.”*


Arriving at Marco Polo airport, one flies over the salt marshes, the breathtaking views of which can also be enjoyed by passengers with starboard window-seats when taking off. These are rare scenes that can in fact be viewed even from lower altitudes, such as from the bell tower of Torcello, and even from the banks that surround some of the salt marshes, where it is possible to see a panorama that emerges form the water, fed by a network of sinuous canals. This is the most peculiar aspect of the Campalto salt marshes: the fact that they can be reached from the ground, along an embankment that overhangs them, making it possible to examine the morphology and vegetation, and, by getting up close to observe the terrain in detail, the small canals (the “ghebi”) and the peculiar vegetation that has adapted to a saline environment.

The Campalto salt marshes have a unique history, and they developed in areas that were once dry land which then became part of the lagoon after the Osellino canal was built, and the subsequent lowering to the current level. On the other hand, beyond the airport, the sandbanks of the Dese, which can be observed during take-off, represent the only extended survival of the original natural habitat of the original lagoon, today threatened by a project for a "transport hub" that would compromise this exceptional and irreplaceable treasure.

The natural salt marshes are "intertidal" environments, whose terrain is subject to alternating submersion and emersion as a result of normal tidal flows. In well-preserved salt marshes, the tide initially spreads along the sinuous branches of the canals, becoming more and more subtle as far as the minor “ghebi” and the small internal water basins (the “chiari”), providing the vital functions of the lagoon. There is a clear morphological and functional analogy to be made with the biological structure of the lungs, from the trachea to the bronchi and their branches, up to the capillaries and the pulmonary alveoli, or with the branching out of the vascular system that delivers oxygen to bodily tissues. This is a functional analogy because these structures, due to geomorphological and biological evolution, correspond to the maximum interchange between fluids and between elements carried by them, the maximum dissipative capacity of the currents, the maximum filtering action, the maximum capture of nutrients, sediments and debris, the maximum resistance protected by the sandbanks and by the vegetation. In short, maximum hydraulic and ecosystem efficiency and maximum self-preserving capacity. The natural salt marshes can be considered real vital organs in a lagoon which today is under attack to the point of having largely lost the nature and identity to which Venice itself is inextricably linked.

Since the 1970s, the special laws for Venice have required that the lagoon is rebalanced along with its self-preserving capabilities, and the factors upon which these depend. Instead, the lagoon has been further attacked for decades, filled with embankments of convenience, defined as “artificial salt marshes”, functional in terms of location and form for those who built them, but which have ignored the characteristics, location and functionality of natural salt marshes. As many already know, the opportunity to pursue this goal, rebalancing the lagoon and restoring its functions and its morphology, has been wasted.

PHOTO: A view of the Campalto salt marshes, courtesy of Barena Bianca


5:30pm meeting in Piazzale Roma (Calatrava Bridge), departure of bus 5 at 5:42pm (Sabbadino Passo Campalto stop)

6:00pm meeting at Passo Campalto, in front of the "Trattoria Al Passo" and departure of the walk along the sandbanks.

Participation is free, please make a reservation at info@ocean-space.org. Limited places available.

We remind you that transport via bus is at the expense of participants.


Lorenzo Bonometto is a naturalist with particular experience in lagoon morphology and ecology. He is the founder and former director of the Naturalistic Environmental Education Center of the Municipality of Venice (at the Natural History Museum), an expert in naturalistic lagoon and coastal planning (actingas a consultant of the Ministry of the Environment and professor at the IUAV University of Venice), and a founding member and long-time president of the Venetian.


"Microecologie lagunari" è parte del programma di studio di TBA21–Academy The Current III: The Mediterraneans: “Thus waves come in pairs” (after Etel Adnan) guidato da Barbara Casavecchia.

The Current III è un programma transdisciplinare di percezione, ascolto, pensiero e apprendimento che supporta progetti, pedagogie collettive e voci lungo le sponde del Mediterraneo attraverso i campi dell'arte, della cultura, della scienza e dell’attivismo.

*Anna Tsing, When The Things We Study Respond to Each Other, in: More-than-Human, a cura di Andrés Jaque, Marina Otero Verzier, Lucia Pietroiusti, e Lisa Mazza, co-pubblicato da Het Nieuwe Instituut, Office for Political Innovation, General Ecology Project at the Serpentine Galleries e Manifesta Foundation, 2020.