©Wikimedia Commons/GreyElfGT
Acropolis of Monte Circeo

Located in the coastal belt of southern Latium, the state-owned forest of Circeo is situated within the Circeo National Park, a larger protected area that safeguards high-diversity environments of naturalistic, hydrogeological and faunal interest. It comprises a plain forest located on a series of continental dunes, three coastal lakes, marshy areas and the calcareous massif of Mount Circeo (541 metres above sea level), as well as agriculture fields and pastures. The Circeo Biosphere Reserve partly overlaps the Circeo National Park and includes a Ramsar site.

The area is a popular destination for tourists due to its proximity to Rome. This results in pressure on the ecosystem affecting in particular coastal dunes. Another challenge facing biosphere reserve management is eutrophication and water pollution of coastal lakes caused by urban sewage and agricultural activities. The National Park provides environmental education activities and an ecomuseum presents key information for visitors.

Designation date: 1977
Administrative authorities: Circeo National Park Authority; Ministry of the Environment, Land and Sea Protection; Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Policies
Surface area (terrestrial and marine): 8,760 ha
Core area(s): 987 ha
Buffer area(s): 6,048 ha
Transition area(s): 1,725 ha

Longitude: 13°35’E
Midpoint: /

Ecological Characteristics

©Wikimedia Commons/Seghene
Pontine wetlands

The reserve is almost uninhabited and is characterized by dense forest cover (deciduous oak forest with Mediterranean species). It represents the only example of lowland forest dominated by deciduous oaks in Italy. It includes a coastal landscape with wide plain areas that were formerly characterized by the Pontine Wetlands and the large Terracina Forests, some of which still survive. Internal lagoons and retrodunal lakes are divided from the sea by recent sand dunes belt over an area of 25 km.

The main formation in the area forming the reserve is mesophilous oak forest, including small, periodically flooded depressions with hygrophilous vegetation. Artificially reforested patches are also present consisting of stone pine (Pinus pinea) and Eucalyptus.

Forty species of mammals have been reported including 14 types of bats and wild boar (Sus scrofa), over 280 species of birds (including migratory species), 16 species of reptiles, 8 species of amphibian, 50 species of fish and an unknown number of terrestrial, marine and freshwater invertebrates.

Socio-Economic Characteristics

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Tourism in Sabaudia

The core areas of the reserve are uninhabited, while 250 inhabitants populate the buffer zones rising to 3,000 inhabitants during the summer. The transition areas include the villages of Sabaudia and San Felice Circeo, which are inhabited by about 8,000 and 4,000 people, respectively.

Local economic activities focus on agriculture, cattle stocking and seasonal tourism activities (hotels, restaurants, shops, lidos, marinas). Tourism is the principal activity with about 2 million people visiting the reserve each summer.

In recent years numerous illegal activities have ceased and illegal buildings have been subject to demolition. For example, an illegal harbour on Paola’s Lake containing 1,000 boats was demolished.


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Last updated in May 2016

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