Site details

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4 stars - Protection pending but not yet approved by national legislation
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Otranto, a view of the coast. Photo: P Bolognini

Synoptic description of site:

Otranto is characterized by a unique position between the South Adriatic and the Ionian Sea. The area is characterized by a high rocky coast.

Extensive description of site:

The coast comprises about 60 km of steep rocky shores, long stretches of which are completely pristine. The currents of the strait of Otranto provide a rich nutrient input, so that the hard sessile benthos is particularly rich, with formations that have no comparison in temperate areas.

Habitats present:
Littoral XX
Seagrass bedsX

Description of fauna and flora:

The fauna and flora are well documented, and have been researched for fifteen years. The coast is listed in a law that identifies locations for the institution of Marine Protected Areas.

Pristiness: High


It is a totally pristine habitat, with respect to both anthropogenic and natural stresses. It is already selected for the future institution of a Marine Protected Area.

Human impact:

The area is not subjected to evident sources of pollution. The few existing villages are small and traditional, with almost no sign of the illegal buildings. Trawlers on soft bottoms operate three miles away from the coast. Artisanal fishing by trammel-net, long-lines and lobster traps also occurs.


The Marine Biology and Zoology Laboratory of the University of Lecce offers all kind of facilities: a diving centre, a research boat, fully equipped laboratories, and dormatories available for visiting researchers.

Available database and website:

A CD-ROM created to facilitate an underwater visual census has pictures and descriptions of the species of the Porto Cesareo area. A detailed list for hydroids, polychaetes, fishes and molluscs is available.


Commitment and ongoing research:

The Laboratory of Zoology of Lecce University undertakes biodiversity-related research in this area. The coast has also been studied during a two-years EU funded INTERREG project aimed at identifying pristine areas for the institution of Marine Protected Areas in the Salento Peninsula, highlighting the high environmental quality of this coast and the pattern of distribution of benthic organisms and fish.