The important role of Mediterranean salinas

“Salt is born to the purest of parents… the sun and the sea”:  with this quote, Katia Huesso Kortekaas* opened her speech on “Saltscapes, meanings and feelings: and inner journey into salt”, during the side event on culture and wetlands, during COP11 in Buchurest, Romania. She also mentioned that Pliny the Elder, quoted that “according to Hercules, human life is not bearable without salt”, and that Aristotle was stating that “it is not possible for people to know each other if they have not consumed together the salt”. Throughout history, salt has been a significant product, one that helped shape history, towns, highways and trade routes. It also inspired philosophy and religion, fashioned eating and living habits, and influenced language and vocabulary in almost all languages.

Salt extraction, a traditional practice in the Mediterranean for thousands of years, has transformed coastal wetland landscapes. Hypersaline ecosystems of Salinas provide an ideal habitat for many wetland species of flora and fauna. Furthermore, the salinas’ installations usually allow limited access to humans, so a number of species that nest or feed on them are well protected from human threats. Therefore, artisanal salt extraction is a practice that is mutually beneficial for both humans and nature.

When it comes to the conservation and wise use of wetlands, the role salinas play is multi-functional and fundamental: they support biodiversity, they serve as a source of inspiration for creativity, they are excellent sites for educational and cultural activities, they attract specialised tourism and they are the source of high quality products used in gastronomy, health and cosmetic industries, as well as in biotechnological businesses.  They contribute to the generation of new jobs, while at the same time they meaningfully engage local stakeholders and build stronger links with wetlands, strengthening the values of the sites.

*Katia Hueso is the President of the Institute of Salt Heritage and Saltscapes (formerly Association of Friends of Inland Salinas),  a private independent organisation dedicated  to the protection, research, conservation and wise use of the natural and cultural values of saltscapes around the world.


Source: Cultural aspects of Mediterranean wetlands by Katia Hueso and Theodora Petanidou

Photo: Salt pans under the castle of Castro Marim, Portugal by Emilia Paula Silva