GEOLOGY & FORMATION
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Sicily sits right on the subduction zone between the Euroasian and African tectonic plate, which runs right through the island. The area is highly active and volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are common.
Over time, sedimentation processes alternated with phases of orogenesis and volcanic activity, segmenting the island into three major landscape zones:
- the Northern fold mountain range of the Peloritani, Nebrodi and Madonie Mountains
- The hilly center formed by elevated sea sediments and evaporites like salt and sulphur
- The limestone area around the Monte Iblei in the Southeast is one of the oldest parts of Sicily formed by continuous eruption of a submarine volcano up until 2 Mio years ago, accumulating in the 986m high Monte Lauro.
Mount Etna is much younger as its earliest activity began only around 100,000 years ago. An ancient shield volcano sits on its base and the strato-volcano was built on top of it, accumulating layers of lava escaping through faults caused by ongoing pressure applied by the two plates.
The Aeolian Islands off the Northeastern coast of Sicily have been entirely formed by volcanic activity. Vulcano and Stromboli are still active today. From a geological point of view, the islands are very young as they only rose from the sea around one million years ago. The formation is directly related to the tectonic activity of the plates as the Ionian block of the African plate subducts beneath Calabria, folding the Calabrian Apennines and forming the Aeolian islands by melting rock into magma, which then accumulates at the top.
With around 3,000 species of plants, Sicily has the highest biodiversity in the Mediterranean region. The unique local climatic and geological conditions and the long human influence turned Sicily into a melting pot of plant species with favorable conditions for plants from different regions. You will find tropical papyrus as well as alpine vegetation.
You will find a wide range of herbs in the mountainous areas, including thyme, rosemary or oregano. Even though big parts of the once dense forests have been removed, cork oaks, oleanders or carob trees are still common sights. The largest forests left are to be found in the Nebrodi, Madonie and Peloritani mountains and on the slopes of Mount Etna. Other local fauna includes the agave, palm, plane trees, ficus, cedar, mulberry and eucalyptus. Parks and reserves have been created to protect these last vestiges of forest.
The slopes of Mount Etna are the most fertile region and the volcanic soil has allowed for the cultivation of numerous products such as olives, grapes, citrus fruits, peaches, cherries, pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, chestnuts and pines.
Climate, environment and other man made changes have affected native wildlife. Animals that have disappeared from the island include birds of prey and large animals such as wolf and deer. However there are still populations of hedgehogs, rabbits, squirrels, beavers, foxes, wild cats and wild boar and birds like the falcon, pilgrim hawk, wind-hover, kite, eagle, rock partridge and imperial crow. Migratory birds still use Sicily as a pit stop and over
the season it is possible to spot common waders, pink seagulls, sea swallows and spoonbills. You can also find insects and invertebrates here such as the spotted grass snake, a rather large toad and varieties of frog and gecko. Freshwater fish have all but disappeared apart from eels. Sea waters are rich in blue-fin tuna, swordfish, snappers, barracudas or bluefish.
Geology & Nature