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Giara di Gesturi is a spectacular and vast 45 square kilometer plateau (12 km long and 4 km wide) and a nature reserve of ancient cork forests and shrubs that stands at an average altitude of 500 m. It is particularly well-known for its famous small horses (Europe’s last wild horses), but also for its notable archaeological sites.
Man has inhabited the area since Neolithic times. The many archaeological sites witness to this. The domus de janas date from this era. Many nuraghes (23) are the proof the profound exploitation of the natural environment by man here; located along the plateau limits (perimeter) nuraghes form a territorial control system of defence fortresses at each entry. Among them the protonuragic village of “Bruncu Madagui” dated back to 1820 A.C. and considered the ancestor of all nuragic constructions. Also dating from the Nuraghic period are the tombs of giants and the magnificent bronze statuette of Sardus Pater, a Sardinian divinity.

Giara in the Sardinian language means plateau, probably originated from the ancient Sardinian language.
The Giara is the result of volcanic activity: the ancient lava (once cooled in basalt) formed a protective barrier for the underlying marly rock. With the passing of time, the surrounding marly rock (not protected by the hard basaltic blanket) was eroded away over the millennia, leaving the basaltic top of the plateau rising 500m above the surrounding countryside like a fortress.

The soil on the Giara was formed by the deterioration of the lava rock. It is quite good for pasture, but (because the top soil is very thin) it is not suitable for cultivation.
The only relieves on the Giara are two volcanic craters which can still be easily seen: sa Zepparedda which is 609 meters high with a crater opening that is still visible and sa Zeppara Manna 580 meters high which is shaped like a volcanic cone.
From this hill is clearly visible a system of marshes (ponds) called Paulis: they are quite large deep depressions where both rain and water from springs collect, but few of them have water supplies all year round. Across the Giara are found some 30 Paulis; they have a notable influence on the landscape contributing to the outstanding scenery of the Giara: immersed in the greenery of the surrounding prairie, in springtime they are completely covered by flowers until July (Ranunculus aquatilis and Baldellia ranunculoides).
The waters of these ponds host a living fossile: a tiny crustacean unique in Europe, which (unchanged since 200 million years) still survives in this area. Herds can often be seen near this paulis.

Giara’s natural environment is unique and includes an interesting fauna and flora.
In Giara can be found rare and fascinating species protected from hunting activities (like the Sardinian wild cat, the marten, the Sardinian fox, the Sardinian wild boar and several species of birds) as well as domestic cows, pigs, goats and sheep.
A good range of bird species can be seen on the plateau with raptors such as Common Kestrel, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard particularly common and Northern Goshawk is also present. Little Bustard: 45 cm long with a 90 cm wingspan. Brown above and white below, with a grey head and a black neck bordered above and below by white. Female is marked darker below than the male. Immature bustards resemble females) was once a breeder here and may still do so in small numbers.
Barbary Partridge and Calandra Lark find ideal habitat amongst the rocks and the scrub has the usual Sylvia warblers such as Marmora's Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Subalpine Warbler and Sardinian Warbler.
The endemic Sardinian races of Great Spotted Woodpecker and Common Jay are common. Additional passerines include Wood Lark, Woodchat Shrike, European Stonechat and Cirl Bunting with Spotless Starling in the villages at the foot of the plateau.
During passage periods the area attracts migrant waders and herons and raptors including Red Kite and Hen Harrier.
The flora consists of about 350 species, more than 50% of the flora are Mediterranean in the origin while a large percentage are European-Asian in origin.
Almost half of the surface area of the Giara is covered by woods. The thin top soil and the Mistral winds prevent the trees from reaching full height and form trunks and branches into strange twisted shapes. Whilst a cork wood covers a large part of the plateau, the Quercus ilex wood covers smaller areas on the sides of the plateau.
By Mediterranean plants we mean the evergreen shrubs which are typical of the Mediterranean area, where the winters are mild and the summers are characterized by little or no rain.
Giara of Gesturi is home to both tall and low shrub. Tall shrub (from 2 to 4 meters, like arbutus) grows in the cooler areas and it is used as goat pasture and as a source of wood.
Low shrub is 2 meter high maximum, like cistus and lentisk trees. These plants colonize the land after fires and the areas around the pastures. Cystus is probably the most common among the shrubs of the Sardinian vegetation. Its white flowers fill the hills in spring.
The most evident grassland consists of asphodel bushes, one of the first flowers to bloom after the winter pause. It alternates with the water buttercup covered marshes. Both of them bloom in spring and produce a marvellous soft white blanket effect.

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