The Adriatic Sea

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The Bay of Kotor, a coastal inlet in the southern Adriatic Sea.

5. Description

The 91,000-square-mile Adriatic Sea is bounded by the Ionian Sea, Balkan Peninsula, and the Italian Peninsula. Its body of water encompasses about 1,300 small and big islands dotting the Croatian coast. Slovenia, Italy, Montenegro, Albania, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina all have coasts on the Adriatic Sea. The Adriatic Sea runs parallel to the Tyrrhenian Sea on the opposite side of Italy's coastline. It spans 500 miles in length and 120 miles in girth. It covers a surface area of about 53,500 square miles. Its average depth is 828 feet while its deepest parts go down to 4,045 feet. The Strait of Otranto connects the Adriatic to the Mediterranean Sea.

4. Historical Role

The earliest discovered settlements along the Adriatic coast happened between 6100 BC and 5900 BC. The ancient Etruscans developed their civilization along its western coast while the Illyrians inhabited the eastern coast of the Adriatic. The 6th and 7th centuries saw the rise of two ancient cities along its coasts namely: Apollonia and Epidamnos. Later the Greeks continued further north to establish more cities. The Punic Wars saw the building of a major Roman naval base in 246 BC in the area. The Illyrian Wars followed with the defeat of the pirates and the establishment of the Adriatic's eastern shore as a Roman province. The ports on its shores became important during the Roman period. After the Roman decline, the area was ruled by successive European peoples.

3. Modern Significance

The Adriatic Sea is of great value to the many countries that share its coastline. The sea has been a significant resource for the development of Mediterranean Europe since ages. Various Balkan and Italian research institutes have carried out scientific studies of the Adriatic and its waters. The rich marine biodiversity and marine reserves in the Adriatic heighten the importance of the area. The Adriatic still serves as an important waterway for the many commercial cargo and passenger ships that use the many ports along its coasts. Large industrial cities also thrive along its coastlines that offer job opportunities to thousands of people.

2. Habitat and Biodiversity

The Adriatic Sea harbors a great biodiversity of plants and animals. Most are endemic or indigenous to the area. The aquatic ecosystem of the Adriatic houses 535 species of endemic algae including red, green and brown algae. Fauna in its waters include the commonly seen bottlenose dolphin and some cetaceans. Marine mammals such as sperm whales and fin whales are regular migrants to these waters. Manta rays and basking sharks also make a journey to the Adriatic. Endangered sea turtles and monk seals also seek refuge in the Adriatic waters. The establishment of several marine protected areas has promoted the Adriatic Sea as a safe refuge for its endemic species.

1. Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes

Wastewater and run-offs from agricultural lands are two of the most serious threats to the ecosystem of the Adriatic Sea. Ballast discharge from ships also pollutes its waters. Plastic and trash dumped in the sea waters harm the marine life that comes into contact with it. The World Bank has assisted in addressing the pollution issues in the Adriatic Sea. Territorial disputes regarding maritime boundaries have occasionally risen among countries like Croatia and Slovenia with coastlines along the Adriatic Sea.

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