Selmun: a coastal limestone landscape enriched by scenic landforms, conservation status and religious significance

Sephora Sammut, Ritienne Gauci, Robert Inkpen, Jessica Jade Lewis, Andy Gibson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The geomorphological character of Selmun is primarily defined by the tectonic structure, geological outcrops and the supply of sediments to the coastal zone. The geomorphology becomes remarkably varied within hundreds of metres and displays diverse inland and coastal landforms. Contrasting topography—with high plateaux and valleys—offers an outstanding scenery with various strategic viewpoints such as islets, rocky headlands, narrow bays, pocket beaches, shore platforms, ‘rdum’ (scree slopes), valleys and subsidence structures. Located on the north-eastern part of Malta, Selmun also offers shelter to a variety of protected endemic habitats from coastal vegetated sea cliffs to Holm Oak woodlands, through the provision of three Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). Against this natural backdrop, this rural site also represents a long history of anthropogenic land uses which aimed to maximise the possibilities offered by the diverse landforms such as historical military defence at strategic heights and viewpoints to guard numerous embayments, agricultural terracing on fertile sloping hills and valleys, and salt harvesting on shore platforms. With the presence of St Paul’s Islands, this area is also mentioned in an important biblical narrative which is related to the early conversion of the Maltese to Christianity. Selmun can thus be truly considered as a representative niche of diversity in the Maltese rural geomorphological landscape and demonstrates how both the land use and history unfold through the opportunities offered by such a natural landscape.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLandscapes and Landforms of the Maltese Islands
EditorsR. Gauci, J. Schembri
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-15456-1
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-15454-7
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2019

Publication series

NameWorld Geomorphological Landscapes
ISSN (Print)2213-2090
ISSN (Electronic)2213-2104


  • Christianity
  • coast
  • military land use
  • plateaux
  • special areas of conservation
  • valleys


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