Ria Formosa

- Portugal -

Photo: © inonoyazy, Pixabay

Ria formosa, photo by inonoyazy, Pixabay
© inonoyazy, Pixabay


Ria Formosa was designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) under the Ramsar Convention on 24-11-1980.

More about the site

Coastal lagoon protected by barrier islands; tidal mudflats; channels; sand banks; dune systems; large areas of saltmarshes; great areas of sediments under tidal influences and exposed during low tide; subtidal and intertidal Zostera beds; Beaches.

The lagoon is an important nursery area for countless marine species; privileged areas for wintering and/or passage and nesting of migratory birds. Resident birds with protection status

On land maritime and stone pine tree forest with Mediterranean-type shrub undergrowth and agricultural land. Several villages (urban areas).

Sternula albifrons, Ichthyaetus audouinii, Platalea leucorodia, Charadrius alexandrinus, Himantopus himantopus, Recurvirostra avosetta, Porphyrio porphyrio, Ardea purpurea, Botaurus stellaris , Nycticorax nycticorax, Ciconia ciconia, Aythya niroca, Marmaronetta angustirostris, Oxyura leucocephala, Phoenicopterus roseus, Circus aeruginosus, Circus cyaneus, Elanus caeruleus, Pandion haliaetus, Falco naumanni, Fulica cristata, Porzana porzana, Burhinus oedicnemus, Glareola pratincola, Philomachus pugnax, Gelochelidon nilotica, Sterna caspia, Asio flammeus, Acrocephalus paludicola, 

Emys orbicularis, mauremys leprosa, Chamaleo chameleon, Alythes citernasii Discoglossus galganoi.

Rhinolophus ferrumequinum, Rhinolophus hipposideros, Rhinolophus mehelyi, Myotis blythii, Myotis myotis. Lutra Lutra

Hippocampus guttulatus, Hippocampus ramulosus, Alosa falax, Pagrus pagrus,

Armeria velutina, Linaria lamarckii, Limonium lanceolatum, Melilotus segetallis ssp.fallax, Scilla odorata, Thymus carnosus, Thymus lotocephalus, Tuberaria major e Ulexargenteus ssp. subcericeus. A

The natural park area has great fauna variety: a total of 393 species of vertebrates, of which 288 are birds, 99 fishes, 34 mammals, 19 reptiles, and 12 amphibians. Diversity of biotopes with the presence of 811 species and subspecies of vascular plants, 10 of which are European endemics, 28 Iberian endemic, and 4 Lusitanian endemism’s

Fishing; shellfish collecting (cockle, various species of clams, abrupt Wedge Shell); shellfish farming (clams and oysters); maritime transport; harbors; leisure/tourism and nature tourism activities; saltworks, agriculture; scientific activities / UALG – Algarve University of Algarve and other universities, IPMA – Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere. Field classes activities.

Cuisine (with fresh fish and shellfish); seafood festivals (Olhão e Faro); Culatra Island fest – religious procession by boat and on land), fishing village of Culatra; Roman city of Balsa and Roman Villa of Quinta de Marim – Roman archaeological sites; towers or fortresses – 16th century military architecture for coastal defence. Historic village of Cacela Velha.

Environmental Educational Centre of Marim is the main info-point for visitors; walking space for residents nearby; and classroom outdoor field classes. This centre has an interpretative nature trail and promotes several initiatives/events, sales of promotional materials, and is where the main headquarters of the Regional Directorate for Nature Conservation and Forests of the Algarve operates.

The two “living science centers” (in Tavira and in Faro) have exhibitions and activities to promote the recognition of the natural and cultural values of the Ria Formosa natural park

Walk of the Ria Formosa / walking event; Ria Formosa Expedition in Kayaks; Faro Aventura /nautical sports event; Week of Ria Formosa/ecological awareness event with the five council towns’ schools of the Ria Formosa territory/ Ria Formosa Bioblitz (in the Ria Formosa Natural Park-Environmental Education Centre of Marim)


Project Life Ilhas Barreira for restore grey dune habitats, protect breeding areas for bird (sternula albifrons and Ichthyaetus audouinii), protect marine birds (Puffinus mauretanicus), Invasive plants removal and seeding autochthone flora; project for the establishment of moorage areas; establishment of two sanctuary areas for sea horses and habitat restore (Zostera beds)

Maintaining dune habitats and their functions (natural erosion, rise of the sea and human disturbance); Reducing the physical damage caused by vessel groundings and disturbance of lagoon habitats and species (increase of tourism and leisure activities); illegal fishing (seahorses and sea cucumbers; maintaining the balance between nature conservation spaces and spaces for human activity (molluscs farms and leisure / tourism and other economic activities areas)

The last management plan was legally approved by Resolution of the Council of Ministers nº. 78/2009 (2 September).

The area is also classified under Natura 2000 network as a site of Community Importance, Ria Formosa /Castro Marim, PTCON0013 and a Special Protection Area – Ria Formosa, PTZPE0017 (with larger boundaries).


Latest update on Mars 2021

Ria formosa, Photo by Inna Yatsun on Unsplash
© Inna Yatsun on Unsplash