Stagno di Cabras

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Photo: © Egidio Trainito

Stagno di Cabras


Stagno di Cabras was designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) under the Ramsar Convention on 28-03-1979.

More about the site

Cabras lagoon is one of the largest lagoons in Sardinia, with a water surface is 3,500 ha. Today and in the past it has played an important role for the local economy. It is a brackish lagoon connected to the sea by a man-made canal of 4 km. Around the main water body there are several temporary ponds that dry up completely during the summer. Cabras lagoon is one of the most important areas for the protection of threatened and endangered waterfowls in the western Mediterranean basin. The lagoon is listed asan SCI according to the Habitat Directive (92/43/EEC) and as an SPA according to the Bird Directive (2009/147/EC – ex 79/409/EEC). Furthermore, this lagoon is designated as Important Bird Area (IBA) 218 “Sinis and Oristano wetlands”.

Cabras lagoon hosts a large population of purple swamp hen (Porphyrio porphyrio), Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca), Audouinii’s gull (Larus audouinii), European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis) and Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni), all of which are endangered species at world level (IUCN 2006). The analysis of the Nature 2000 sheet reported the presence of 31 species of waterfowls included in the Annex 1 of the 2009/157/CE (ex 79/409/EEC), five SPEC1 (Aythya niroca, Aythya arina, Limosa limosa, Numenius arquata, Vanellus vanellus), three SPEC2 (Emberiza calandra, Lanius senator,Tringa totanus) and 23 SPEC3. Moreover, 14 Species are included in the Annex 1 of the CITES Convention (Anas querquedula, Ardea alba, Athene noctua, A. niroca, Bubulcus ibis, Buteo buteo, Circus aeruginosus, Circus cyaneus, Circus pygargus, Egretta garzetta, Falco tinnunculus, Pandion haliaetus, Platalea leucorodia, Tyto alba, Testudo hermanni, Testudo marginata) and one (A. niroca) in the CMs Convention.

a) Provisioning services: the Lagoon of Cabras is especially known for its fishing activity, which is performed in a traditional way, with fishes harvested in wooden cages and then collected. The fish are not fed with artificial manure, but they only eat lagoon herbs or small animals. The Lagoon of Cabras is included in the project MARISTANIS that includes the identification of the ES in the wetlands. Salicornia and other lagoon herbs are used in traditional and innovative cuisine. Around the lagoon, a well-developed agricultural sector produces artichoke and rice, with an increased diffusion of sustainable practices. Fishermen are among the most important actors in the participatory process for the Coastal Wetlands Contract.


b) Regulating services: the Lagoon of Cabras represents a Nature-based Solution for the mitigation of extreme events (flood protection, water purification, carbon storage; coastal erosion and sea storm protection, etc.). It is included in the project MARISTANIS that includes the identification of the ES in the wetlands. The role of Nature-based Solutions in the adaptation and mitigation of climate change consequences will be included in the Coastal Contract Action Plan.


c) Supporting services: the Lagoon of Cabras is especially known for its biodiversity: more than 100 bird species, including endangered species like Ospreys, live in the area. Activities to restore habitat and nested areas have been promoted by the municipality. The Lagoon is included in the project MARISTANIS that includes the identification of the ES in the wetlands. Improving the supporting ecosystem services is one of the main reasons to adopt the Coastal Wetlands Contract.


d) Cultural services: the Lagoon of Cabras is especially known for birdwatching and ecotourism activities. Several people usually walk or cycle in the surrounding areas; kayak is one of the means used to travel across the Lagoon. Environmental educational activities are performed with schools from all the Sardinia regions. Several archaeological sites are located along the Lagoon. The Lagoon of Cabras is included in the project MARISTANIS that includes the identification of the ES in the wetlands.


Traditional food and recipes are based on fishing and herbs from the Lagoon: especially boiled mullet conserve in herbs (sa merca) and dry mullet eggs (bottarga), which date back to Phoenician times. Cultural traditions are deeply influenced by the presence of the Lagoon and its existence value is highly recognised and one of the reason to promote an integrated management through the Coastal Contract.

The processing of the Mrecca: a dish based on mullet that is boiled and wrapped in a marsh grass called “zibba” or “salicornia”, after which it is dried and salted with an ancient and traditional process that allows the food to be kept for some days.

– The fishpond Sa Psichera ‘e Mar’e Pontis

– Launeddas: a wind musical instrument of ancient origins, played with the technique of circular breathing and built using the common reed (Arundo donax)

The Municipality is carrying out different kinds of activities mainly to inform and involve the population about the importance of wetlands through the dissemination of information materials, meetings and conferences open to the public, the organisation of World Wetland Day (once a year) and Coastal Day (once a year), birdwatching, educational classes with scholars in the wetland territories.

a) Legal protection (implemented)

b) Habitat:

– Hydrology management/restoration (proposed)

– Re-vegetation (proposed)

– Land conversion controls (implemented)

c) Species:

– Control of invasive alien plants (partially implemented)

– Control of invasive alien animals (proposed)

d) Human Activities:

– Management of water abstraction/takes (implemented)

– Regulation/management of waste (implemented)

– Fisheries management/regulation (partially implemented)

– Communication, education, and participation and awareness activities (implemented)

– Research (partially implemented)

Despite the high level of biodiversity, all six Ramsar areas of the Oristano Gulf are affected by different sources of pollution.


a) Driver: Agriculture

Pollution sources: nutrients and other chemical products used in crop growing

Type of pollution: non-point pollution

In the Oristano area, agriculture is mainly carried out with standard practices with a widespread use of nutrients, pesticides and herbicides, particularly in the field of rice growing and in vegetable production (i.e., artichokes). The problem does not only concern productive agriculture aimed at the regional and national market but also the so-called hobbyists, who practice family horticulture (a very popular activity in Sardinia).


b) Driver: Sheep Breeding

Pollution sources: manure from animals 

Type of pollution: point pollution

Sheep breeding is a traditional activity and very popular in Sardinia. Agropastoral activities also take place along the borders of the ponds. In some cases, SCI/SPA Management Plans and/or municipal ordinances do not allow it on pond borders, but these measures are often disregarded. Pollution from droppings along the banks is the main sheep breeding impact.


c) Driver: Unauthorised discharges from agriculture, breeding and agritourism

Pollution sources: nutrients and other chemical products from agriculture, washing waters from milking and other agri-food activities, septic tanks from rural houses, farms and agritourism

Type of pollution: point pollution

Despite a lack of data and information, Environment Agency experts, experts at the Agriculture Department for Technical Assistance, and local stakeholders have indicated leakages from illegal or unauthorised discharges or bad maintenance of septic tanks in rural housing, agricultural and agritourism sector. The main problem concerns small structures surrounding protected areas.


d) Driver: Illegal waste disposal or littering

Pollution sources: different sources of pollution are related to illegal disposal

Type of pollution: point pollution

Illegal littering is one of the main environmental issues in Sardinia. A few years ago, the Regional Government launched an awareness-raising campaign to discourage illegal disposal. Main and rural roads, rural areas, reeds are among the favourite habitats used by polluters. Wetlands are not recognised as protected areas by most citizens and are considered a suitable place to throw waste. Negative impacts on environment and waters depend on the type of waste:

– Plastic waste could be eaten by fishes and affect the quality of the fishery in lagoons and ponds

– Food waste could be quickly degraded, producing leachate that could pollute water and soil

– Batteries and other tools could leak pollutant substances that could pollute water

– Materials with asbestos could be really dangerous for ecosystem and human and animal health 


e) Driver: human disturbances due to uncontrolled recreational activities

Pollution sources: noise, harvesting endangered species, accidental death of birds (eggs) and other animal, straying of dogs and cats and other sources of pollution that could affect bird nesting areas and other ecological communities; soil and water pollution

Type of pollution: point pollution

Uncontrolled human presence could produce noise, littering and other disturbances and pollution. Human presence and recreational activities are not regulated in the Oristano Ramsar areas.


f) Driver: Invasive Alien Species

Pollution sources: conflict with native species, problems with habitats that could alter wetland conditions

Type of pollution: point pollution



a) Driver: wastewater treatments


Pollution sources: old plants or undersized plants that flow into Rio Mar’e Foghe

Type of pollution: point pollution


Description of the problem: Water District Management Plan and studies of University of Cagliari experts indicated that wastewater treatment plants that flow into Stagno di Cabras create some pollution of the water. 


Proposed solutions: Maristanis project can support Regional Water authorities and the water utility with a lobbying activity or by providing technical assistance for future EU-funded projects addressed to reducing water pollution or improving wastewater treatment plants. 


b) Driver: abandoned landfills

Pollution sources: pollutants from unreclaimed former landfills could damage the environment with leakages, effluents, noxious powders. In that case, collected information concerns an asbestos authorised landfill, now closed.

Type of pollution: point pollution


Description of the problem: Rain and wind could move leakages, effluents and noxious powders from the closed landfill to wetlands.


Proposed solutions: Maristanis project can only support authorities in charge with a lobbying activity or by providing technical assistance for future EU-funded projects addressed to reducing waste disposal pollution on water and wetland ecosystems. 


c) Driver: aquaculture

Pollution sources: traditional aquaculture activities have a reduced impact compared to industrialised aquaculture.

Type of pollution: point pollution


Description of the problem: the high number of fishes harvested in cages have an impact on water pollution

Yes. The Management Plan is currently subject to review and update.

Latest update on November 2020

© Vania Statzu