Stagno di Mistras

- Italy -

Photo: © Federico Pastore

© Alberto Cherchi


Stagno di Mistras was designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) under the Ramsar Convention on 03-05-1982.

More about the site

Mistras lagoon is a representative example of a wetland with low human impact and representative of the Mediterranean bio-geographic region. In the past it was connected to the nearby Cabras lagoon, but today is a separate water-body with one large connection to the sea. The mean depth is less than one meter. The wetland supports a good assemblage of rare, vulnerable and threatened species of waterfowl, other animals and plants. Today this lagoon is included in the Nature 2000 network as a Site of Community Interest ITB030034 “Stagno di Mistras” (92/43/EEC) and as a Special Protection Area ITB034006 “Stagno di Mistras” (2009/147/EC ex.79/409/CE). Furthermore, the lagoon is included in the Important Bird Area (IBA) 218 “Sinis and Oristano wetlands.

Mistras lagoon hosts 42 specjes listed in the Annex1 of Bird Directive 2009/147/CE (see section 3.3), six SPEC1 (Aythya ferina, Haematopus ostralegus, Limosa limosa, Numenius arquata, Streptopelia turtur,Vanellus vanellus), eight SPEC2 (Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmaresti, Delichon urbicum,Emberiza calandra, Lanius senator, Muscicapa striata, Saxicola rubetra, Serinus serinus, Tringa totanus) and 29 SPEC3. Furthermore, 10 species are included in Annex A of CITES Convention (Anas querquedula, Ardea alba, Circus aeruginosus, Circus cyaneus, Circus pygargus, Egretta garzetta, Falco columbarius, Grus grus, Pandion haliaetus, Tyto alba) and two in Appendix 1 of CMS Convention (Calidris canutus, Larus audouinii).


  1. a) Provisioning services: the Lagoon is especially known for its fishing activity. It is performed in a traditional way, with fishes harvested in wood cages and then collected. The fish are not fed with artificial manure, but they only eat lagoon herbs or small animals. The Lagoon of Mistras is included in the project MARISTANIS that involves the identification of the ES in the wetlands. The Lagoon of Mistras will be included in the TESSA project, delivered by BirdLife International to evaluate the monetary value of ES. 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 Contract.


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


  1. c) Supporting services: the Lagoon 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 nesting areas have been promoted by the municipality. The Lagoon of Mistras is included in the project MARISTANIS that includes the identification of the ES in the wetlands. The Lagoon of Mistras will be included in the TESSA project, delivered by BirdLife International to evaluate the monetary value of ES. Improving the supporting ecosystem services is one of the main reasons to adopt the Coastal Contract.


  1. d) Cultural services: the Lagoon is especially known for its birdwatching and ecotourism activity. Several people usually walk or cycle in the surrounding areas; kayak is one of the means used to travel across the Lagoons. Environmental educational activities are performed with schools from all the Sardinia region, and several archaeological sites are located along the Lagoon. The Lagoon of Mistras will be included in the TESSA project, delivered by BirdLife International to evaluate the monetary value of ES.


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

  • Tradition of Bottarga processing: dried mullet eggs used for food
  • The processing of the Mrecca: 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
  • Archaeological site of the ancient Phoenician city of Tharros

The Municipality of Cabras is carrying out different kinds of activities in order 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.

  1. a) Legal protection (implemented)


  1. b) Habitat:

– Hydrology management/restoration (proposed)

– Re-vegetation (proposed)

– Land conversion controls (implemented)


  1. c) Species:

– Control of invasive alien plants (partially implemented)

– Control of invasive alien animals (proposed)

– Threatened/rare species management programmes (partially implemented)


  1. 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 the six Ramsar areas of the Oristano Gulf are affected by different sources of pollution.


  1. 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).


  1. 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.


  1. 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 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.


  1. 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 


  1. 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.


  1. f) Driver: Invasive Alien Species

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

Type of pollution: point pollution



Main 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, it is currently subject to review and update.   

Latest update on November 2020

Laguna di Mistras, ©Federico Pastore
© Federico Pastore