Stagno di Pauli Maiori

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Photo: © MEDSEA

1 Stagno di Pauli Maiori


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

More about the site

Pauli Maiori is a natural wetland with a well and wide reedbeds around the shoreline. It is a low salinity wetland connected with the near lagoon of Santa Giusta, a typical brackish coastal lagoon. The Rio Merd ‘e Cani and the irrigation canals are the freshwater inputs. The reedbeds occupy 3/4 of the wetland surface, offering suitable habitat for threatened and endangered species. This wetland is one of the best sites in Sardinia for the survival of the purple swamp hen and a suitable site for the nesting of marsh harrier. Today this lagoon is included in the Nature 2000 network as Site of Community Interest ITB030033 “Stagno di Pauli Maiori” (92/43/EEC) and as a Special Protection Area ITB034005 “Stagno di Pauli Maiori” (Directives 2009/147/EC, ex.79/409/EC).

Pauli Maiori lagoon is not only a Ramsar Site, but it is also included in the Nature 2000 network for the presence of habitats and species of conservation interest. It hosts 44 species of birds included in the Annex of Bird Directive (2009/147/CE), five SPEC1 (Aythya niroca, Aythya ferina, Limosa limosa, Numenius arquata, Vanellus vanellus), five SPEC2 (Coracias garrulus, Lanius collurio, Emberiza calandra, Lanius senator, Tringa totanus) and 23 SPEC3. Moreover eight species listed in Annex A of the CITES Convention (Anas querquedula, Ardea alba, Athene noctua, Circus aeruginosus, Circus cyaneus, Egretta garzetta, Falco tinnunculus, Grus grus) and two in the CMS Convention (Aythya niroca, Coracias garrulus). The site has a high conservation status with a resident population of 3 to 5 pairs of Purple swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio).

– Provisioning services: the Pond is especially known for the vegetation that is used for traditional handcrafts and involved in the project MARISTANIS that includes the identification of the ES in the wetlands. Artisans are among the most important actors in the participatory process for the Coastal Contract.


– Regulating services: the Lagoon represents a Nature based Solution for the mitigation of extreme events (flood protection, carbon storage). The role of Nature based Solutions in the adaptation and mitigation of climate change consequences will be included in the Coastal Contract Action Plan.


– Supporting services: the Pond is especially known for the vegetation, as it represents evidence of the original biodiversity of the area before the reclamation. It is the only freshwater pond in the area. Some native and endemic plants are in the area. Improving the supporting ecosystem services is one of the main reasons to adopt the Coastal Contract.


– Cultural services: the Pond is especially known for the beauty of the vegetation and for their uniqueness compared to the other salt water lagoons. Several people usually walk or cycle in the surrounding areas. Local traditions (including handcraft and the traditional boats made with reeds and rushes) are strongly influenced by the presence of the Lagoon and its existence value is highly recognised and one of the reasons to promote an integrated management through the Coastal Contract.

The site has exceptional cultural traditions or records of former civilizations that have influenced the ecological character of the wetland:

– Pauli Maiori cane thicket;

– Houses built with marsh hay;

– Is Fassois: ancient boats used as a working tool by the nuragic, Phoenician and Roman populations, built with marsh hay, thifa or “fenu”.


The Municipality 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 the Coastal Day (once a year), birdwatching, educational classes with scholars in the wetland territories.

a) Legal protection (implemented)

b) Habitat:

– Improvement of water quality (partially implemented)

– Land conversion controls (implemented)

c) Species:

– Control of invasive alien plants (proposed)

– Control of invasive alien animals (proposed)

d) Human Activities:

– Regulation/management of recreational activities (proposed)

Despite the high level of biodiversity, all the 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 made 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 Agriculture Department for Technical Assistance, and local stakeholders 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 depends 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 ecosystems 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 animals, 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) Main driver: abandoned landfill


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 disposal, now closed. Rain and wind could transport toxic and noxious material in waters.

Type of pollution: point pollution


Description of the problem: a former wastewater treatment site, close to the pond, is used for illegal disposal of wastes. The Municipality of Palmas Arborea provides periodically to collect waste and clean the site.


Proposed solutions: Maristanis project can support Municipality of Palmas Arborea with an informational campaign to discourage illegal disposal and provide technical assistance for future EU or Regional funded projects addressed to transforming the site and avoid this problem. 


b) Main driver: fires


Pollution sources: Summer fires are one of the scourges that have plagued Sardinia for decades. Mountain areas are the most affected, but also coastal areas where Mediterranean scrub, reed beds, and cultivated fields are.

Type of pollution: point pollution


Description of the problem: last year, the large reed bed surrounding Pauli Maiori was partially destroyed by a large fire. Fires were also registered in the previous year. The high number of power lines above vegetated areas surrounding the pond impedes the use of helicopters and Canadair (airplanes that may be filled with water) to extinguish fires. Unfortunately, grasslands around the site and the habit of burning stubble during the summer to facilitate the restoration of grass (a harmful practice prohibited in Natura 2000 areas but difficult to eradicate) could increase the risk of new fires.


Proposed solutions: the Maristanis project can support Regional authorities (especially, the Agriculture Department for Technical Assistance) and local municipalities to inform breeders, farmers and citizens in order to avoid stubble burning and other behaviours that could provoke some fires.

Yes. The management plan is currently subject to review and update.   

Latest update on November 2020


Stagno di Pauli Maiori 3