Stagno di S’Ena Arrubia

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Photo: © Livio Mura

S'Ena Arrubia lagoon, © Livio Mura
© Livio Mura


Stagno di S’Ena Arrubia was designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Site) under the Ramsar Convention on 14-12-1976.

More about the site

S’Ena Arrubia is on the western coast of Sardinia Island. The lagoon is a remaining part of a large lagoon called “Stagno del Sassu” reclaimed in the 30s of the 20th century. Despite the considerable number of human interventions, the lagoon hosts a high number of interesting species and shows a high biodiversity. It offers suitable sites for rare or threatened waterfowls such as Glossy Ibis, Flamingos, Common Tern, Little Tern, Spoonbill, etc. (the complete lists are reported in section 3.3). Since the ‘70s, thanks to the enlargement of the sea-mouth connection and at the same time the reduction of freshwater inputs, the salinity of waters changed. The salinity increase affected the species, passing from typical freshwater community to a brackish water one. Three manmade canals convey the freshwater into the lagoon and became interesting sites for the less-salt tolerant plant species such as cattails (Typha spp.) and swamp reeds (Phragmites australis).


The presence of reedbeds in the manmade canals provides suitable habitats for interesting waterbirds such as the Purple swamp hen (Porphyrio porphyrio). Nevertheless, the spread of glasswort vegetation supplies other important sites for the nesting and chicks breeding for other interesting species such as the Glossy Ibis (this is the only site in Sardinia for which this is reported as breeding) and the Slender-billed gull. The lagoon is eutrophic with several episodes of dystrophy occurring in the past (the most important was in 1999). Typical brackish water fishes live in the lagoon: several species of mullets, sea-bass, sea-bream and eels support the local fishery economy.


The lagoon was included in the Nature 2000 network with the establishment of the Site of Community Interest (SCI) ITB030016 “Stagno di S’Ena Arrubia e territori limitrofi” according to the 92/43/EEC Directive and Special Protection Area (SPA) ITB034001 “Stagno di S’Ena Arubia” according to the Directive 2009/147/EC (ex 79/409/EEC). Furthermore, this lagoon is included in the Important Bird Area (IBA) 218 “Sinis and Oristano wetlands”

The lagoon hosts rare and threatened species: 40 included in the Annex 1 of the 2009/147/CE Bird Directive, seven SPEC1 (Aythya niroca, Sylvia undata, Aythya ferina, Limosa limosa, Numenius arquata, Streptopelia turtur, Vanellus vanellus), seven SPEC2 (Lanius collurio, Delichon urbicum, Emberiza calandra, Lanius senator, Muscicapa striata, Serinus serinus,Tringa totanus) and 33 SPEC3. Moreover, 11 species listed in the Annex A of CITES Convention are recorded (Anas querquedula, Ardea alba, Athene noctua, Aythya niroca, Buteo buteo, Circus aeruginosus, Circus cyaneus, Egretta garzetta, Platalea leucorodia, Streptopelia turtur, Tyto alba) and two in the CMS Convention (Aythya niroca, Larus audouinii).

– Provisioning services: the Lagoon is especially known for its fishing activity. This is performed in a traditional way, with small boats. Fishermen 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, water purification, carbon storage, coastal erosion and sea storm protection, etc.). 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 Lagoon is known for its biodiversity as it is a nesting and feeding area for several bird species. Activities to restore habitat and nested areas have been promoted by the municipalities involved in the management. Improving the supporting ecosystem services is one of the main reasons to adopt the Coastal Contract.


– Cultural services: the Lagoon is especially known for birdwatching and photography activities. Several people usually walk or cycle in the surrounding areas. Environmental educational activities are performed with schools. Local traditions are deeply influenced by the presence of the Lagoons, and the 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:

– Reclamation of the arboreal plain, which began in December 1918 with the foundation of the Bonifiche Sarde Company;

– Orri Sacred well (Nuragic);

– Idrovora Sassu inaugurated on November 4th 1934;

– Silos for water collection and distribution;

– Mill, now the Museum of the Arborea Reclamation.

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

  1. a) Legal protection (implemented)


  1. b) Habitat:

– Catchment management initiatives/controls (implemented)

– Improvement of water quality (partially implemented)

– Land conversion controls (implemented)


  1. c) Species:

– Control of invasive alien plants (proposed)

– Control of invasive alien animals (proposed)


  1. d) Human Activities:

– Management of water abstraction/takes (implemented)

– Regulation/management of wastes (implemented)

– Fisheries management/regulation (partially implemented)

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

– Research (partially implemented)

– 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.


  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 by standard practices with a widespread use of nutrients, pesticides and herbicides, particularly in the field of rice growing and in vegetable production (i.e.,h 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 the lack of data and information, Environment Agency experts, the 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.


  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, and 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


  1. a) Main driver: wastewater treatments

Pollution sources: bad functioning of the plants in the area 

Type of pollution: point pollution


Description of the problem: The Water District Management Plan indicated that wastewater treatment plants related to Lagoon of S’Ena Arrubia create some pressure on water. However, in very recent years, data about wastewater treatment plants do not indicate any irregular value. The Regional Environment Agency, the Regional Water Utility and the Province of Oristano will provide further detailed data.


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


  1. b) 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


  1. c) Main driver: fires

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

Type of pollution: point pollution


Description of the problem: in the past, fires damaged pinewood and reed beds surrounding S’Ena Arrubia. Unfortunately, current conditions do not reduce the probability of new fires.


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


  1. d) Main driver: small harbour activities

Pollution sources: waste and effluents from boats and oil spills from boat tank refuelling.

Type of pollution: point pollution


Description of the problem: as in the other small harbours of the area, mismanagement of waste and effluent and oil spills during tank refuelling of fishermen boats.


Proposed solutions: In order to reduce oil spills impacts, the Maristanis project could propose the adoption of banners produced by GEOLANA, a Sardinian firm involved in circular economy innovation. GEOLANA developed, together with the University of Cagliari, a technology based on Sardinian sheep wool  able to absorb and degrade oil spills (formerly, sheep wool was considered only an industrial waste to be disposed of in special waste landfills with high costs for Sardinian shepherds). The adoption of these banners has already been planned in the area of Corru S’Ittiri-Marceddì-San Giovanni and in the MPA of Sinis-Isola di Mal di Ventre.

Yes, it is currently subject to review and update.   

Latest update on November 2020

S'Ena Arrubia lagoon, ©Mirko Ugo
© Mirko Ugo