MAL001 - L-Ghadira


The Għadira Wetland falls within a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA) found within the Mellieħa locality boundary. To the north of the site is the Marfa Ridge whilst to the south is the Mellieħa Ridge. The site is one of the richest in biodiversity, particularly for avifauna. It supports one of the most successful bird sanctuaries in the country, acting as a nesting and breeding site for several protected species. The latter aspect attracts many visitors to the area, making the Għadira reserve the most popular Wetland Reserve in Malta, with around 8,000 visitors a year, many of whom include school children. In view of this, this SAC is an important site for ecotourism and environmental education. The Ghadira Wetland is one of two Ramsar sites in the Maltese Islands.This inland surface water body is protected as a lake under the Water Framework Directive (200/06/EC, LN 198/04). Studies undertaken between 1985 and 1986 showed that salinity in the reserve’s wetland varied from 7 to 40%. The salinity fluctuations are related to precipitation and sea water seepage. In summer the precipitation is at its lowest and the sea water seeps in the wetland. Increased evaporation contributes to increase the levels of salinity. The Coastal Lagoon (habitat 1150*) at l- Għadira is considered to be probably the best example of this habitat in the Maltese Islands. The lagoon supports a thriving population of the endemic Annex II species, the Maltese Killifish and a considerable number of Annex I bird and migratory bird species. The lagoon also presents suitable foraging habitat for bats. Over 100 species of invertebrates are known from the reserve as well as the only species of amphibian in the Maltese Islands, the Painted Frog.The main reason behind the creation of the Għadira wetland was to provide a variety of bird species with ideal breeding grounds, as well as an important feeding and resting area for migratory birds. The Black winged Stilt is establishing a breeding population within the Għadira lagoon. Other breeding birds at the reserve include the Little Ringed Plover and the Moorhen, and the passerines the Zitting Cisticola, the Sardinian Warbler and Cetti’s Warbler.The Short-toed Lark has a breeding population of 3-5 pairs at the garrigue patch situated in the western end of the site. The reserve is an important stopover in both spring and autumn migration periods. Over 100 migratory bird species have been recorded at L-Għadira Wetland Reserve and flocks of herons and egrets can exceed fifty birds at any one time. Passerines also winter within the reserve.The dune habitat is heavily disturbed as a result of the road that intersects the dune system, disconnecting it from the beach. Reclamation for agriculture and habitat modification prior to the Wetland Reserve creation obliterated the largest part of the remaining inland dunes. Nowadays, a remnant habitat, of an area of 11,300 m2 patch is present within the outer grove of the Għadira Wetland Reserve. This habitat patch is still densely vegetated with alien species, including invasive Acacia and ruderals. Two Annex II invertebrate species are known from this area, a cricket and a beetle.Foresta 2000, an afforestation project that has been carried out on part of the ridge above the wetland has created safe roosting habitat and attracts raptor species. Migrant passerines rest and forage at the garrigue and arboreal habitats.Several activities exert pressure on the ecology of the site. The Għadira area is popular with tourists and experiences pressures from recreational activities as well as pressure from development including impacts from noise, trampling, habitat disturbance and habitat loss.Overuse of fertilizers and pesticides from surrounding agricultural practices exerts pressure on the wetland from eutrophication and water pollution. Hunting is prohibited in the entire SAC/SPA site since the area falls within a Bird Sanctuary, however, poaching is practiced in the areas bordering the SAC/SPA. Poachers’ intrusions and poaching within the Bird Sanctuary, resulting in losses of rare Annex I bird species, is not uncommon. Other activities that involve the removal or collection of animals also impacts wildlife at this site.Trapping might be still present in private land and illegally practiced also in public land. As a practice it is responsible for vegetation clearings and habitat modification, disturbance of wildlife and direct biodiversity loss. Localised dumping is evidenced amongst the Annex I habitats that are close to the access road.

Wetland data

Basic information
Wetland location: Marine/Coastal
Wetland type: Natural
Wetland area: 8.10 Ha
Hydrological interaction: -  
Water salinity: Brackish (5.0-18.0 g/l)
Type of fresh water input: Catchment area (precipitation)
Surface water runoff Outflow controlled by pipeline
Open water area (%): 76 - 95
Hydroperiod: Permanent
Geographic information
Census district: Northern
Island: Malta
Local council: Il-Mellieha
Longitude: 14.347440 East
Latitude: 35.970130 North
Ramsar wetland type
Type Coverage (%)
J -- Coastal brackish/saline lagoons; brackish to saline lagoons with at least one relatively narrow connection to the sea
Property status
Protection statuses
Protection status category Protection status subcategory Area's name Code Coverage area (%) Legislation
National Area of Ecological Importance/Site of Scientific Importance L-Inhawi ta' l-Ghadira mill-Bajja tal-Mellieha sac-Cumnija fil-Mellieha 330747 100 Development Planning Act (Act VII of 2016)
National Bird Sanctuary Il-madwar ta' l-Ghadira, fil-Bajja tal-Mellieha 11704 100 Environment Protection Act (Act I of 2016)
International Special Areas of Conservation - International Importance L-Inhawi ta' l-Ghadira 330721 100 Environment Protection Act (Act I of 2016)
International Special Protection Areas L-Inhawi ta' l-Ghadira 555552404 100 Environment Protection Act (Act I of 2016)
International Ramsar Sites L-Ghadira 100
International Transitional waters L-Ghadira MT TW 05 100 Water Framework Directive
CDDA protection status
CDDA code CDDA category
MT02 Area of Ecological Importance/Site of Scientific Importance
MT03 Bird Sanctuary
MT11 Special Areas of Conservation - International Importance
MT13 Special Protection Areas
Ecosystem services
Type of ecosystem service Ecosystem service Scale of Βenefit (%) Importance
Cultural services Cultural heritage
Supporting services Provision of habitat
Cultural services Recreation and tourism
Activities on wetland
Activity Intensity
010 = Habitat conservation High
030 = Species conservation High
160 = General forestry management High
162 = artificial planting High
610 = Interpretative centres High
701 = water pollution High
830 = Canalisation High
853 = management of water levels High
952 = eutrophication Low
Activities on catchment area
Activity Intensity
010 = Habitat conservation High
030 = Species conservation High
100 = Cultivation High
110 = Use of pesticides High
120 = Fertilisation High
130 = Irrigation High
160 = General forestry management High
402 = discontinuous urbanisation Medium
430 = Agricultural structures Medium
502 = roads motorways High
625 = gliding delta plane paragliding ballooning High
701 = water pollution High
Impact Intensity
EB- = Increase in aesthetic qualities High
EP- = Reduction of salt intrusion potential High
ER- = Increase in flow regulation High
EU- = Increase of tourist/recreation potential High
EW- = Increase in wilderness/wildlife values High
PC- = Chemical pollution High
PF- = Fertilizer/Excess nutrient pollution High
PP- = Pesticide pollution High
Habitat types
Type Coverage (%)
1150 * Coastal lagoons 26 - 50
1310 Salicornia and other annuals colonizing mud and sand 5 - 25
1410 Mediterranean salt meadows (Juncetalia maritimi) 5 - 25
1420 Mediterranean and thermo-Atlantic halophilous scrubs (Sarcocornetea fruticosi) 5 - 25
2220 Dunes with Euphorbia terracina < 5
Vegetation types
Type Coverage (%)
Shrubby / Arborescent 5 - 25
Halophytic 5 - 25
Wet meadow
Emergent < 5
Species Presence status References
Acacia saligna
Jacobaea crithmoides
Juncus acutus
Juncus subulatus
Orobanche densiflora
Oxalis pes-caprae
Pancratium maritimum
Phragmites australis
Pinus halepensis
Pistacia lentiscus
Punica granatum
Rhamnus alaternus
Salicornia ramosissima
Tamarix africana
Tetraclinis articulata
Mammals Presence status in wetland
Mustela nivalis (L., 1766)
Myotis punicus (Felten, 1977)
Nyctalus noctula (Schreber, 1774)
Oryctolagus cuniculus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Pipistrellus kuhlii (Kuhl, 1817)
Pipistrellus pipistrellus (Schreber, 1774)
Plecotus austriacus (Fischer, 1829)
Rhinolophus hipposideros (Bechstein, 1800)
Suncus etruscus (Savi, 1822)


Number of individuals


Circus aeruginosus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Circus cyaneus (Linnaeus, 1766)
Circus macrourus
Circus pygargus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anas crecca (Linnaeus, 1758)
Aythya ferina (Linnaeus, 1758)
Actitis hypoleucos (Linnaeus, 1758)
Calidris alpina (Linnaeus, 1758)
Calidris ferruginea (Pontoppidan, 1763)
Calidris minuta (Leisler, 1812)
Charadrius dubius (Scopoli, 1786)
Gallinago gallinago (Linnaeus, 1758)
Himantopus himantopus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Scolopax rusticola (Linnaeus, 1758)
Ardeola ralloides (Scopoli, 1769)
Ixobrychus minutus (Linnaeus, 1766)
Alcedo atthis (Linnaeus, 1758)
Gallinula chloropus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Rallus aquaticus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Acrocephalus schoenobaenus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anthus spinoletta (L, 1758)
Calandrella brachydactyla (Leisler, 1814)
Cettia cetti (Temminck, 1820)
Cisticola juncidis (Rafinesque, 1810)
Emberiza pusilla
Emberiza schoeniclus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Erithacus rubecula (Linnaeus, 1758)
Ficedula semitorquata (Homeyer, 1885)
Phylloscopus collybita (Vieillot, 1817)
Phylloscopus sibilatrix (Bechstein, 1793)
Phylloscopus trochilus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Saxicola rubetra (Linnaeus, 1758)
Sylvia communis (Latham, 1787)
Sylvia melanocephala (J.F. Gmelin, 1789)
Jynx torquilla (Linnaeus, 1758)
Tachybaptus ruficollis (Pallas, 1764)


Presence status in wetland


Chalcides ocellatus tiligugu (Gmelin, 1789)
Chamaeleo chamaeleon (Linnaeus, 1758)
Coluber viridiflavus carbonarius (Bonaparte, 1833)
Hemidactylus turcicus (Arnold, 1980)
Podarcis filfolensis maltensis (Mertens, 1921)
Tarentola mauritanica (Linnaeaus, 1758)
Telescopus fallax (Fleischmann, 1831)
Zamenis situla (Linnaeus, 1758)


Presence status in wetland

Discoglossus pictus (Otth, 1837)


Presence status in wetland

Aphanius fasciatus (Valenciennes, 1821)


Presence status in wetland

Tetragnatha extensa (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anthicus fenestratus (W.L.E. Schmidt, 1842)
Cyclodinus humilis (Germar, 1824)
Cyclodinus minutus (La Ferté-Sénectère, 1842)
Leptaleus rodriguesi (Latreille, 1804)
Anoxia australis (Gyllenhal, 1817)
Scarabeus semipunctatus (Fabricius, 1792)
Allophylax picipes melitensis (Baudi de Selve, 1876)
Ammobius rufus (Lucas, 1849)
Erodius siculus melitensis (Reitter, 1914)
Pseudoseriscius cameroni (Reitter, 1902)
Stenosis melitana (Reitter, 1894)
Stenosis schembrii (Canzoneri, 1979)
Protrama baronii
Philanthus raptor siculus (Giordani Soika, 1944)
Smicromyrme n.sp.(?)
Tachyagetyes n.sp. (?)
Prionyx viduatus (Christ, 1791)
Coleophora mellechella (Toll, 1962)
Trithemis annulata (Palisot de Beauvois, 1807)
Brachytrupes megacephalus (Lefèvre, 1827)
Odontura stenoxipha (Fieber, 1853)
Gammarus aequicauda (Martynov, 1931)

Adi Associates Environmental Consultants Ltd (2004) Mellieħa Bay: Regional Environmental Assessment.

Adi Epsilon Consortium (2014f) L-Inhawi tal-Ghadira – Natura 2000 Management Plan (SAC). Prepared for the Malta Environment and Planning Authority under CT3101/2011. San Gwann, Malta, pp. 112 + Annex

Birdlife (n/a) Għadira Nature Reserve Management Plan 2010-2014

Deidun, A., Diacono, I., Tigano, C. & Schembri, P.,(2002) Present distribution of the threatened killifish Aphanius fasciatus (Actinopterygii, Cyprinodontidae) in the Maltese Islands. Central Mediterranean Naturalist, 3(4), pp. 177-180.

ERA (2015) The 2 nd Water Catchment Management Plan for the Malta Water Catchment District 2015 - 2021

Kenneth Pye Associates Ltd (2009) Coastal Geomorphological Changes at Għadira Beach (Mellieħa Bay) Malta: Scoping Study Report

Zammit-Mangion, M. & Deidun, A., (2010) Management Recommendations For The Conservation Of Threatened Aphanius Fasciatus NardoPopulations From Two Wetlands In The Maltese Islands. s.l., s.n., pp. 356-357.

Zammit-Mangion, M. (2009) Action Plan for Aphanius fasciatus at the Għadira Nature Reserve and the Simar Bird Sanctuary.