MAL012 - Is-Simar


Is-Simar wetland (limiti ta’ San Pawl il-Baħar) is found on the north-east coast of Malta. It is part of the St Paul’s Bay locality boundary and covers an area of approximately 0.6 km2. The site is found close to Xemxija and is in the Pwales Valley.To the east, the site borders Xemxija Bay whilst the west borders the Pwales agricultural area. To the south there is the Wardija Ridge escarpment and to the north there is the Bajda Ridge. The seaward area of the site borders Il-Grigal ta’ Malta Marine Protected Area.The site incorporates various features including an artificially created wetland habitat, which is fenced off and is located behind Xemxija Bay. It is a coastal site with brackish water pools. The wetland is surrounded by agricultural land that stretches west of the wetland. Is-Simar wetland falls within a Special Area of Conservation, a Special Protection Area, a Bird Sanctuary, Area of Ecological Importance and a Site of Scientific Importance. It is also one of two Ramsar listed sites in the Maltese Islands. The main hydrological feature is the Pwales Valley that is a fertile valley dominated by agricultural land.The hydrological and hydrogeological features comprise: 1) the semi confined aquifer of Wied tal-Pwales; 2) the watercourse and catchment of Wied tal Pwales and its tributaries; 3) private extraction in Wied tal-Pwales; 4) saline marsh at is-Simar which is a Wetland Reserve; and 5) diffuse discharge along the coastline into the bay away from the beach (Terracore 2013).The wetland provides an important habitat for several migratory bird species as well as wintering and breeding species. Species breeding at the site include the Reed Warbler, the Moorhen, the Common Coot, the Zitting Cisticola, and the Sardinian Warbler. The wetland also supports a good population of the Maltese Killifish, a species that tolerates extreme changes in its environment including temperature and salinity. The area provides important foraging ground for bats and certain cultural heritage features are known to provide suitable roosting habitat for the Lesser Horseshoe Bat. The only native amphibian species in the Maltese Islands, the Painted Frog, is present at the reserve.Is-Simar Wetland Reserve supports the most extensive Phragmites reed bed in the Maltese Islands. It is an ideal habitat for several marshland species, providing shelter and food for waterfowl, herons, rails and passerines. It also provides a unique breeding habitat for reed warblers, Little Bittern and moorhens. An old olive grove is located at the eastern part of the reserve, part of which is not, however, enclosed as part of the reserve. This grove naturally regenerates, the fruits are eaten and the seeds dispersed largely by the Common Starling. A few Mastic trees are also found growing naturally as undergrowth. This is an important habitat for migratory passerines and wintering species. The Pwales valley is a natural corridor through which birds are funneled during their passage over Malta. The presence of the wetland habitat together with the overlying Miżieb woodland upgrades this passageway into an invaluable feeding, resting and roosting stopover for all avifauna in both migration periods. The woodland habitat of Miżieb lies in a strategic place overlooking the valley and wetland and thus it is particularly valuable as a roosting site for raptors including Marsh Harrier, Honey-Buzzard, Black Kite and European Hobby, as well as herons. The woodlands also hold an array of other migratory species, including Turtle Dove, Golden Oriole and other species such as flycatchers, thrushes and warblers.The Miżieb woodland is also important for several breeding bird species. These include Sardinian Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Blue Rock Thrush, Spanish Sparrow and Tree Sparrow. Several locally rare species also regularly attempt to breed in the woods, including Serin, Chaffinch, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove and Common Cuckoo. A number of activities exert pressure on the ecology of the site. The wetland is in the urbanised and frequented area of Xemxija, St Paul’s Bay and the Miżieb area resulting in pressure from recreational activities, vehicles (the reserve is close to a road), and development. The Miżieb woodland above the wetland is used and managed as a hunting reserve. As described above the site is of immense ornithological value and as a result, poaching is a factor that affects this site.

Wetland data

Basic information
Wetland location: Marine/Coastal
Wetland type: Natural
Wetland area: 4.10 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 (%): 51 - 75
Hydroperiod: Permanent
Geographic information
Census district: Northern
Island: Malta
Local council: San Pawl Il-Bahar
Longitude: 14.381780 East
Latitude: 35.945590 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 tas-Simar mit-Triq tal-Mizieb sa Xatt il-Pwales, limiti ta' San Pawl il-Bahar 346036 100 Development Planning Act (Act VII of 2016)
National Bird Sanctuary Il-Madwar tas-Simar, fir-Ramla tal-Pwales, San Pawl il-Bahar 14794 100 Environment Protection Act (Act I of 2016)
International Special Areas of Conservation - International Importance Is-Simar (l/ta' San Pawl il-Bahar) 330720 100 Environment Protection Act (Act I of 2016)
International Special Protection Areas Is-Simar (limiti ta' San Pawl il-Bahar) 555552402 100 Environment Protection Act (Act I of 2016)
International Ramsar Sites Is-Simar 100
International Transitional waters Is-Simar MT TW 04 100 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
Regulatory services Flood hazard regulation
Supporting services Provision of habitat
Cultural services Recreation and tourism
Activities on wetland
Activity Intensity
010 = Habitat conservation High
020 = Resource conservation High
030 = Species conservation High
610 = Interpretative centres High
853 = management of water levels High
952 = eutrophication Medium
Activities on catchment area
Activity Intensity
010 = Habitat conservation High
020 = Resource conservation High
030 = Species conservation High
100 = Cultivation High
110 = Use of pesticides High
120 = Fertilisation High
130 = Irrigation High
230 = Hunting High
243 = trapping poisoning poaching Low
430 = Agricultural structures Medium
502 = roads motorways High
Impact Intensity
EB- = Increase in aesthetic qualities High
ER- = Increase in flow regulation High
ES- = Increase in water supply High
EU- = Increase of tourist/recreation potential High
EW- = Increase in wilderness/wildlife values High
Habitat types
Type Coverage (%)
1150 * Coastal lagoons 26 - 50

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

BirdLife Malta – Simar Wetland Reserves Work Plan 2011-2012

BirdLife Malta (2010) Mizieb Report

BirdLife Malta (January – June 2011) Final Management Effectiveness Report: Simar Wetland

Coleiro, C. and Casha, A (2004) Is-Simar Special Area of Conservation: management Plan for Simar Wetland Reserve 2004/2008

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

Friggieri, I. (1999) Simar Nature Reserve. Dip Env. Sci.

Seguna, A. (1995) The vegetation of Is-Simar : a wetland reserve in the making. B.ED (HONS) Dissertation UoM

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.