MAL063 - Il-Maghluq tal-Bahar ta' Marsaskala

The Special Area of Conservation (SAC) of Il-Magħluq tal-Baħar ta’ Marsaskala is found within the Marsaskala locality boundary. The site is characterised by a body of brackish water which was originally two interconnected ponds. Triq il-Gardiel runs parallel to the elongated saline marshland’s eastern side. The marshland is separated from the sea by a narrow strip of land although there is a connection to the marine environment via two pipes laid under the road. Sea water incursions are common during storms and bad weather. The pool also has agricultural land on its western and southern sides. In the late 1990s the site was fenced by the former Environment Protection Department. The habitats of importance in this SAC (listed in the Habitats Directive under Annex I) include: Coastal lagoons (Habitat 1150*); and Mediterranean salt meadows (subject to flooding by sea water) (Habitat 1410).The natural system of this wetland has been altered and no historical data was found to help in the safe reconstruction of an image of the natural past, or in tracking the successive human interventions that led to the present state. Judging from the tidal action, the coastal topography, the watercourse and associated flooding, and the persisting remnants of dunes it is likely that this was an unstable tidal area which, depending on the balance of fresh-saline water, would take the form of an estuary or a coastal lagoon. This wetland system would have a varying size depending on the climatic conditions but occasionally the whole terrain lying behind Marsaskala Bay and included within the 0-2m contours would be influenced by the combined action of the tide and the watercourse. The area within the SAC occupied today by fields is actually the natural collector of Marsaskala basin rainwater. The heavy engineering interventions imposed upon the natural wetland system have resulted in the following two major constraints. Firstly, the confinement of the lagoon. The encapsulation of the lagoon has obliterated the natural floodplain of the wetland. The construction of the asphalted road and promenade has resulted in the severance of the site from the sea. The two pipes present under the road are inadequate to ensure a proper connection between the lagoon and the marine environment and sea water incursions occur mainly during storms and when the pipes are not blocked with sand, debris, marine vegetation and other litter. A second constraint is the size of the wetland. The reduction of the natural extent of the lagoon combined with its confinement have greatly reduced the system’s resilience, both against natural events such as occasional anoxic conditions through summer (not infrequent in Mediterranean coastal lagoons), and trivial anthropogenic constraints such as agrichemical runoff from contiguous fields, general littering, or incidental imbalance of the biotic load resulting from the introduction of domestic ducks to the site. Fertiliser-and pesticide-contaminated runoff from surrounding fields exacerbates the impact of low dissolved oxygen levels in the water during summer months caused by occasional natural eutrophication events and possibly lack of adequate water circulation. Certain contaminants have also been recorded, that indicate other sources of contamination apart from agriculture; however, the contaminant levels are low.The site is under threat from invasive alien species including the fish, the Mullet, which may compete with the resident Killifish. In addition, a mixed flock of ducks had established breeding populations in the fringes of the lagoon such that a population of some 70 birds had become established. Over recent years, however, most of this population has been removed save for a handful of individuals. The NTM site manager regularly removes eggs in order to avoid further growth of the population. The presence of these populations within the SAC had resulted in siltation, water pollution and eutrophication of the lagoon, the effect of which was exacerbated by the limited size and confinement of the lagoon. The excessive numbers of waterfowl also impacted the salt meadows present at the back of the lagoon causing soil erosion, vegetation trampling and habitat modification, the effect of which was again exacerbated by the limited size of the habitat. The ducks also result in direct impacts to the Killifish including disturbance and displacement. Incidental consumption of Killifish larvae, normally insignificant, may also have had an impact on this confined population. In addition, other wild species are possibly displaced by these territorial species. Finally, the presence of domestic animals, regardless of population size and ecological impacts, further diminishes the site’s social value; not necessarily from an aesthetic point of view, but mainly as regards people’s, and especially children’s, perception of real nature and wildlife. The excessive dumping and littering have also resulted in rat infestation of the site.

Wetland data

Basic information
Wetland location: 1. Marine/Coastal
Wetland type: Artificial
Wetland area: 0.50 Ha
Hydrological interaction: -  
Water salinity: 3.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: 1. Permanent
Geographic information
Census district: South Eastern
Island: Malta
Local council: Marsaskala
Longitude: 14.562420 East
Latitude: 35.861780 North
Biological significance
Biological significance: Low
Ramsar wetland type
Type Coverage (%)
2 -- Ponds; includes farm ponds, stock ponds, small tanks; (generally below 8 ha)
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 Bur salmastru fil-Maghluq (l/ta' Wied il-Ghajn) 14785 100 Development Planning Act (Act VII of 2016)
International Special Areas of Conservation - International Importance Il-Maghluq tal-Bahar (l/ta' Marsascala) 330717 100 Environment Protection Act (Act I of 2016)
International Transitional waters Il-Maghluq ta' Marsascala MT TW 02 100 Water Framework Directive
CDDA protection status
CDDA code CDDA category
MT02 Area of Ecological Importance/Site of Scientific Importance
MT11 Special Areas of Conservation - International Importance
Wetland values
103 Flood control
104 Sediment/toxicant retention
105 Nutrient retention
110 Wildlife habitat
111 Active recreation
201 Wildlife resources
Activities on wetland
Activity Intensity
010 = Habitat conservation High
020 = Resource conservation High
030 = Species conservation High
040 = Land restoration Low
100 = Cultivation Low
162 = artificial planting Medium
220 = Leisure fishing Low
701 = water pollution High
702 = air pollution Medium
703 = soil pollution Medium
720 = Trampling overuse Low
740 = Vandalism Medium
820 = Removal of sediments (mud...) Low
840 = Flooding Low
852 = modifying structures of inland water courses High
952 = eutrophication Medium
954 = invasion by a species High
962 = parasitism Medium
965 = predation High
Activities on catchment area
Activity Intensity
100 = Cultivation High
110 = Use of pesticides High
120 = Fertilisation High
130 = Irrigation High
220 = Leisure fishing Medium
401 = continuous urbanisation High
419 = other industrial / commercial areas High
430 = Agricultural structures Low
502 = roads motorways High
710 = Noise nuisance High
830 = Canalisation Medium
852 = modifying structures of inland water courses High
Impact Intensity
AS- = Loss of scenic value High
FCP = Introduction of animal pests High
FP- = Decrease in population of faunal species High
LR- = Decrease in flow regulation Low
LU- = Decrease in tourist/recreation potential Low
LW- = Decrease in wilderness/wildlife values Medium
PP- = Pesticide pollution Low
VCD = Loss of floral diversity High
WF- = Increase in flooding Medium
WR- = Altered flow regime Medium
WS- = Salt water intrusion Low
Habitat types
Type Coverage (%)
1150 * Coastal lagoons > 95
1410 Mediterranean salt meadows (Juncetalia maritimi) < 5
Vegetation types
Type Coverage (%)
Submerged 51 - 75
Wet meadow 5 - 25
Species Presence status References
Aster squamatus
Avena sp.
Cynodon dactylon
Dittrichia viscosa
Foeniculum vulgare
Jacobaea crithmoides
Juncus maritimus
Limonium virgatum
Piptatherum miliaceum
Ruppia sp.
Tamarix africana


Number of individuals


Anas acuta (Linnaeus,1758)
Anas clypeata (Linnaeus,1758)
Anas crecca (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anas falcata (Georgi, 1775)
Anas formosa (Georgi, 1775)
Anas penelope (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anas platyrhynchos (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anas querquedula (Linnaeus, 1758)
Anas strepera (Linnaeus, 1758)
Cairina moschata


Presence status in wetland


Aphanius fasciatus (Valenciennes, 1821)

Adi Epsilon Consortium (2014i) Il-Maghluq tal-Bahar ta' Marsaskala – Natura 2000 Management Plan (SAC). Prepared for the Malta Environment and Planning Authority under CT3101/2011. San Gwann, Malta, pp. 112 + Annex

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

Zammit-Mangion, M., Deidun, A., Vassallo-Agius, R. & Magri, M., (2011) Management of Threatened Aphanius Fasciatus at Il-Maghluq, Malta. Rhodes, Greece, s.n.