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Urgent actions for conservation of pSCI Orbetello Lagoon (Orbetello)
Start date: Nov 1, 2000, End date: Dec 31, 2003 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background Situated within a ring of fixed dunes, close to the Mount Argentario promontory, proposed as a Site of Community Importance and designated as a Special Protection Area, the Orbetello Lagoon is one of the most important wetlands of the Tyrrhenian coast. It is vital for many species of aquatic birds because they winter, migrate and nest there and the area hosts important plant communities. The major ones include Salicornia-type annual pioneer vegetation, Mediterranean flooded pastures and mesohygrophilous forests with oak, ash, poplar and willow. The conservation of these plant communities is essential for the conservation of the bird species. Intensive agricultual use in the area surrounding the lagoon constitutes one of the main threats in that it affects the hydrographical and ecological balances of the natural habitats of the core area, which is managed, for conservation purposes by WWF Italia. Objectives The main objective of the project was to put a stop to the impact of intensive farming on the areas surrounding the lagoon and the resultant ecological damage to the site's flora and fauna. The main task was to acquire 77 ha of intensely cultivated land around the lagoon to eliminate the use of chemicals. This purchase, added to other plots of land purchased in the past by WWF Italy, was expected to have a positive effect throughout the entire SPA, which extends over more than 3.000 ha. The project also aimed at safeguarding the habitats, as defined by the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), which are a feature of the pSCI, and to extend the wetlands to favour the bird populations. There were also plans to refurbish a drainage basin, to replant hedges and to restore natural forest stands by replacing non-native species with local ones. Finally, a visitor centre was to be established starting from existing structures and an exhibition was to be mounted on the conservation of wetlands. Results The beneficiary achieved the main nature conservation objectives, re-naturalization of a an area from farm land to wetland and to hygrophilous woods. The project contributed, even though in a limited way, to the safeguard of a very complex ecosystem, of brackish and fresh water habitats. The only problem encountered was related to obtaining authorizations for the reconstruction of the visitor centre, which was no longer carried out. The main goals of the project are: The beneficiary enlarged small areas of habitats of EU interest present in the purchased land changing the use and landscape: from drained cultivated land to a fresh water wetland, with wet grasslands, ponds and plots of riparian wood. The conversion of agricultural land into natural areas and the enlargement of the layer of alluvial forest behind the lagoon will reduce the input of agricultural pollutants in the priority coastal lagoon, which is one of the most important sites for waterfowls in central Italy. By restoring the drainage canals, flooding previously cultivated land and planting autochthonous trees the beneficiary succeeded in the recreation of Mediterranean flooded pastures and meso-hygrophilous forests with oak, ash, poplar and willow. Permanent and temporary freshwater ponds for birds of EU interest have been increased by restoring two water reserves and creating two new ones. The new ponds have had a positive impact on species such as Casmerodius alba, Egretta garzetta, Ardea cinerea, Platalea leucorovia, Recurvirostra avosetta, Philomachus pugnax, Phoenicopterus ruber and Alcedo atthis. The creation of a birdlife area will allow the recovery, followed by the release, of birds coming from the rescue centers. Tourist fruition has been improved through the realisation of three wooden observatory huts and two paths to be used also by disabled persons.
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