Numenius/Orbetello - Habitat of Numenius tenuirostris and other endangered birds species: planning and execution of interventions for the enlargement and management of the salt-marshes of Orbetello Lagoon

LIFE95 NAT/IT/000698

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Franco AGOSTINI
Tel: 39.0564.861111
Fax: 39.0564.860648

Project description:


Southern Tuscany has the largest lagoon system along the Tyrrhenian Coast and one of its crown jewels is the Orbetello Lagoon – 1 300 ha of lagoon, Mediterranean scrub and salt marshes – of high nature value for wintering, nesting and migrating birds. At least 257 bird species, including 63 in Annex I of the Birds Directive, had been recorded here in the years leading up to the launch of this project; and an ACNAT study [Action by the Community relating to nature conservation] had pin-pointed the lagoon as a key site for the slender-billed curlew (Numenius tenuirostris), one of the most endangered bird species in the Palaearctic region. Moreover, a colony of flamingos nested here in 1994, the first time that this had ever happened on mainland Italy.
Recent changes, however, due to human activities, have led to a decrease and degeneration of critical habitats, dramatically reducing the nesting and resting areas for many Annex I bird species, including the slender-billed curlew. Predation has increased dramatically, so much so that certain species are now only able to nest in the few areas not accessible to predators.


Arresting the principal causes behind this degradation of the site was one of the main project objectives. Another main objective was to restore areas critical to important bird species and return to conditions suitable for breeding.
Halting the degradation of the site:
- Human disturbance would be reduced by regulating visitor access and by laying out visual barriers, both artificial and natural, a measure that is particularly necessary for certain species, which form colonies, such as the flamingo;
- The recent steep increase in the devastation wrought by predation would be tackled by creating nesting sites that are not accessible to predators. The idea was that this would also have a positive knock-on effect for other species that had not yet been observed nesting here;
- A management plan would be developed in order to preserve the quality of the habitats reached through the implementation of the project.

Restoration of important bird areas:
- These would include restoring and extending zones where the plant cover provided a suitable habitat for breeding herons. This would include planting appropriate trees and shrubs, or laying out new islets for flamingos to nest and strengthening existing islets.


The project succeeded in restoring bird habitat including through the construction of new islets, planting vegetation (to support herons) and developing fences, trails, blinds and natural and artificial barriers. Although these positive results were achieved mainly through consultants and the National Research Council (i.e. rather than the beneficiary).
- Monitoring results – collected more-or-less monthly – indicated that the new islets are extensively used by birds. The number of birds using the area was shown to have significantly increased since the start of the project. One of the new islets was even being used as a sleeping site by 75% of the curlews (Numenius arquata) wintering in Tuscany. (The habitat of the curlew is extremely similar to that of the slender billed curlew (N. tenuirostris) a priority species for conservation according to the EU native directives.
- The monitoring of vegetation planted by the project indicated that recolonisation was progressing relatively well. (More time/ monitoring would be needed for longer-term results). The monitoring results also showed that some sites adjacent to the project area should due to its importance for birds be included within the Ramsar wetland area (this area that covers a part of the lagoon).
- A management plan was developed on the basis of the project results to help ensure that the habitat restoration achieved by the project is sustained. The plan highlighted the need for further periodic monitoring of birds and vegetation, erosion control on the islets (as well as canals), elimination of weeds, chasing of seagulls and maintenance of the islets and canals.
- Awareness raising activities were less than foreseen, but an exhibition and public meeting were organised and booklets (10 000 copies) produced.


Environmental issues addressed:


Habitats - Coastal


environmental impact of tourism‚  protected area‚  wetland‚  restoration measure

Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directiv ...
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)

Target species

 Numenius tenuirostris     

Natura 2000 sites

SCI IT51A0026 Laguna di Orbetello



Coordinator Comune di Orbetello
Type of organisation Local authority
Description The project beneficiary is the public authority responsible for the administration of the commune (and town) of Orbetello in the province of Grosseto in Tuscany Italy. Management responsibilities include the Orbetello lagoon, which is home to an important natural reserve.


Project reference LIFE95 NAT/IT/000698
Duration 01-JAN-1996 to 31-JAN -1999
Total budget 109,440.00 €
EU contribution 109,440.00 €
Project location


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