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Establishing Nature and Heritage Parks in Malta's Grand Harbour areas for nature-based tourism and education

: The park promotes ecotourism and nature-based tourism is promoted through the organisation of nature walks and trekking in the surrounding areas. The park experience promotes health and well-being, since visitors can enjoy physical, psychological and spiritual benefit by being closer to nature. Moreover, the planting of trees in the Park helps to mitigate the effects of climate change. (Nature Trust Malta, 2019a, 2019b).
: Malta
: Marsaxlokk, Pembroke
: 474 ha (Marsaxlokk) and 231 ha (Pembroke)
: 3570 (Marsaxlokk) and 3822 (Pembroke)
: 2005
: 9 months
: Ongoing
: Yes
: Nature Trust Malta
: 35.9327
: 14.4791
Biodiversity conservation or increased biodiversity
Yes, both case studies, support biodiversity conservation and have increased Malta's biodiversity. Most of the Pembroke SAC is characterised by karstified rocky terrain, colonised in turn by a complex mosaic of vegetation assemblages typical of rocky steppe, grass steppe and low garrigue communities, mainly shaped by patterns and degrees of anthropogenic disturbance. The mosaic consists of a remnant climax shrubland framework, superimposed in many areas by various stages of secondary ecological succession, which leads to different plagioclimaxes (namely grass steppe and disturbed ground assemblages), and which marks different episodes of disturbance and recolonisation. As a result, most of the land cover on site can be classified as secondary shrubland. Isolated pockets of woodland, temporary rainwater rockpools and gully-associated assemblages break the steppe/garrigue monologue colonizing most of the site. The garrigues at Pembroke are amongst the most species-rich of the Maltese Islands, and sustain a large number of species of conservation and/or scientific importance including endemic, threatened and critically endangered ones. (Nature Turst Malta, 2019a). Generally the most dominant habitats in the Xrobb L-Ghagin Nature Park is steppe and garrigue. Steppes are grasslands, while garrigues involve communities of low-lying shrubs and geophytes (bulbous plants). There are two main types of steppes in the park; Andropogonid Steppe dominated by the Purple Hispid Beard Grass, and Graminoid Steppe covered by Esparto Grass, a species normally associated with clay slopes. Garrigues in the park are more diverse, yet unlike those of inland garrigues, they occur in isolated definite patches in a mono-culturous fashion, independant from each other like the steppe communities,especially in the southern half of the park which is all natural. Dominant patches include those of the indigenous Silvery Ragwort, Olive-leaved Bindweed, Shrubby Seablite, Golden Samphire, and the endemic Maltese Salt-Tree. (Nature Trust Malta, 2019b).
Increased quality and quantity of green and blue infrastructures
Yes, both case studies have increased quality and quantity of green infrastructure.
Increased access to green infrastructure
The park provides opportunities for social interactions, promoting social inclusion and community cohesion/social interaction, whilst also ensuring contact with nature (Nature Trust Malta, 2019a).
Increased social interaction and inclusion
The park provides opportunities for social interactions, promoting social inclusion and community cohesion/social interaction, whilst also ensuring contact with nature (Nature Trust Malta, 2019a).
Increased willingness, participation, investment in NBS
Yes, NTM is carrying out a number of activities and environmental projects such as afforestation (preventing soil erosion and mitigating soil sealing), habitat conservation and the creation of marine protected areas. (Nature Trust Malta, 2019a).
Provision of health benefits
Yes, Parks offers an extensive natural and recreational area for tourists and locals alike. Social & Health Benefits: healthy living and mental wellbeing; urban regeneration: enhanced places for recreation, and leisure fostering better quality of life. There is now a growing body of evidence of the positive physical and mental health benefits associated with greenery and green elements in living and working environments. Parks improve human interaction with nature. Such connections to nature have been shown to benefit human physical and mental health and productivity, and reduce blood pressure and hospital stays. (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2019; Beatley, Newman, 2013).
Education, knowledge exchange and learning
Yes, Pembroke & Xrobb L-Ghagin hold great potential as an educational site, in particular for the furtherance of the study and appreciation of the ecology, flora, fauna, geology and history of the Maltese Islands. Educational services and outdoor learning for Kindergarten, Early, Middle and Secondary school years, higher age groups, non-local students and tourists are carried out during the academic year. Groups from the non-formal education sector normally visit during weekends and summer schools (Nature Trust Malta, 2019a, 2019b).
Drought and heat risk
The Mediterranean Region is considered as a "hot-spot" of climate change, having been identified in global climate scenarios as one of the most responsive regions to climate change (Lionello and Scarascia, 2018). There is a consensus in scientific literature that average temperatures will rise across most of the Mediterranean Region, and that precipitation will decrease (Ulbrich et al. 2013; Lionello and Scarascia, 2018). Observed annual mean temperatures in the Mediterranean Region are now 1.4 °C higher than the average late-nineteenth-century levels particularly during the summer months (Cramer et al., 2018).
Low availability of green infrastructure
Yes, because of the lack of green areas and open spaces due to urban expansion and the growing number of people living in urban areas (ERA, 2018d). Densely populated urban areas were characterised by a lower availability of green infrastructure (Balzan et al., 2018).
Limited knowledge about biodiversity
The Malta National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) reports that the results of the Eurobarometer Surveys on Attitudes of Europeans towards Biodiversity in 2007 and 2010 indicate that 14.4% and 18% respectively of Maltese respondents had heard of the term “biodiversity” and knew what it meant. A survey commissioned by MEPA in 2011 indicates that out of the 500 persons interviewed, 24.6% of Maltese respondents heard of the term “biodiversity” and knew what it meant. In general there is a need to continue enhancing biodiversity awareness and gain more knowledge on the meaning of ‘biodiversity’. (ERA, 2018d).
: Balzan, M. V., Caruana, J., Zammit, A. 2018. Assessing the capacity and flow of ecosystem services in multifunctional landscapes : Evidence of a rural-urban gradient in a Mediterranean small island state. Land Use Policy, 75, 711–725. Retrieved from: doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2017.08.025.

Beatley, T., Newman, P. 2013. Biophilic cities are sustainable, resilient cities. Sustainability 5(8):3328–3345. Available at:

Cramer, W., Guiot, J., Fader, M., Garrabou, J., Gattuso, J.-P., Iglesias, A., Lange, M.A., Lionello , P., Llasat , M.C., Paz, S., Peñuelas, J., Snoussi, M., Toreti , A., Tsimplis, M.N., Xoplaki, E. 2018. Climate change and interconnected risks to sustainable development in the Mediterranean. Nature Climate Change. doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0299-2.

ERA. 2018d. State of the Environment Report 2018: Chapter 8: Biodiversity. Reporting status from 2009 to 2015. Information obtained: 2019-11-08. Available at:

Lionello, P., Scarascia, L. 2018. The relation between climate change in the Mediterranean region and global warming. In Regional Environmental Change, 2018, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 1481–1493. Nature Trust Malta. 2019a. Nature Trust Malta. Information obtained: 2019-11-05. Available at:

Nature Trust Malta. 2019b. Xrobb L-Ghagin Nature Park Sustainable Living. Information obtained: 2019-11-05. Available at:

Ulbrich U, Xoplaki E, Dobricic S, García-Herrera R, Lionello P, Adani M, Baldi M, Barriopedro D, Coccimiglio P, Dalu G, Efthymiadis D, Gaetani M, Galati MB, Gimeno L, Goodess CM, Jones PD, Kuglitsch FG, Leckebusch GC, Luterbacher J, Marcos-Moreno M, Mariotti A, Nieto R, Nissen KM, Pettenuzzo D, Pinardi N, Pino C, Shaw AGP, Sousa P, Toreti A, Trigo RM, Tsimplis M. 2013. Past and current climate changes in the Mediterranean region. In: Navarra A, Tubiana L (eds) Regional Assessment of Climate Change in the Mediterranean. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 9–52. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-5781-3_2.

United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2019. Using Green Roofs to Reduce Heat Islands. Information obtained: 2019-11-10. Available at: