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Conservation Works at il-Ballut ta' Marsaxlokk Salt Marsh

: Actions including maintenance of the site, and the planting of trees, shrubs, grasses, sedges and rushes. The site is being prepared for the reintroduction of Mediterranean killifish, whilst coastal erosion is being monitored. Site access will be secured to minimise trampling on protected habitats
: Malta
: Marsaxlokk
: 4.7 km²
: 3660
: 2018
: 6 year
: Ongoing
: Yes
: Nature Trust - FEE Malta
: 35.8406
: 14.552
Increased infiltration, water retention and flood protection
Yes, natural regulation of floods and storms via natural retention and absorption capabilities of vegetation and soils.
Biodiversity conservation or increased biodiversity
Yes, the project is an important contribution to Maltese maritime heritage, because the Marsaxlokk killifish population was facing extinction. The project's activities include captive-breeding programs and securing a viable population of the killifish in captivity. The killifish, known as bużaqq in Maltese or by its scientific name Aphanius fasciatus, is a small fish endemic to the Mediterranean. It is found mainly along the Central to the Eastern coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea and around islands like as Sicily, Corsica and Malta. Genetic tests have shown that every population is different, making the local Maltese population unique. In Malta, however, this fish is endangered and in urgent need of proper management by competent institutions to prevent the degradation of its habitat that is negatively affecting the species. (Mitchell, 2015). The Salta Marsh is also an important habitat in the South of Malta that attracts various migratory birds. So far some 65 species of birds have been recorded visiting the site (NT-FEE Malta, 2021).
Ecosystem restoration and/or improved ecological connectivity
Yes, the aim of the project is also to implement the effective and sustainable management of the Saltmarsh at Marsaxlokk – Il Ballut because many negative anthropogenic pressures including dumping and severe pollution have led to a heavy decline in the stocks at the Natura 2000 site, with the population being wiped out completely. (NT-FEE Malta, 2021).
Increased quality and quantity of green and blue infrastructures
Yes, the project brings populations of this endemic Mediterranean fish to sustainable levels, as well as implementing the effective and sustainable management of the Natura 2000 site.
Sustainable urbanisation
Green infrastructure, as a NBS, is especially important for countries like Malta due to the disproportionate urban sprawl and population density. On account of the small size of the Islands, strategically-set-up green infrastructure will improve the living experience for urban residents by providing better air quality, as well as greater psychological well-being through a more open living space and closer contact with nature. The relatively short distances involved make for easy access to any green infrastructure set-up anywhere within the country.
Improved aesthetic value
Yes, works are being carried out to improve the site’s ecology and aesthetics.
Creation of green jobs relating to the construction and maintenance of NBS
Yes, a site manager has been employed.
Increased social interaction and inclusion
Yes, though volunteering activities, planting trees and shrubs, and cleaning up activities.
Increased willingness, participation, investment in NBS
Yes, through increased participation with students and volunteers.
Education, knowledge exchange and learning
Yes, the habitat holds great potential as an educational site, in particular for the furtherance of the study and appreciation of the ecology, flora and fauna of the Maltese Islands within the context of green infrastructure thanks to their aesthetic appeal, which provides a great opportunity also for public education. Education plays a critical role in this project. The Malta Aquaculture Research Centre was opened to school children regarding the killifish conservation project, enabling them to observe and appreciate Maltese heritage as islanders and as Maltese in a way that no textbook can. NTM is lobbying to get this fish recognised as Malta’s national fish. This status would increase awareness about this endemic fish, and help ensure the proper conservation of this species. (Mitchell, 2015).
Flooding risk
Yes, according to the 2nd Water Catchment Management Plan for the Malta Water Catchment District, Marsaxlokk is one of the catchments that experience previous surface water flooding (ERA, 2014).
Drought and heat risk
Yes, due to climate change. 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).
Loss of biodiversity
Yes, Malta’s biodiversity continues to be threatened by land development, invasive species, over-exploitation of species and climate change (Malta Voluntary National Review on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, 2018). Marsaxlokk killifish (endemic to the Mediterranean) population faced extinction.
Ecosystem degradation
Yes, the habitat at Il-Magħluq was rather poor with many negative anthropogenic pressures, including dumping and severe pollution, which led also to the decline in numbers of the killifish in this area.
Low availability of green infrastructure
Yes, due to urban expansion and the growing number of people living in urban areas, which still rely on services from the surrounding natural environment. (ERA, 2018).
Low aesthetic value
Yes, due to dumping and severe pollution.
Limited knowledge about biodiversity
Yes, there are ongoing efforts to address knowledge gaps on marine and terrestrial biodiversity in the Maltese Islands. Further to public awareness, Malta recognises the importance of educating its children and students on environmental issues. In general there is a need to continue enhancing biodiversity awareness and gain more knowledge about the meaning of ‘biodiversity’. (ERA, 2018).
Sustainable cities and communities (SDG11)
Yes, conservation works contribute significantly to urban ecosystem services capacity.
Climate action, resilience, mitigation and adaptation (SDG13)
Yes, an adaptive management approach is used for the conservation of the salt marsh and will contribute to an increase in carbon and nutrient sequestration.
Aquatic biodiversity (SDG14)
Yes, the aim of the project is to increase the water capacity, improve water quality and increase the killifish population. The site is being prepared for the reintroduction of Mediterranean endemic killifish.
Terrestrial biodiversity (SDG15)
Yes, by reinforcing the existing populations of rare and protected Sea Rushes (Simar tal-Baħar / Juncus Maritimus) which can tolerate many harsh environmental conditions such as high salinity, temperature and flooding. The project activities are aimed at the implementation of sustainable management of the habitat at Il-Magħluq.
: 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. Retrieved from: https://doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0299-2.

ERA. 2014. The 2nd Water Catchment Management Plan for the Malta Water Catchment District 2015 - 2021. Information obtained: 2021-03-25. Available at:

ERA. 2018. STATE OF THE ENVIRONMENT REPORT 2018: Chapter 8: Biodiversity. Reporting status from 2009 to 2015. Information obtained: 2021-02-12. Available at:

NT-FEE Malta. 2021. Grave concern on the Saltmarsh at Marsaxlokk – Il Ballut. Information obtained: 2021-02-12. 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. Mitchell, A. 2015. Killifish Conservation Project Launched in Malta. Information obtained: 2021-02-17. 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. Retrieved from: