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Parco Naturale Regionale Molentargius-Saline. Environmental education and recreational activities in the constructed wetland (ESF) of the Parco Naturale Regionale Molentargius – Saline . Alessia Atzeni, Irene Contu.

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Parco Naturale Regionale Molentargius-Saline

Environmental education and recreational activities in the constructed wetland (ESF) of the Parco NaturaleRegionaleMolentargius– Saline.

Alessia Atzeni, Irene Contu

Parco Naturale Regionale Molentargius-Saline, Via La Palma snc, Edificio Sali Scelti, 09126 Cagliari

Introduction

The Parco NaturaleRegionaleMolentargius-Saline (P.N.R. Molentargius - Saline), located in the southern Sardinia between the two cities of QuartuSant’Elena and Cagliari, is a wetland of great international value. It was recognised for its environmental characteristics by the Ramsar Convention in 1977 and instituted as a natural regional reserve in 1999.

The way to the Natural Reserve institution has been long; several years of works were necessary to achieve the protection and survival of the ecosystem. An essential requirement for the success of this process was the realization of the Molentargius Protection Plan, financed by the Environmental Ministry, which planned to realize the constructed wetland called EcosistemaFiltro (ESF). The ESF treats the wastewater coming from the Is Arenas depuration plant and it provides the appropriate quality and quantity water for the feeding of the freshwater ponds. During the years the ESF has become a suitable habitat for several protected species of plants and animals, including many waterfowl observable all the year (“Habitat 1150” - Directive 92/43/CEE).

The environmental significance of the Molentargius makes this site ideal for environmental and sustainable educational activities partly because of the closeness with the town. An essential requirement is to reconcile the fruition activities of the ESF with the protection of the environment and the preservation of the birdlife. The Molentargius local authority is currently experimenting new recreational activities in the ESF to point out its environmental importance without making inconveniences to the fauna. Walking tour dedicated to the phytodepuration, bird watching, birds ringing, flamingos rings reading are some of the activities suggest to the visitors.

The Sustainability and EnvironmentalEducationCentreofMolentargius

The Sustainability and Environmental Education Centre of Molentargius (CEAS) is located in the local authority head office and organizes the environmental education and scientific research promotion. The CEAS is a member of the National Environmental Information and Education System (INFEA) and is one of the eleven structures accredited by the Sardinia Region in accordance with the regional quality indicators system (SIQUAS) for Environmental Education Centers. The CEAS works with the Sardinia Region Council and the Cagliari Provincial Council for concerting efforts in the field of environmental information and education.

The CEAS compliments the site by introducing visitors to the wetlands through guide visits, events, audio-visual facilities and educational projects. The school education program caters for day visits of students at all levels of schooling. The purpose of the center is to spread information about the territory in order to increase sustainable tourism, to reduce the human behaviors and the economic activities harmful for the environment. The CEAS was opened in 2008 and the yearly visitor arrivals consist of about 5000 people which have attended the organized activities. Most visitors are students of primary and secondary school and the months with the higher number of visits are May and October also because of particular events destined to people of all ages. All activities are well monitored by the CEAS to ensure a balance between sustainability and accessibility of the wetland ecosystems.

The Ecosistema Filtro (ESF) and the relatedrecreationalactivities

In this condition it is an essential requirement to reconcile the management and fruition activities with the environmental preservation through a correct management system. The Local Authority is experimenting new possible ways to propose recreational activities in a manner consistent with the capacity of natural resources.

The ESF is a phytodepuration plant with horizontal surface flow composed by two treatment lines. It is extended for 37 ha and the vegetation is mostly constituted by Phragmitesaustralis and Tipha. It provides tertiary treatment of water coming from the secondary wastewater treatment of the Is Arenas depuration plant, and feeds the freshwater ponds with appropriate quality and quantity water.

For this reason the activities in the ESF are allowed during specific periods of the year, from September to March, excluding the breeding and growing periods, only during the day and with a guided visit.

The ESF has become during the years a suitable habitat for several protected species of plants and animals, increasing the biodiversity of the whole protected area

Birdwatching and flamingos rings reading

Walking tour dedicated to the phytodepuration

Birds ringing

The ESF is a suitable habitat for several protected species of plants and animals and it’s easy observing rare water birds such as: Greater Flamingo, Purple Swamp Hen, Black-winged Stilt, Shoveler, Squacco Heron, Black-necked Grebe etc.. Furthermore the ESF is a perfect sighting place for reading flamingos rings. Birds are sensitive to disturbance from visitors, including impacts from noise and bright colour clothing so to control visitation and minimize impacts a ticket and guiding system has been introduced for bird-watching. Only small groups of maximum ten people are allowed for this kind of activity.

The P.N.R. Molentargius-Saline does a constant monitoring of the avifauna and the research programme includes Passeriformes and waterfowl bird-ringing. In the ESF specialists put up the mist nets between the reed-bed and after catching the birds a small, individually numbered, metal or plastic ring is attached to their legs.

During particular events people in little groups, maximum 15, are allowed to assist at this activities. Visitors can talk personally with biologists and naturalists to better understand the importance of the bird's life study and therefore be involved in the Natural Reserve work.

The P.N.R. Molentargius and the Is Arenas Depuration plant organises walking tour destined to secondary school students. The aim of this activity is to explain the rudiments about wastewater depuration pointing out the importance of the phytodepuration and wastewater reuse.

The tour starts with a guide visit at the Is Arenas depuration plant and continue in the ESF constructed wetland. The technicians explain to the students the primary, secondary and tertiary treatment depuration characteristics. The activity is realised only from September to February and for only a class a day.

Conclusion

The P.N.R. Molentargius started its activities in 2007 and it has tried since then to start ecotourism activities with the aim to involve students, citizens and in general local community. Despite the difficulties of the task, the P.N.R. has worked with the objective to define regulations for minimizing disturbance while ensuring high quality visiting: the P.N.R. has localized the areas destined to the ecotourism, the opening period and time. At present it follows that it is necessary to create a private-public agreement for the ecotourism management focusing to the guide training and awareness, checking on their compliance with wildlife watching regulations and verifying the quality of interpretation that they provide to tourists. Another basic point is to improve the understanding of the biology of the species and to monitor the impact of tourism on them.

…..Recreational use of wetlands needs not conflict with their conservation objectives. However, decisions concerning the protection of wetlands should precede recreational planning……[Bacon, 1987]

References

Convenzione di Aarhus, Danimarca, 25 giugno 1998

Legge Regionale 26/02/1999 n° 5 “Istituzione del Parco Naturale Regionale Molentargius-Saline”.

Bacon, P.R., UseofWetlandsforTourism in the InsularCaribbean, AnnalsofTourismResearch, 14, 104-117, 1987.

Lim C, McAleer M, UseofwetlandsforSustainableTourism Management, Proceedingsof the International Conference on EnvironmentalModelling and Software (pp. 496-501). Lugano: Universityof Lugano, 2002.

Tapper R., Wildlife Watching and Tourism: A study on the benefits and risks of a fast growing tourism activity and its impacts on species UNEP / CMS Secretariat, Germany2006.

P.F.J.Eagles,S.F.McCool, CD.HaynesSustainableTourism in ProtectedAreas – Guidelinesfor Planning and Management, 2002

Acknowledgements

The P.N.R. Molentargius is grateful to:

Associazione per il Parco Molentargius-Saline-Poetto, Linnaeus scarl, Anthus snc, Is Arenas Depuration Plant, Fabio Cherchi, Teravista.