LIFE Project Cover Photo

Coastal lagoon habitat (1150*) and species recovery by restoring the salt gradient increasing fresh water input

Reference: LIFE16 NAT/IT/000663 | Acronym: LIFE LAGOON REFRESH



Venice’s northern lagoon holds several Annex I-listed habitats of the Habitats Directive. In particular, habitat type, coastal lagoons, which according to the latest Article 17 report on the conservation status of the EU, are of an unfavourable conservation status. Over the past few decades, coastal lagoons have receded significantly as a consequence of historical human activities (e.g. clam digging with mechanical excavation, eutrophication, pollution, and erosion caused by boats). The coastal lagoon habitat plays a crucial role in supplying ecosystem services, for example, by supporting numerous biological communities and increasing the stability of the tidal flats.


The LIFE LAGOON REFRESH project foresees the restoration in Venice’s northern lagoon of the small tidal costal lagoons. In particular, it aims at conserving coastal lagoons to exploit the ecosystem services provided by this habitat to:

  • Recreate typical estuarine ecological characteristics, in order to counteract the depletion of lagoon bottom and fish communities;
  • Reduce eutrophication thanks to the phytoremediation function of reed beds, favouring the presence of sensitive species and aquatic plants of high ecological value;
  • Improve the conservation status of bird species including those listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive, that use the reed beds during the winter period and/or for breeding and foraging; and
  • Increase the presence of the fish species, Canestrini's goby (Pomatoschistus canestrinii), listed in Annex II of the Habitats Directive.
  • The improvement of nutrient levels in the priority coastal lagoons habitat will contribute to the achievement of a good environmental status according to the Water Framework Directive for the area. The restoration of salinity gradients and reed bed surfaces will contribute to an increased biodiversity in the Natura 2000 network site, and help achieve targets defined by the 2020 Biodiversity Strategy.

    Expected results: Improvement in the conservation of coastal lagoons through:

  • Consolidation and restoration of 1 250 ha of priority coastal lagoon habitat, equivalent to 34% of this habitat within the target Natura 2000 network site, part of which (about 30%) is currently of ‘unfavourable’ status;
  • Restoration of salinity gradient: average salinity <5 psu on 5 ha, <15psu on 25 ha, and <25psu on 70 ha;
  • Reduction of eutrophication, increased trophic water quality index (TWQI), and increase in seagrass patches (with increased average seagrass coverage to 15-25% after 10 years);
  • Improvement of benthic and fish community status, for instance, in terms of macrophyte quality index (MaQI), habitat fish bioindicator Index (HFBI) and multivariate marine biotic index (M-AMBI); and
  • Decrease of yearly average concentration of nutrients in water during overflow events (up to 50%).
  • Improvement in the status of bird species:

  • Creation of habitat for species (reed beds) on an area of approximately 20 ha (+ 67% of the current site surface);
  • Increase in bird species typical of the reeds, in particular: Phalocrocorax pygmeus* (100 to 200 individuals), Botaurus stellaris* (7 to 12 individuals), Ardea purpurea, Ixobrychus minutus, Circus aeruginosus, C. cyaneus, Alcedo atthis, with progressive structuring of the species’ community;
  • Increase of fish species abundance: Canestrini's goby (0.1 individuals/100 m2 to 12-20 individuals/100 m2, annual average values); and
  • Establishment of protection area of 70 ha, with banning of all mobile hunting methods and controlling of fishing pressure.
  • Ecological status and biodiversity:

  • Achievement of good ecological status under the Water Framework Directive for the water body, Palude Maggiore, and improvement to the ecological status for water body, Dese; and
  • Increase of bird species typical of the reed beds, not included in Annex I of the Birds Directive, but of general conservation interest.


    Reference: LIFE16 NAT/IT/000663
    Start Date: 01/09/2017
    End Date: 31/08/2022
    Total Eligible Budget: 3,286,630 €
    EU Contribution: 2,436,286 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale
    Legal Status: PAT
    Address: Via Vitaliano Brancati 48, 00144, Roma,
    Contact Person: Rossella Boscolo Brus&agrave;
    Email: Send Email
    Website: Visit Website

    LIFE Project Map



    • Coastal


    • wetland
    • restoration measure
    • coast protection
    • coastal management


    • COM(2013)133 - “Proposal for a Directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management” (12.03.2013)
    • "Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean, ratified by the Council Decision 2010/631/EU (13.09.2010)"
    • Directive 2008/56 - Framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive) (17.06.2008)
    • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)
    • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
    • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020” (03.05.2011)


    • 1150 - Coastal lagoons


    • Emberiza schoeniclus
    • Panurus biarmicus
    • Acrocephalus arundinaceus
    • Locustella luscinioides
    • Alcedo atthis
    • Circus cyaneus
    • Circus aeruginosus
    • Ixobrychus minutus
    • Ardea purpurea
    • Phalacrocorax pygmeus
    • Botaurus stellaris
    • Pomatoschistus canestrinii


    Type Code Name
    SCI IT3250031 Laguna superiore di Venezia
    SPA IT3250046 Laguna di Venezia


    Name Type
    Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale Coordinator
    Provveditorato Interregionale per le Opere Pubbliche (OO.PP) del Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia), Italy Participant
    Ipros Ingegneria Ambientale s.r.l., Italy Participant
    Università Ca' Foscari di Venezia, Italy Participant
    Regione Veneto - Direzione Ambiente, Italy Participant