La Cona Wetland Centre






East Atlantic flyway


WLI Europe


Riserva Naturale Foce Isonzo

Funding support: Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia

Number of staff: 10 – 15

Number of visitors per year: 25.000 (ticket); up to 100.000 if free areas are included

Overall aims of the centre

Conservation and restoration of wetlands, including formerly cultivated fields; education and research.


The Isonzo Nature Reserve (including Isola Della Cona and La Cona Wetland centre) was recently declared a Ramsar site by the Italian Ministry for the Environment (nat. official gazzette: 09 march 2016). The whole area is also included within a Natura 2000 site as: ZSC ZPS – IT3330005 FOCE DELL’ISONZO – ISOLA DELLA CONA. Further information at:

Description of the centre

The Mouth of the River Isonzo is a coastal wetland at the northernmost corner of the Adriatic Sea (and of the Mediterranean sea) where the vast lagoon system of about 100.000 hectares (which includes the Po river mouth and the lagoon of Venice) meets at some point the first rocky cliffs of the Illyrian limestone area (Classic Karst). It mainly includes: shallow sea waters, mudflat tidal areas partially covered by eelgrasses carpets; salt marshes, gravel-sandy islets, fresh water marshes; temporary wetlands, flooded meadows and small wood portions.

Previously, an area of about 100 hectares was restored (period 1989/90 to 2001), converted as a temporary freshwater wetland, including permanent wet meadows, reedbeds, wooded areas, etc.

The site regularly hosts relevant waterfowl numbers and rare animal and plant species.

It also represents a very important eco-tourism, educational, research and bird-watching resort at an international level, which is regularly visited by more than 50.000 people/year, both along terrestrial routes and by boat. FAUNA: mainly after environmental restoring, hunting ban and sound visitors management, many species of European importance (150, according to directives in force) that were endangered or locally decreasing, have remarkably increased.

Many species, included in Annex I of Council Directive 79/409/EEC (Birds Directive, now replaced by C. D. 2009/147/EC), have been observed or are regularly present, i.e., e.g.: Ixobrychus minutus, Circus aeruginosus, Pernis apivorus, Himantopus himantopus, Burhinus oedicnemus, Charadrius alexandrinus, Sterna albifrons, Alcedo atthis, Caprimulgus europaeus, Dryocopus martius, Lanius collurio. So it is for the C. D. 92/43/EEC (Habitats Directive) annex II or IV species.

It is worth naming at least the following ones: Mammals: Pipistrellus kuhlii, P. nathusii, Nyctalus noctula, Eptesicus serotinus, Felis sylvestris, Tursiops truncatus, Stenella coeruleoalba, Delphinus delphis. Reptiles: Emys orbicularis, Caretta caretta, Lacerta viridis, L. muralis, L. sicula, Coluber viridiflavus, Elaphe longissima, Natrix tessellata. Amphibians: Triturus carnifex, Bufo viridis, Rana lessonae, R. latastei, R. dalmatina. Fresh water Fishes: Petromyzon marinus, Acipenser naccarii, Alosa fallax, Aphanius fasciatus, Salmo trutta marmoratus, Leuciscus souffia, Chondrostoma genei, Alburnus alborella, Cobitis taenia, Cottus gobio, Knipowitschia panizzae, Pomatoschistus canestrini. Invertebrates: Pinna nobilis (Mollusca), Zerynthia polyxena, Coenonympha oedippus, Lycaena dispar (Lepidoptera).

The importance of the site is underlined by its animal diversity and animal populations. Fresh water Fishes: 38 species; salt/brackish water fishes: more than 90 species; Amphibians: 11 species; Reptiles: 13 species; Mammals: 35 species; Birds: 319 species (80 of them breeding within the Nature Reserve area); and for Invertebrates, Lepidoptera: approximately almost 300 species, Odonata: 35 species, recorded in 2008-2010. Particularly important are Selysiothemis nigra, which represent the northernmost record in West Europe and Anax ephippiger, a migratory species coming from arid zones of Africa, Middle East and SE Asia. (Pers. Comm. – by J.-J. Mekkes and C. Uboni; cfr. Stazione Biologica Isola Cona web-site: The total number of bird species until now recorded here is exceptionally high at an European level, for such a “small” site.

Main habitats:

Open sea and tidal areas
Shingle or stony beaches
Salt marshes and salt meadows
Freshwater habitats
Natural e semi-natural grassland formations

Habitat list:

Sandbanks which are slightly covered by sea water all the time Corine91(3) code: 11.125, 11.22, 11.31 ;
Estuary Corine 91 code: 13.2, 11.2 / Nature 2000 code: 1130
Mudflats and sandflats not covered by sea water at low tide Corine91 code: 14 / Nature 2000 code: 1140;

Annual vegetation of drift lines Corine91 code: 17.2 / Nature 2000 code: 1210;

Salicornia and other annuals populations colonizing mud and sand Corine91 code: 15.1 / Nature 2000 code: 1310;
Flat leave cordgrass swards (Spartinion) Corine91 code: 15.21 / Nature 2000 code: 1320;
Saltmarsh couch beds (Agropyrion pungentis) Corine91 code: 1330;
Mediterranean salt meadows (Juncetalia maritimi) Corine91 code: 15.5 / Nature 2000 code: 1410;
Mediterranean and thermo-Atlantic halophilous scrubs (Arthrocnemetea fruticosae)
Corine91 code: 15.6 / Nature 2000 code: 1420;

(Salix elaeagnos) gravel bank thickets Corine91 code: 24.224 / Nature 2000 code: 3240;
Floating and submerged vegetation with Ranunculus trychophyllus Corine91 code: 24.4 / Nature 2000 code: 3260;

Eastern sub-Mediterranean dry grasslands (Scorzoneratalia villosae) Corine91 code: 34.75 / Nature 2000 code: 62A0 ;
Mediterranean tall herb and rush meadows (Molinio-Holoschoenion) Corine91 code: 37.31 / Nature 2000 code: 6420 ;
Lowland hay meadows Corine91 code: 38.2 / Nature 2000 code: 6510;

Sub-atlantic and medio european oak and oak-hornbeam forests (Carpinion betuli) Corine91 code: 41.24 / Nature 2000 code: 9160;
Salix alba and Populus alba galleries Corine91 code: 41.141 and 44.6 / Nature 2000 code: 92A0;


Work Areas

Main CEPA work areas

In the reserve and surrounding areas is active the “Stazione Biologica Isola della Cona” which began its activity in the year 1996. Regular fauna (mostly birds but also other zoological groups) monitoring has been performed since 1989.

Main researches are: flora and fauna, monitoring invertebrates, support to researchers, cooperation with other international research institutes etc. There is a Visitor Centre area at Isola della Cona (La Cona Wetland Centre), which includes three buildings. Two of them are adapted as bird and landscape – watching facilities. The largest building holds a museum (with dioramas, aquariums, underwater views etc.), shop, laboratories and offices for the staff and the research Station (SBIC), bar etc.

The surrounding area is provided with screened footpaths and hides and horse structures. As this place is one of the most important birdwatching sites in Central Europe and Northern Mediterranean region, there are a lot of facilities for it. Environment education and guidance activities are regularly lead by specialized staff, especially (although not only) dedicated to schools. There is also a second, privately owned Visitor Centre sited near the river-mouth along the other back of the river (Caneo area) 5 km apart. At the moment it is not working. This building is equipped with rooms, a restaurant, watching towers, a visitor room, footpath on boardwalks in the nearby reed-bed and boating opportunities.

There is a web site directly related with the Nature Reserve: . Others are in progress. A guide-book titled “La Foce dell’ Isonzo e l’ Isola della Cona” (2006) is available (in English as well: 2008).

Top three successes

Re-flooding of formerly cultivated areas and the re-introduction of Graylag Goose as breeding specie

The use of domestic herbivores to manage fresh – water wetlands had an impressive, positive, effect to to waterfowl etc.

The building of Visitor Centre (opened in the year 2002), screened foot-paths and hides had a parallel noteworthy success with visitors and decision-makers.

Top three challenges

Of course they can! E.g. the amelioration of foot-paths leading far from the Visitor Centre towards less visited and wilder area increased loss of money and human disturbance. In the beginning also the strategy of allowing free entrance to the facilities and organized areas was unsuccessful: the visitor numbers increased after the introduction of the ticket! (5 €, full price).


Interpretation techniques

Creating signage; site information; Producing written materials; Developing nature trails

Visitor centres

Setting up a new visitor centre; Managing / creating habitat; Running a visitor centre; Building / maintaining structures


Engaging young people; Engaging the local community; Working with volunteers

Education and communication

Delivering adult education; Working with primary schools; Lobbying / running campaigns; Working with secondary schools; Developing resources / materials


PR and marketing; Running effective administration;

Isola della Cona and the Isonzo Rivermouth Nature reserve deserved the “Green Globe Award for the Best Wetland Restoration Project in Europe” at the Nagoja – Japan Wetland

Symposium in the year 2010


Dr. Nat. Fabio Perco.

0039 335 5449008

Gabrovizza n. 38.34010 – Trieste (I)

or: C/o Comune di Staranzano. Piazza Dante. 34079 – Staranzano – Gorizia.

Website address: in progress the new web – site