Il-Ballut salt marshland is one of the few remaining salt marshes in the Maltese islands. Salt mashes are wetlands characterised by brackish water (i.e. water having a salinity intermediate between that of seawater and fresh water).
Such habitats are found at the opening of valleys into open sea. Salt marshes are important for many reasons.
Hidden within the tangle of salt marsh plants are animals in various stages of life. Animals can hide from predators in marsh vegetation, because the shallow brackish area physically excludes larger fish.
The Natura 2000 site of il-Ballut ta’ Marsaxlokk comprises a coastal saltmarsh located off Xatt is-Sajjieda, limits of Marsaxlokk. The saltmarsh at Il-Ballut represents one of the best Mediterranean salt meadows and its surrounding landscape is dominated by terraced agricultural land which also forms part of the Natura 2000 site.
During the dry season, water evaporation from this area causes a rise in salinity until it reaches levels of hyper-salinity. Habitats such as at Il-Ballut support specific flora and fauna that can withstand harsh environmental conditions. Consequently these habitats are rare throughout the Maltese islands and so the species that live here require protection. The marshland at Il-Ballut supports a variety of rare species which are different from those found in any other part of the islands. In fact it represents one of the best communities of sea rushes together with a number of rare species which are known from the area including plants, beetles and even a fresh water snail.
This Natura 2000 site will be subject to the preparation of a management plan and/or legislation in the near future, as part of an EU-funded project that Mepa is undertaking for the management planning all the terrestrial Natura 2000 sites of the Maltese islands.