Miramare has been one of the first Italian MPAs to be officially established (decree of 12.11.1986), and it is entrusted to the Italian Association for WWF for Nature. It is also a UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve.
Miramare MPA is located in the Gulf of Trieste (Northern Adriatic, Italy), around a natural promontory that commands Grignano bay, on which the Castle of Miramare is placed. It includes a coastline of 1.700 meters and an offshore area of 120 hectares, divided into a core zone (30 hectares) and a buffer zone (90 hectares), subsequently established with an ordinance issued by Trieste Harbour Office.
In respect to other Mediterranean Reserves, much more isolated, the level of human presence at Miramare is extremely high since the promontory is placed between the touristic port of Grignano and Barcola seashore used as a beach by the inhabitants of Trieste. The reasons for the protection of the promontory are found in the peculiar geomorphological characteristics of flora and fauna because of which Miramare is a unique environment that alone can represent the peculiarities of the Gulf of Trieste. Some of the major ecological characteristics include:
- tidal flats with significant tidal range (about 2 m)
- high temperature variation in the water column
- fresh water flows from rain and several watershed systems (Isonzo, Timavo and Tagliamento rivers)
- coastal currents influenced by strong winds
- both soft and hard bottoms represented along the coast
- input of new oxygenated water into Mediterranean Sea (in winter)
- eurihaline and eurithermal benthic communities, some of them adapted to intertidal conditions.
The Reserve reaches a maximum depth of 18 meters and presents a series of various types of seabeds found near the coast and further away from it. They go from the rocky habitat made up the calcareous rocks, descending from the karst highlands directly to the sea, to the sandy and the muddy ones. The different habitats are characterised by high levels of biodiversity and populated by a variety of animal and plant species of high conservation value, that represents most of the features and characteristics of the Gulf of Trieste.
Despite being one of the smallest MPAs in the Mediterranean Sea, Miramare has always been a model for effective and up-to-date management, where socio-economic and conservation issues are tackled with an integrated and comprehensive approach. The Reserve collaborates with national and international institutions and it is part of WWF-Italy Oases and Protected Areas network. It can therefore be considered as a first-rate cultural, educational and scientific entity, dealing with three major issues: conservation of the marine and coastal zones, environmental education and popularisation, monitoring and investigation of the marine ecosystem.
Management system and staff
The Marine Reserve of Miramare is managed by the Italian World Wildlife Fund on behalf of Italy's Ministry of the Environment and Protection of the Territory (MEPT). The MEPT has an agreement with WWF, which serves as the management institution for Miramare. The reserve also has three control bodies and one implementing body:
1) protected area commission (11-12 people): approves annual program, confirms and controls all activities of the reserve.
2) private management committee (3 people): WWF staff that arranges daily activities on the site and confronts field management problems. This body gives the technical approval to the site manager for all management activities.
3) scientific committee (3-4 people): supports all the annual monitoring and research activities and the educational programs and advises the site manager on technical issues on the MPA activities.
4) Shoreline cooperative (private institution): implement all management activities under a contract with WWF.
Miramare is the only MPA managed by a private institution in Italy (all others are managed by local public institutions, such as coastal municipalities).
In the MPA, managers, researchers and educators work daily full-time. Graduate students (MS and PhD) undertake research in collaboration with the MPA staff under the supervision of the Biology Department at the University of Trieste. All the employees have graduate degrees in biological or natural sciences with backgrounds in environmental protection and biological conservation; many of them previously trained as researchers at Miramare. Although the staff has experience in performing public opinion survey, the site does not employ any social or governance professionals.