After the final approval by the Ministers in charge, the effective safeguard and enhancement of the marine habitats of extraordinary landscape and preservation value characterizing the Secche della Meloria Marine Protected Area (MPA), situated before the municipality of Livorno, has been started.
On the 6th of April, 2010 but with entry into force on the 21st of April, 2010, the Ministerial Decree establishing the Secche della Meloria MPA was published in the Official Journal. The Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli Regional Park (MSRM Park Authority) was entrusted with the management of the MPA.
The Secche della Meloria represents a unique mediterranean marine ecosystem as far as its extent and diversity are concerned, where one can dive into its wonderful waters to admire the many fishes and a varied marine vegetation. Meloria's sea bottoms are characterized by the particular round hollows that probably originated as a consequence of the erosion phenomena that occurred in prehistoric ages. Such hollows are called "catini" by local fishers. The most important plant populations are the prairies of Posidonia oceanica: they are a very structured and highly productive ecosystem housing several and different animal and plant communities. Furthermore, the prairie provides oxygen and opposes the erosive action of the waves. Among the animals we can observe in this area there are: crustaceans, worms, bryozoa, mollusks, tunicates, jellyfishes, sea anemones, corals, sea stars and many other fish species (goatfishes, sargo, morays, groupers, red scorpionfishes, pipefishes, seahorses).
The Secche della Meloria is an ecosystem rich in species, as a matter of fact its waters house many plant and animal populations. The plant kingdom is represented both by algae and marine plants, such as the Posidonia oceanica that forms a real habitat (see the section "Habitat"). Depending on the environmental type, the marine fauna is represented by both vertebrates and invertebrates, that is pelagic species (living in the open sea) and benthic species (living in marine sedimentary environments).
Livorno is provided with one of the most important italian harbors: it is an important commercial and tourist seaport as well as an industrial center of international significance. Livorno's territory includes the Secche della Meloria, situated about 3 miles far from the coast. It is an extremely interesting area as far as history and archaeology, as well as nature are concerned. The shallows extend over more than 9,000 hectares, and are formed by a shallow rocky bank (from a minimum of 2 meters to a maximum of 30 meters) surrounded by sandy and muddy sea bottoms. The sea bottom, characterized by the presence of the Posidonia oceanica, uniform rocks, blocks of different sizes and pebbles, is a nursery area for many coastal species of high commercial significance.
The formation of the Secche della Meloria's sea bottom is very complicated. There are good general information on their geology, but specialized literature does not provide solid elements as no accurate samplings have been obtained in the area of the shallows. Nevertheless, already in the 1950's, thanks to the innovative works by Segre, there was a sufficiently clear image of the sea bottoms: the signs of many seabeds which were submerged by the last sea-level rise (during Holocene) are visible, as well as several sedimentary accumulations originated by the river that pushed the ancient seaboard along the external borders of the shallows.