More than 100 representatives of Mediterranean biodiversity protection projects signed up to gather at the Orto Botanico in Rome on 6 and 7 May 2019 to discuss Ecosystem-based responses to Mediterranean biodiversity challenges.
Transferring the lessons learnt by a biodiversity protection community of 12 projects, this event enlarged previous debates with policy stakeholders and research institutions by integrating the need to involve the private sector and establish effective public and private partnerships.
The Biodiversity Protection Community, featured by the Interreg Med Horizontal project PANACeA, is developing technical tools and guidance to support the management of Protected Areas while working together to consider new and innovative solutions towards preserving the ecological sensitivity and significance of key ecosystems across the Mediterranean. Various policy and practice recommendations promoting an ecosystem-based approach to address transboundary impacts and land-sea interactions for effective biodiversity protection were discussed in a common search for a good environmental status for the Mediterranean Sea.
As stated by Mrs Lorenza Bonaccorsi, Regional Minister in charge of Tourism, Lazio Region: “Existing and new Marine Protected Areas are important tools for effective biodiversity conservation and natural resource management, but other tools are necessary to manage transboundary impacts beyond man-made boundaries. The adoption of Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) tools should be the basis for participatory decision making in natural resource management and biodiversity protection. “
However, getting all the actors and especially private ones on board is still a challenge, as nature protection is sometimes perceived as impeding development rather than as a long-term investment in maintaining fundamental ecosystem services and goods that Mediterranean natural resources provide to ensure human wellbeing.
Some inspiration and best practices from other continents were featured, as underlined by the keynote speaker John E. Scanlon AM, Special Envoy at African Parks Network: ““This is a dynamic conversation; in the case of the African Parks, we manage parks in partnership with governments and local communities. Building a local constituency that supports the park comes from viewing conservation through a development lens. Local people and communities are hired and trained as rangers and in tourism and more. These competencies and the skills local people gain will last in perpetuity. It is all about engaging with local communities and building local capacity and support.”
Solutions for monitoring and tackling marine litter, a better dialogue with the fishing community and the role of seagrass meadows against coastal erosion were also discussed among Mediterranean countries to foster a multisectoral and multilevel cooperation process, to develop mutual understanding and to raise the ecological sensitivity of all actors concerned.
Stakeholders’ engagement methodologies in different legislative and binding processes such as the implementation of the EU Maritime Spatial Planning Directive, and the use of participatory approaches to sustain small-scale fisheries and implementation of marine protected area management were among the showcased best practices.
Concerning the private sector and its role in ensuring a sustainable use of natural resources, the discussions led to a confirmation that forward-thinking leaders from this sector are engaging more effectively with the Sustainable Development Agenda attempting to integrate environmental and social factors with economic activities. These best practices are nevertheless still at an infancy stage and need to be reinforced by adequate instruments and policies to start showing their positive impacts on nature. However, more private sector efforts in terms of corporate social responsibility initiatives and funding support for biodiversity protection and conservation are required to ensure a sustainable development and use of natural resources in the Mediterranean.
Among the conclusions of the various roundtables was the need to build trust among the various sectors and people involved, and to understand each other’s language and needs. For this, raising awareness efforts through adequate data and knowledge dissemination from the scientists’ side towards the public and private sectors should be encouraged; showcasing success stories appealing for economic sustainability can provide responses to this challenge.
Linking efficiently multi-level and multi-sectoral actors to key environmental information can create virtuous and consultative processes to improve and facilitate the integration of an ecosystem-based approach in decision-making. Such is the aim of this Interreg MED biodiversity protection initiative which is acting as a hub, and providing through its biodiversity protection knowledge platform concrete and tangible examples and data to all those interested in a more coherent and integrated protection and management of our natural resources and the people that depend on them.