Reconcile the tourist use of a beach with Posidonia Oceanica conservation: The POSBEMED2 win-win approach and achievements

Last 12 July, the fifth webinar of Working Group 2 on “Sustainable use of natural resources” took place to demonstrate the ecological value of Posidonia Oceanica and share the project’s main results to reconcile the tourist use with this unique Mediterranean seagrass.

Like in previous editions, the webinar was introduced by Jordi Juarez, Project Officer at the CPMR Intermediterranean Commission, who presented the Mediterranean Biodiversity Protection Community project and the Working Group 2 “Sustainable use of natural resources”.

Emmi Lindqvist, Marine Programme Assistant at IUCN Med, introduced the POSBEMED2 project and the main activities carried out in the last years. The project aimed at developing and integrating strategies to enhance the Posidonia Oceanica beach-dune system but also to raise awareness and educating stakeholders. Improving the management of Posidonia beaches becomes essential, but it must consider the peculiarities of each typology (natural, semi-natural or urban beaches) and engage local stakeholders. The “Manual for conserving Mediterranean beaches with Posidonia oceanica” (available soon in the website) is a comprehensive and useful tool addressed to different stakeholders (policymakers, local administrations, NGOs, etc.) to better manage Posidonia beaches.

Then, she recalled that Posidonia loses its leaves and forms banquettes, often seen as nuisances but, on the contrary, act as natural coastal protectors and minimize the impacts of waves during storms, preventing coastal erosion.  In this sense, it is necessary to change the “image” of the Mediterranean beaches and strengthen the identity from “Caribbean” white sand beaches to “natural beaches” with Posidonia banquettes/balls.

Afterwards, Stéphanie Oudin from Région Sud presented the Charter of Commitment for Mediterranean Posidonia Beaches. With more than 300 signatories, this online engagement tool allows everyone to sign the charter and commit at their own level. A citizen, an economic actor, an athlete or a beach manager can act and advocate in favor of more natural beaches that respect the functioning of Mediterranean coastal ecosystems. The platform is available in English and French and it will be soon launched in Spanish, Italian, Greek and Croatian.

The following intervention was done by Sergio Cappuci (ENEA, Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development) as a peer reviewer and gave some insights on the strengths of the project and the areas to improve. He particularly highlighted the need of distinguish natural, semi-natural and urban beaches when making decisions and managing Posidonia beaches and banquettes. He added that more efforts, as well as new laws and regulations that avoid considering Posidonia wrack as a waste but as a natural resource, are required. Some potential solutions could be:

  • Temporary displacement of Posidonia during summer and replacement after the end of the tourist season, allowing to take out the waste (plastic, etc.) from the Posidonia banquettes
  • Submerging Posidonia pillows for retrofitting
  • Pillows for beach facilities for a commercial use 

The webinar’s last part collected some feedback from the audience and ended up with a fruitful Q&A. Stephanie Oudin notably emphasized in the promising future of the platform which will be translated in several other languages in order to reach a wider audience and influence policymakers and beach managers to better manage Posidonia beaches and the natural resources. A question on which Mediterranean countries are more advanced in sustainable management of Posidonia beaches was raised by a participant. Indeed, each country has different situations and different problems. For instance, when it comes to legislation and public awareness, the Balearic Islands are more advanced than other areas such as Greece/Croatia, where there is still work to do. Enhancing interregional cooperation and knowledge sharing is indeed very relevant to progress on raising awareness in some Mediterranean areas.  It is also important to develop a “Mediterranean” approach to launch a sort of “Mediterranean natural beaches” brand in the international tourist markets.

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