Restoring Mediterranean wetlands: From informed policy to implementation

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Wetlands and nature-based solutions need feature higher on the political agendas of the EU and its member states, due to the concerning developments in these ecosystems over recent decades, according to several European NGOs who met on 4 October 2022 for a closing event of a MAVA Foundation funded project. Some 50% of Mediterranean wetlands have been destroyed over the past 50 years and most of those that remain are degraded or damaged. Over its duration, the project has developed resources to protect and restore vital Mediterranean wetland ecosystems.

Wetlands International Europe, together with the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet), BirdLife Europe, European Topic Centre on Spatial Analysis and Synthesis – University of Malaga (ETC-UMA), Tour du Valat and WWF Spain, organised a lunch Seminar, as a closing event of the MAVA funded project “Communicating and advocating to reduce water abstraction and detrimental coastal development in Mediterranean coastal wetlands”. During the seminar, the results of the project were presented by members of the Policy Task force including a recent policy brief on “Mediterranean wetlands in the EU Nature Restoration Law”.

Marianne Courouble, Policy Officer at MedWet, kicked off the seminar by stating the importance of coastal wetlands and presenting the “Wetlands-Based Solutions” project as a collective effort to conserve and restore Mediterranean coastal wetlands for nature and people.

Some of the main project outcomes, resources and tools were presented:

  • Sofie Ruysschaert (Nature restoration policy officer, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia) and Szabolcs Nagy (Biodiversity Manager, Wetlands International Europe), presented the Policy brief on “Mediterranean wetlands in the EU Nature Restoration Law”, which was also presented in the afternoon to the EC DG ENVI Biodiversity and Nature Units. They shared the overview of the proposal and some proposed actions in order to make it work.
  • Marco Trombetti (Environmental Researcher and GIS Expert, ETC-UMA), presented “A Mediterranean wide wetland ecosystem map – a regional baseline for informed decisions”. He explained how a biodiversity assessment based on IUCN Red List data was developed as a tool for decision makers to identify conservation priorities, knowledge gaps and cross-boundary opportunities.
  • Anis Guelmami (Project Leader / Chef de Projet GIS, Remote Sensing and Mapping, Tour du Valat), presented “Large scale mapping of potential areas for wetlands restoration”. They developed a large scale map representing areas for potential wetlands restoration action, together with cost efforts evaluation.
  • Carlota Viada (Biologist, WWF Spain), presented “Strengthening the restoration of Mediterranean Wetlands for nature and people”. She shared the main deliverables, which include: survey of potential to be restored, criteria to identify restoration priorities, the “MedWetland Watchers” app to identify wetlands that need to be restored, factsheets of successful restoration activities, and several others.

Vanessa Sánchez Ortega, Project coordinator for Fundación Global Nature, gave a presentation on “Mediterranean wetlands management and restoration as carbon sinks”, as part of the LIFE Wetlands4Climate project. She presented the scope of the project, process and results, including the importance of considering Mediterranean wetlands for carbon sequestration.

Marianne Courouble, Policy Officer at MedWet, closed the seminar by focusing on the next steps, such as putting wetlands and NbS higher on the political agendas of the EU and its member states, supporting the exchange of good practices, lessons learnt and knowledge as well as increasing the surface area of protected wetlands.

The same day, the policy task force met with the Biodiversity and Nature Units at the European Commission’s DG Environment to discuss the Nature Restoration law.

The presentations shared during the seminar, as well as the final version of the Nature Restoration Law Mediterranean wetlands position paper: