Protecting the Mediterranean biodiversity from tourism: a shared challenge for our projects!

The Mediterranean area attracts a lot of tourists due to the richness of its landscapes and biodiversity. Unfortunately, this success has a negative impact on the natural and cultural environment, directly affecting the ecosystems and the lives of the local inhabitants. 

In order to reduce the impact of tourism on biodiversity, two Interreg MED communities gathering 41 projects: the Sustainable Tourism and Biodiversity Protection communities, have been working hand in hand for more governance and efficiency. Together, they recently attended the IUCN World Conservation Congress that took place in early September in Marseille to showcase their project results and raise awareness on the challenges still ahead of us. 

Both communities had the occasion to put forward some of the best practices from the 28 Interreg MED projects working on solutions to reduce the pressure of sectoral activities on tourism and to increase the resilience of ecosystems

For example, Stéphanie Oudin, explained the work of her project (POSBEMED2) on the protection of the Posidonia algae on the Mediterranean coast. Indeed, while it can act as a seedbank for dune formation increasing the overall resilience of the coast to natural and climate change effects, it is often removed to make the beaches more appealing to tourists. The project is working towards a larger public awareness to show that not only it is not dirty nor a sign of pollution but also to demonstrate the benefits of this natural capital and the necessity to strengthen protected areas management capacity.

Meanwhile Thomais Vlachogianni, from the PlasticBusters MPAs project, explained the pilot actions that are put in place to reduce plastic pollution in the Mediterranean Sea. For example, the hospitality businesses of 4 Marine Protected Areas (National Marine Park of Zakynthos in Greece, Strunjan landscape park in SLovenia, Natural of Ebro Delta and Cabrera National Park in Spain) committed to implement practices towards the replacement of single-use plastics, such as the setting up of a reusable cup delivery system for beach bars in the National Marine Park of Zakynthos in Greece.

All the solutions and harmonised inputs proposed by the Biodiversity Protection community are gathered on the knowledge platform they developed. Its objective is to give visibility to effective methodologies, key project results, and actions towards biodiversity protection.  

The IUCN congress was also the occasion for Dania Abdul Malak, from the European Topic Centre of the University of Malaga to present the work of the Biodiversity Protection community, specifically the role of Nature-based Solutions (NbS). These sustainable solutions, very popular among nature conversation actors, promise to cope with climate change mitigation and adaptation challenges. They may range from the provision of green spaces and green infrastructures in the cities to the restoration of a coastal dune system or the development of adaptive agriculture techniques in farmlands.

The congress showed that the coordination among all stakeholders is essential in the years to come to mitigate conflict between preservation and economic issues.

 

 

Marine litter is an example of a problem that does not have  a "one solution fits all". It requires a combination of multi-stakeholder and multi-sectorial efforts across nations and disciplines in order to address it effectively.

 Thomais Vlachogianni from MIO - ECSDE, Plastic Busters MPAs project

The future Interreg MED will make sure to head this way, combining communities that work together to enhance their results. More specifically, sustainable tourism will be addressed transversally in all the Programme priorities in order to help the regions involved to practice a tourism governance that enables continuous improvements of environmental, social and economic sustainability, increases competitiveness through quality and innovations and ensures implementation and monitoring of strategies and policies.

Moreover, the 2021-2027 Interreg Euro-MED Programme will provide for a better coordination with key actors of the Mediterranean area, and especially the WestMed initiative, the Union for the Mediterranean, Interreg Programmes as ADRION, Next-MED, Interreg Italy - France, among others as well as the macro regional strategies: EUSAIR and EUSALP. 

In a matter of coordination, the Interreg MED Programme will participate in the funding of the Mediterranean MPA forum organised by MEDPAN in Monaco from 29 November to 1 December 2021. It will be the opportunity to bring together the wider MPA community, including managers, policy 

makers, scientists, economic players, regional and international organisations, NGOs and donors from all Mediterranean countries and beyond, to take stock of the current status of MPAs and share a vision on the priority challenges to be addressed in the Mediterranean in the coming years.