RES MARIS – “Regenerating threatened habitats in the marine area of Capo Carbonara, Sardinia”, is a project co-financed by the EU LIFE+ programme, whose mission has been the conservation and regeneration of the marine and terrestrial ecosystems in the dry and submerged beach. In particular, the project focused on priority habitats *2250 “Coastal dunes with Juniperus spp.”, *2270 “Dunes with Pinus pinea and/or Pinus pinaster forests” and 1120* “Posidonia beds (Posidonion oceanicae)” identified in Directive 92/43/EEC and contained within the ITB040020 SCI “Isola dei Cavoli, Serpentara, Punta Molentis e Campulongu”.
RES MARIS has had a total budget of 1.5 million euro (75% of which was financed by the European Union) and has as lead partner the Province of Cagliari plus TECLA a Public Equivalent Body, the University of Cagliari ((Centre for Conservation of biodiversity – Dept. of Botanical Science) -and the City of Villasimius (Area Marina Protetta di Capo Carbonara) as partners.
The project, which started in 2016, ended in late 2018 and is now in the Post-LIFE phase.
The threatened habitats are strongly interconnected. The main threats are linked to the use of the beaches, the natural and/or accidental introduction of alien vegetable species and the uncontrolled mooring, all of which alter the habitats’ composition, the deposits and the structure of the dry and submerged beach.
Research, including the surveys carried out within the LIFE PROVIDUNE project, highlighted the increase of invasive species in priority habitats in the last decade: in terrestrial habitats, alien vegetable species make up circa 9% of the surface area (1.45 ha), while in the sea their distribution is not known but can be estimated to be wide ranging in habitat *1120.
This was one of the most significant threats, affecting around 23% of surveyed cases (PROVIDUNE Report, 2012). Hence, an integrated action at sea and on land was needed, in order to achieve the following specific objectives:
- Reducing and/or eliminating the threat to priority habitats caused by invasive alien species (objective 5 of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy)
- Applying best practices for the long term protection of the three priority habitats in the SCI
- Reducing and/or eliminating the threat to habitat *1120 (Posidonia beds) caused by mooring
- Facilitating the regeneration and natural course of the native vegetation, in the dry and submerged beach and especially along the dune ranges
- Restoring and recovering the areas that are sensitive to the impact of invasive species with the priority habitats
- Raising the awareness of stakeholders and users of the land, with respect to the safeguard and conservation of marine and terrestrial ecosystems
- Sharing best practices with the local administrations, for the conservation and a more thoughtful use of the environment, particularly the marine and coastal ecosystems that make up the dry and submerged beach.
In order to achieve these objectives, several actions had to be carried out:
- Preliminary actions (assessing habitat conservation, alien species distribution and identifying the areas needing action)
- Conservation actions (installing mooring structures, collecting, multiplying and re-introducing germplasm, controlling/eradicating invasive alien species, regenerating and rehabilitating dune vegetation)
- Monitoring the project throughout
- Communication actions to disseminate the project results through the web, social networking, school activity, local
- events, video documentaries etc..
All the actions carried out have been successful. The monitoring actions have produced a considerable amount of information about the state of the habitats, the level of the threats and the presence of autoctonous end alien species both at land and at sea. The concrete conservation actions contributed to restore and renaturate the habitats while reducing the pressure and the threats posed by human activities. The communication actions rose the awareness of the stakeholders and, through the involvement of private citizens and touristic structures, played an important role in achieving the goals of the project.
To quote a few numbers, we can cite:
- the 31 mooring buoys installed to reduce the pressure caused by anchoring in the posidonia seabeds;
- 1.000 recolonization patches of Posidonia oceanica (1.000 sqm)
- removal of invasive alien species in 19.000 sqm of priority habitats and 40.000 sqm in nearby areas
- 31.000 native plants produced
- the renaturation of the areas with 30.000 plants planted and 25.000 seeds sowed
- 600 students involved in environmental education activities on the field and at school
- 12.000 tourists contacted
- 10 documentaries, a role playing game, a web app and much more.