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An integrated management model for European wetlands: The Maristanis project is presented at the LIFE platform meeting in Burgos in Bulgaria

From laboratory to model for the Mediterranean basin, and beyond. After six years of dialogue and work in close contact with the territory, the Maristanis project becomes a source of inspiration and debate for all those who wish to build a new harmony between man and environment on the shores of the Mediterranean, preparing its immense environmental heritage for the challenges posed by climate change. In addition to the exchange visit foreseen by the ENSERES project, MEDSEA was asked to talk about Maristanis, an integrated governance model of the marine-coastal areas in the Gulf of Oristano, also at the “LIFE platform meeting” in Burgos, Bulgaria. 

The LIFE platform meeting addressed innovative approaches to the conservation of coastal wetlands, birds and habitats. Sharing successful management models and strategies aimed at finding ways of replication, dissemination and improvement. Such a strategy has been adopted in order to restore degraded ecosystems, as indicated by the Biodiversity Strategy 2030, with particular attention to all measures capable of capturing and storing carbon and limiting the impact of extreme atmospheric phenomena triggered by climate change. 

The Gulf of Oristano is home to six Ramsar sites, and according to the Mediterranean Center on Climate Change (CMCC) it belongs to those Mediterranean coastal areas that could be submerged in 2100 due to sea level rise. Unfortunately, a perfect scenario for implementing an integrated governance model. Responding to the focus of the LIFE meeting, Vania Statzu, environmental economist and MEDSEA vice-president, illustrated the extraordinary capacity of wetlands in carbon storage and their ability to mitigate floods and storm surges, a fundamental function considering that very often the ponds are surrounded by urban areas, a legacy of ancient communities that over the centuries have based their life on fishing. Replanting oceanic Posidonia at the bottom of the seabed, conserving the vegetation of ponds and marshes, as MEDSEA did with the Maristanis project, means protecting human beings and their economic activities. 

But the many protection and conservation projects, such as the innovative ones in fishing, agriculture and tourism, would be fragmentary actions if not included in a broader framework. For this reason, Statzu explained to the audience of Burgos how, in the Gulf of Oristano, MEDSEA has worked assiduously for the birth of the Marine Coastal Wetlands Contract, which unites 10 municipalities and numerous private actors that overlook the gulf.  These gather in the Coastal Assembly, where present and future of the territory are systemically discussed, and this is avoided the dispersion that would occur with the measures taken by each individual municipality. A legal-political instrument borrowed from more consolidated river contracts, which MEDSEA had the intuition and the ability to adapt and embed in the Mediterranean setting. 

Maristanis and the contract did not fail to arouse interest among the participants in the Burgos LIFE platform. In particular, Statzu was asked how the competences had been distributed within the Coastal Contract, and is sanctions existed for unmotivated adherents. “The competences are those of the law, with the Contract we have limited ourselves to systematizing and connecting all the institutional responsibilities”, explained the vice-president MEDSEA. “In the Action Plan we had to take into consideration the actions carried out by private individuals that have positive effects for the management of the territory. The Contract is a voluntary agreement, there are no punishments because the entities did not enter to develop projects which were subsequently assigned, but took part in order to be supported in carrying out difficult actions. The Coastal Assembly urges, directs, rather than command and punish". 

Interest was also shown for the strategies focused on tourism. Here actions are aimed at reducing the impact on the environment and at promoting, in particular with the World Wetland Day, the knowledge of the territory and ecotourism. 

"Participation in this event is the consequence of the fruitful collaboration carried out with Birdlife International and MedWet within the M3 Strategy of Mava", commented Statzu at the end of her speech. "The dissemination events organized by our partners have given us considerable international visibility. Numerous opportunities arrived, such as the invitation coming from the Bulgaria Biodiversity Society, which allowed us to meet with colleagues working on the other side of Europe". 

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