The Walterlands European project is underway: 23 million euros, 32 partners, 14 countries. Benefits for the environment and local communities are expected. Ca ‘Foscari universities and We are here Venice involved
[9 Novembre 2021]
Wetlands are from different types of habitats including estuaries, swamps, bogs and are home to 40% of living species. They capture carbon dioxide, remove pollutants, protect against flooding. Europe has already lost 90% of these transition areas between land and water, resulting in the loss of biodiversity, water, food, devastating floods and fires, subsidence and coastal erosion. Throughout Europe the pressure of human activities has compromised the wetlands, Venice and its Lagoon are an emblematic place of this richness and fragility. We are here Venice, a portion of the sandbank among the more than 55 thousand hectares of the Venice lagoon will be restored by Waterlands, one of the first projects funded under the European Green Deal with the aim of reversing the trend towards the disappearance of wetlands, bringing benefits to the environment and local communities.
Ca ‘Foscari and We are here Venice explain that «Having passed a competitive selection under the Horizon 2020 program, the project was fully funded by the European Commission with over 23 million euros. It has 32 partners from 14 countries and will last 5 years, a period longer than European projects to guarantee the recognition of local skills for all the good practices that will emerge from the project. With these funds, solutions will be developed that can be applied in different and wider areas starting from the 6 selected European sites, including Venice ».
The project will start in December 2021 and will be coordinated by University College Dublin. It includes 32 research organizations, industry, institutions and non-profit organizations from 13 EU countries and the United Kingdom. Project coordinator Craig Bullock, researcher at University College Dublin, points out that ‘Previous attempts to recover wetlands have often been too localized or too fragmented to really make a difference in restoring ecosystems and species. With Walterlands, the ambition is to jointly create a more effective way for this recovery that includes ecological, social, managerial and financial aspects, to connect habitats and communities across Europe, ensuring well-being for both generations to come ”.
The Venice lagoon is the largest coastal wetland area in Italy consisting of 8% of islands, 12% of sandbanks, 13% of mud flats and 67% of water and hosts a unique range of biotypes, salt marshes, reeds, seagrass meadows, mudflats. At Ca ‘Foscari, however, they reminded us that «The integrity of the ecosystem is at risk with the dramatic loss of the sandbanks, the erosion in progress, the limitations of new sediments and at the same time their export to the sea. These phenomena are exacerbated by urbanization and erosion due to navigation and local water traffic and dredging of canals. Waterlands therefore intends to bring attention to the quality of the lagoon ecosystem, involving the entire local community as well as institutional and economic actors, in order to better present the economic and social advantages associated with it, as well as the environmental ones. We will work to accelerate and improve the regeneration of the entire lagoon, optimizing the colonization process by species typical of the salt marshes, to maximize ecological performance particularly in terms of carbon sequestration, water purification, and restoration of biodiversity ».
In addition to field work, in Venice as in every project site, activities with the communities and stakeholders are planned. The economic aspects, even intangible values, cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyzes will be dealt with by the Economics Department of Ca ‘Foscari and Carlo Giupponi, head of the Ca’ Foscari team in Waterlands and professor of environmental economics, explains: “We will analyze the value in terms of income and work of the activities existing at each site. Furthermore, we will work on the financial measures related to the recovery solutions that will be identified.
The loss of biodiversity is a risk with economic and financial implications. In fact, investing in an innovative way in the recovery of these crucial areas could bring benefits. The Ca ‘Foscari experts in sustainable finance coordinated by Monica Billio will consult this area and at the Venetian university they are convinced that «Investing in biodiversity could prove to be an interesting option for public and private investors, for the benefit of local communities. The project is therefore part of Ca ‘Foscari’s research and teaching activities dedicated to the emerging theme of sustainable finance.
We are here Venice deals with everything concerning the ecological part of the scientific research linked to the project. The mission of the NGO co-founded and directed by environmental scientist Jane Da Mosto is based on the understanding of the city and the lagoon as inseparable elements within a system, with particular attention to the interaction between the natural environment and human intervention. . The scientific manager of We are here Venice for the project will be Camilla Bertolini, already working in the lagoon as a Marie Curie researcher at Ca ‘Foscari for the restoration of native oysters. Per WahV conducted local and international knowledge reviews on the foundation of intertidal zones and created a mathematical model of vegetation growth to test optimal foundation strategies (e.g. foundation formation) in the context of carbon offsets.
For Waterlands, Eleonora Sovrani, art director of WahV, will take care of the involvement of the community, with particular attention to the artistic sphere, in which an artist residency program linked to the project will be placed.
Da Mosto concludes: «These new themes from WahV’s mission and we have an excellent knowledge base from which to start and further are to continue the work after the end of the European project. The other partners of the project offer an extraordinary opportunity to create a network of excellence in the field, starting with the Ca ‘Foscari University with which we are really happy to collaborate ».