An interview with the Lead Partner of IMPRECO
The Communication Team sat down with Mr Massimiliano Pinat (Project Coordinator) from the Municipality of Staranzano, Lead Partner of the IMPRECO project, to discuss some of the key features of the IMPRECO. Read his interesting answers, below.
1. What is the IMPRECO project? Can you describe the nature of this project and explain the key elements that distinguish it from other projects of the ADRION programme?
IMPRECO comes from the previous collaboration of some partners within the ADRIAWET 2000 project (Italy-Slovenia Cross-border Cooperation Programme INTERREG IVA): the Municipality of Staranzano (IT), Veneto Agricoltura (IT) and DOPPS (SLO) deepened their knowledge about the so-called ecosystems’ services approach while they were working on the development of new transnational and more effective measures for biodiversity conservation to be adopted in their protected areas. Given that a successful conservation of biodiversity is possible only if local communities are actively involved in the management of natural environments, highlighting how much such communities are dependent on the flow of goods and services coming from the ecosystems of those protected areas proved to be an effective way to catch their interest and support. The following step was to find a way to incorporate ecosystem-based management strategies into decision-making processes as well as to develop a stable community-based management system that increases local stakeholders’ capacities to operate for ecosystems management and conservation…and here it comes IMPRECO! Indeed, this is what IMPRECO is about and what makes it unique in the ADRION Programme: it is addressing such needs for a more holistic and integrated approach to sustainable development by opening the management boards of some of the most important Protected Areas in the Adriatic-Ionian Macroregion to public bodies, civil society, academia and economic operators and turning them into living-labs where to test innovative measures for ecosystems conservation.
2. What is the main reason of IMPRECO’S launch? Why is it being implemented?
As previously explained, IMPRECO is part of a long-term strategy focusing on Protected Areas and Ecosystems Services management that started from the former programming period. The consortium that carried out the ADRIAWET 2000 project adopted the Charter of Staranzano, a Memorandum of Understanding committing signatories to capitalise such project experience by expanding the partnership area and transferring the results achieved to other territories. To this end, the previous ADRIAWET Network looked for new valuable partners to enlarge the collaboration and improve its capacity to address the needs for a more participative and iterative process in the management of natural capital. Now, IMPRECO network includes some of the most relevant organizations in the ecosystems’ conservation field from the Adrion Area, by adding to the initial group the University of Salento, with its long experience in research of ecology, biodiversity, management of Protected Areas; the Public Institution for the management of Protected Areas in the County of Split and Dalmatia (41 protected areas and Regional Natura 2000 sites); the Albanian Development Fund in charge for the application of the national economic development plans; the Regional Authority of Crete for environment and spatial planning which is responsible for the regional sustainable development policies. This renewed partnership is now able to implement IMPRECO project for testing new solutions as well as sharing best practices and instruments in ecosystems management among its Protected Areas; developing common methodologies and assessment methods for identifying the most relevant natural resources for local development; involving economic operators, civil society organizations and local communities to transfer, test and adopt solutions for a more effective and sustainable ecosystems’ conservation; capitalizing project results into transnational, national and regional policies by making its unique voice heard in the political agenda of Adrion area.
3. What are the main tangible results that the project aims to achieve?
IMPRECO main objective is to enhance the safeguarding of ecosystem services and tackle their environmental vulnerability strengthening the potential of protected areas in biodiversity and ecosystems conservation through transnational networking. Considering that safeguarding ecosystems means safeguarding human well-being, IMPRECO focuses on coastal protected areas considering their key role of transition areas dealing with threats both on terrestrial and marine environments, with consequently a higher vulnerability, but at the same time, connecting different ecosystems and providing benefits to a wider territory and population. To achieve such ambitious goal and give a concrete contribute to the management of coastal natural environments as well as to the overall sustainable development of the ADRION area, IMPRECO is pursuing the following results:
- Better understanding about the 1-to-1 relationship between natural environments and the socioeconomic system in terms of ecosystem services provided, their benefits and the drivers of change on their functionality. Such relationships are explored through the so-called Sensitive Maps in terms of capacity of an ecosystem to provide a service ( so-called capacity indicators); actual use of that service (so-called flow indicators), economic values (so-called benefit indicators). Those indicators can be used to identify and rank the most sensitive ecosystems and ecosystems services in terms of pressures and resilience and, therefore, target the most vulnerable ones with proper management measures. This innovative methodology and tool represent a dashboard not only for protected areas managers but also for decision makers who can better plan development policies by respecting the resilience and carrying capacity limits of coastal ecosystems;
- Increased availability of data and information on biodiversity, ecosystems and ecosystem services quality level thanks to the development and application of a transnational monitoring system focused on target species as environmental quality level indicators. Monitoring tools, biodiversity database and protocols are adopted by the IMPRECO transnational network for a systematic monitoring in the long period;
- Increased transnational cooperation, exchange and communication among quadruple helix actors through the development and application of a Protected Areas integrated management system. Thanks to IMPRECO community-based approach which foresees the establishment of stable stakeholders’ boards within the pilot protected areas (so-called JTFs – Joint Task Forces) and their activation through the direct participation in the pilot actions’ implementation, 105 organizations are involved in the development and application of the IMPRECO ecosystems’ management strategy at transnational level;
- Enhancement of the competencies/skills of project partners, protected areas and stakeholders for a more effective conservation of biodiversity, ecosystems and their services. IMPRECO collects and shares knowledge on ecosystem services approach and ecosystems management among the Protected Areas network, technicians, economic operators, decision makers, young people, who are trained through specific tools such as the Common Educational Programme for students, the E-learning Platform for volunteers, the Repository of Best Practices on ecosystems management for protected areas’ managers.
- Increased number of transnational ecosystems management and planning tools through the development and adoption of a common methodology (M4ES) and strategy (S4ES) by the IMPRECO transnational network. Such methodology and strategy are enforced by real case studies developed by IMPRECO project partners through 7 pilot actions aimed at testing innovative measures for the conservation, safeguarding and valorization of ecosystems and their services.
4. What is the current status of the project? What steps can we expect in the coming year?
IMPRECO has just been extended of 6 further months so that it will be finally closed by June 2020. So far, IMPRECO worked on a set of preliminary analyses for mapping local ecosystems, defining a biodiversity baseline to understand what are their current conditions, assessing ecosystems services and their benefits to local communities. Moreover, it further depicted the ecosystems’ status identifying some target species as quality level indicators and launching a transnational monitoring campaign on such species, also training and involving volunteers, to improve the assessment on ecosystems’ functionality. A stakeholder analysis was carried out so that most relevant ones were finally organized in permanent working groups for the development of common transnational tools and methods through the active participation at project operations. Furthermore, project partners developed the so-called Sensitive Maps which identified the most sensitive areas of intervention with a focus on dependency between ecosystems and tourism: according to such analysis, win-win solutions were selected on the base of best practice experienced by other protected areas and summarized in a repository on ES management. The repository was used by project partners for selecting the ecosystem services management measures to be tested within 7 pilot actions, which are currently under implementation in the different project protected areas. Such experiences and know – how will be finally collected into a common methodology with enclosed action plan & strategy: they will be adopted by project partners and stakeholders through specific protocols and agreements in order to capitalize IMPRECO outputs and give them sustainability in the long period. Therefore, in the last year project partners will focus on the collection of pilot actions’ results and their evaluation in terms of positive impacts on targeted ecosystems. Such results will provide the information they need for developing a knowledge sharing system made of an interactive e-learning platform and a common educational programme on ecosystems management and conservation and, thus, networking with organizations and target groups outside the partnership. The last step will be the organization of a final event where all the actors who collaborated in the project implementation will be invited for joining the IMPRECO transnational network so…stay tuned and see you in Lecce – Italy – in May 2020!
5. What is the added value that IMPRECO brings to the Adriatic – Ionian region?
The project is based on the assumption that EcoSystems (ES) and the SocioEconomic System (SoES) are linked via the flow of EcoSystem Services (ESS) and through the drivers of change that affect ES either as consequence of using the services or as indirect impacts due to human activities and natural risks/changes (i.e climate change). Human and natural pressures, such as pollution, waste flows, fragmentation of land, over-exploitation of natural resources, climate change and biodiversity/habitat loss, are undermining the health of ES and, as a consequence, their capacity to provide services fundamental for living conditions of people in the area (i.e. risk prevention and protection) and for the SoES (i.e. tourism offer). Therefore, a common challenge for the ADRION area, is on one side, to maintain, enhance and restore, where degraded, ecosystem and their functionality and, on the other, integrate the ES in society’s decision-making and local management/development plans. Moreover, even if the ADRION area is characterized by a dense network of protected areas which are the node of the flows between ES and the SoES and key actors in ES protection, preservation and connectivity, such Protected Areas networks need to foster transnational cooperation as a multiplier of force related to environmental vulnerability and conservation. Transnational tools and the exchange of experience are needed to improve the capacity of Protected Areas to address human pressures and govern ESS drivers of change. Furthermore, Protected Areas’ challenge is to enforce their cooperation with national and transnational actors in order to introduce the ESS approach in the praxis of development and cohesion policy, thus facilitating the achievement of EU standards and in general increasing good governance potentials also in the context of the EUSAIR. IMPRECO will address these common challenges unleashing Protected Areas’ potential as laboratories to test innovative measures and strategies and transfer them in the surrounding territories. Furthermore, IMPRECO will give a strong contribute to achievement of the third pillar of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region as for ensuring a good environmental and ecological status of the marine and coastal environment as well as contributing to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services by addressing threats to marine and terrestrial biodiversity.