© Gianluca Constantino

Aim of the project

LIFE VIMINE aims to define and implement an integrated approach to the protection and management of salt marshes landscape in the northern part of the Venice lagoon. Salt marshes are a valuable habitat currently threatened by external pressures such as erosion, subsidence and sea level rise. Our approach gives primary importance to the knowledge of the targeted area and its ecological and socio-economical dynamics and it is grounded on participation activities, through the involvement of local communities and specific stakeholders in the project. We believe that participation is a necessary tool to enhance the project effectiveness and make conservation activities sustainable in the long term.
We have decided to use soil bioengineering techniques to protect the most inner and isolated salt marshes of the Northern Lagoon from erosion; these habitats are intrinsically hard to access, and current engineering methods to contrast coastal erosion cannot be applied here but with the risk of geomorphological alterations. . Instead, the soil bioengineering techniques employed in LIFE VIMINE were designed to have a low environmental impact; they include: fascines (branches tied together with vegetable cords and nets), nourishment of small sediment amounts taken from nearby locations, transplantation of vegetated clods detached from eroded salt marshes edges, wind and wave barriers, small groynes, all of them constructed in biodegradable, wooden material. A rigorous environmental monitoring, supported by an experimental activity, will verify the effectiveness of conservation works over time.

Taking the first step

LIFE VIMINE is a complex project with ambitious, multiple goals, which mirror the multitude of problems and needs characterizing the territory of the northern lagoon of Venice. Dealing with the holistic management of such a multifaceted socio-ecological system can of course appear too complex, easily leading to dejection and inaction. This project aims, however, to take first, small steps and act: not through extensive works, but rather through small steps, simple actions all strategically aligned in one direction and therefore able to produce a real, practical change.

The context

The idea arises from the love and respect for the Venice lagoon, one of the largest in Europe, rich in history and with multiple environmental, economic and social values.
The project aims to reach a concrete objective, the protection of salt marshes , morphological structures characterizing the lagoon landscape and its history, with great natural and socio-economic values, and supporting a rich biodiversity and important ecosystem services. The salt marsh habitat is slowly disappearing due to widespread and continuous erosion. LIFE VIMINE recognizes that, by adopting a long-term environmental management strategy based on permanent human presence in the territory, also through the involvement of local people who already live and work there, it becomes easier to identify those sites where erosion is a real problem and can be faced in its initial stage of development (thus effectively and cost-efficiently), based on low impact sol-bioengineering techniques. The main objective of LIFE VIMINE is to employ routine, temporally-continuous, and spatially-diffuse maintenance, as opposed to the classical “emergency”, one-off actions.

An integrated approach

The idea arises from the love and respect for the Venice lagoon, one of the largest in Europe, rich in history and with multiple environmental, economic and social values.
The project aims to reach a concrete objective, the protection of salt marshes , morphological structures characterizing the lagoon landscape and its history, with great natural and socio-economic values, and supporting a rich biodiversity and important ecosystem services. The salt marsh habitat is slowly disappearing due to widespread and continuous erosion. LIFE VIMINE recognizes that, by adopting a long-term environmental management strategy based on permanent human presence in the territory, also through the involvement of local people who already live and work there, it becomes easier to identify those sites where erosion is a real problem and can be faced in its initial stage of development (thus effectively and cost-efficiently), based on low impact sol-bioengineering techniques. The main objective of LIFE VIMINE is to employ routine, temporally-continuous, and spatially-diffuse maintenance, as opposed to the classical “emergency”, one-off actions.

The low-impact soil bioengineering works are small protection works made of biodegradable material, such as wood branches and vegetable fibres, designed to protect the most exposed salt-marsh borders and dissipate current and/or wind energy. We use the phrases “low impact” and “small” because the protection works are designed to be small in size and are produced and placed through non-invasive means, for example based on a large amount of manual labour. The biodegradability of the material ensures the reversibility of the protection works making them suitable to a changing environment which is free from rigid forms, all intrinsic features of the salt marsh system.
As typical of the most internal areas of the lagoon, salt marshes are surrounded by very extensive tidal flats and small water depth. These characteristics make it impossible or very inconvenient, for excessive extension of the working time and damage to the shallow bottoms, the access of pontoons, large ships, and motor vehicles normally used for morphological recovery works. Thus, the proposed method of LIFE VIMINE represents a low impact and cost efficient alternative.

A careful and farsighted planning is essential to ensure logic, consistency, and quality to the project.
A detailed monitoring is essential for assessing the effectiveness and durability of the soil bioengineering works against erosion, and, at the same time, to study and learn how to optimize them.
A routine, temporally continuous and spatially diffused maintenance is essential to ensure effectiveness to the micro low-impact works, allowing the use of biodegradable materials and strengthening the relationship between the territory and the people who inhabit it and can survey it.

We call it a participatory project because it aims to combine local and external ideas to build local sustainable development.
The project proposes ideas and methodologies, but they are also enriched, shaped, optimized through the help of those who want to give a contribution to the project.
The project also aspires to stimulate the discovery or, perhaps better, the awareness of the value of nature and ecosystem services. It communicates also that we are not forced to preserve the environment for ethical duties only, but instead there are additional reasons which are tied to the quality of life of everyone. Everyone should protect the territory where she/he lives in!

We want to demonstrate that a new, holistic approach to the care of the landscape is necessary; such an approach can be exported and applied in contexts other than the Venice Lagoon.

What rules can we create for harmonizing local development and environmental conservation? What practices can we put in place to ensure sustainability and durability to our heritage? We do not want to conserve the environment as a well-tidy museum room to which however we cannot access, but as the home that we both use and respect every day.