© Mario Fletzer

Goals and Activities

The project LIFE VIMINE has several goals, achieved through different activities. In this page, we describe: the concrete actions related to the soil bioengineering works construction and installation, and the principles on which such works are based; the field tests and research goals; the planning, monitoring, and maintenance activities and their key role in the project; the local community participation in the project and its vital importance; the environmental and societal benefits that the project approach can bring; the guidelines, which will be created in the project, describing the development of the state of the art reached in LIFE VIMINE, and the support they can provide to the dissemination of the proposed integrated approach and techniques; the economic valuation of lagoon ecosystem services and of the project results.

Preventing erosion with bioengineering works

In order to effectively deal with erosion dynamics, the project aims to protect the salt marsh system through a prevention perspective. Prevention is fundamental in order to act before the geomorphological structures of salt marshes are deeply and irreversibly damaged; the lack of a preventive, “soft” approach inevitably leads to excessive costs and to the use of heavy mechanical means, disturbing and artificializing the environmental habitat. The goal of the proposed operational methodology of LIFE VIMINE is to repair and protect salt marshes borders as soon as erosion starts, and to build micro soil bioengineering works able to absorb wave energy, reducing erosion and promoting sedimentation with a low effort and cost.

Design choices for the protection works are based on some key bioengineering principles acting as a common thread: i) selection of biodegradable materials characterised by a low environmental and landscape impact and a cheap cost; ii) attention to the intrinsic salt marsh system features, such as the natural plasticity (as opposed to the artificial rigidity of classical engineering works) and the continually evolving morphology and dynamism; iii) employment of working means and tools that allow the lowest impact possible on lagoon bed and salt marsh geomorphology during the construction, monitoring, and maintenance phases.
The micro soil bioengineering works installed will be mainly fascines for salt marsh border protection, wind barriers and groynes.

Along the eroded salt marsh borders a set of fascines will be placed as a protection from impacting waves. These structures, from 1 to 20 metres, are exclusively built from biodegradable materials, such as wooden branches tied together with vegetable nets and cords. Once installed, the limited space between fascines and the edge of the salt marsh is filled with sediments collected from the neighbouring tidal flats. This way, fascines are saturated by the sediments and, therefore, protected for longer time from degradation caused by oxidation processes, ensuring greater durability. This type of salt marshes edge protection will create ample interior surfaces that act as sediment traps able to not only stop but also reverse the tendency of erosion and sediment loss. In addition, the small sediment collection from the neighbouring tidal flats contributes to create slight variations in bathymetry that favour the development of ecological niches and counteract the current general bottom flattening trend in the lagoon.

 

Small groynes and wind barriers, made of fascines, have the function of modifying the local hydrodynamics. Groynes are shore-perpendicular structures, which extend from the backshore to the water for about 4 m. They aim to trap sediments by slowing down the speed of solids transported by alongshore currents. Wind barriers are structures perpendicular to the dominant wind direction that absorb wind energy and slow currents down.

The micro soil bioengineering works are realised only through light tools, small boats and a large amount of manual labour. This way of acting minimizes environmental impacts on salt marshes during the placement of the protection work and, at the same time, allows a great precision in the activities of salt marshes edge reconstruction and sediment nourishment.

Research and field test

The research involved in the project aims to optimise the durability and effectiveness of the bioengineering works.

We will experiment different types of micro soil bioengineering works in order to define the best techniques to reduce erosion and promote sedimentation: i) set of fascines, which protect those salt marsh borders most susceptible to erosion; ii) wind barriers, which dissipate wave energy; iii) groynes, which alter the local hydrodynamics to improve sedimentation; iv) "filter beds", in shelly material or straw bales, which slow down those tidal creek flows that carry away settleable sediments from the inside of salt marshes.

We will experiment different types of materials: wood of different species (including tamarisk, white poplar, field elm, fraxinus, black alder, robinia, willow), vegetable fibres for ropes and nets, etc.

Research activities are organised with the same spirit that characterises the project, namely integrating multiple information from a variety of sources, such as continuous monitoring, field tests, laboratory experiments, information gathered from traditional knowledge and technologies, etc.. The field and laboratory test activities are supported by the use of an additional tool, the modelling of the local hydrodynamics and wind wave power.

Planning, monitoring, maintenance

Planning, monitoring, and maintenance are three key aspects of the project approach.   For more information about the project approach clik here.

The planning of the soil bioengineering works is directly linked to field monitoring, which allows us to identify the specific most suitable works required in each site affected by erosion. However, planning will be continuously reviewed over the whole project duration, in response to the results deriving from our on-going research, testing and monitoring.

 

Periodical monitoring is planned and performed in order to gather useful information for evaluating the performance of the soil bioengineering works and of the environmental protection they provide from erosion, and identifying those sites that require maintenance action. Several salt marsh features are monitored: i) salt marsh edge morphology; ii) deposition rates; iii) benthic communities; iv) vegetation.

The efficacy of bioengineering works, which inevitably deteriorate over time, will be assured by routine, temporally-continuous, and spatially-diffuse maintenance works that include restoration and replacement of damaged protection structures.

The short supply chain of wooden material

The wooden material required for the soil bioengineering works construction is initially provided by a project partner (Land Reclamation Consortium Acque Risorgive) institutionally in charge of routine vegetation pruning and environmental restoration activities along the Dese and Zero rivers; however, in the perspective of a long-term sustainability, a short supply chain of wooden material will also be created in the lagoon.

Waste collection

During the first and last year, waste accumulated or abandoned on salt marshes and within the project area will be collected.

Local community participation

Local community involvement is essential for achieving a truly sustainable long-term landscape management based on permanent human presence in the territory. Therefore, several project activities focuses on activating virtuous processes among the people who already live and work in the area, for raising their awareness about the need of protecting their own land, and gradually turn them from spectators to protagonists of the landscape protection. Strengthening the link between the territory and its community has beneficial effects for both parts, due to all societal benefits linked to the existence of salt marshes.

LIFE VIMINE participation activities range from the creation of discussion groups, which foster the comparison of ideas and identification of potential solutions, to practical and technical involvement in all the project phases. Specifically, at first there is room for the participation of local communities in the design of soil bioengineering works, and further in their creation, installation, monitoring, and maintenance steps. Long-term benefits arise from the enhanced and deepened environmental culture, the improved landscape conservation, and the recovery of environmental services; a lively, well-informed community strongly linked to a well-conserved environment favours the creation of sustainable job opportunities, such as fishing, hunting, eco-tourism, and prevent young people from leaving this rural and relatively isolated area.

Local community involvement is essential for achieving a truly sustainable long-term landscape management based on permanent human presence in the territory. Therefore, several project activities focuses on activating virtuous processes among the people who already live and work in the area, for raising their awareness about the need of protecting their own land, and gradually turn them from spectators to protagonists of the landscape protection. Strengthening the link between the territory and its community has beneficial effects for both parts, due to all societal benefits linked to the existence of salt marshes. LIFE VIMINE participation activities range from the creation of discussion groups, which foster the comparison of ideas and identification of potential solutions, to practical and technical involvement in all the project phases. Specifically, at first there is room for the participation of local communities in the design of soil bioengineering works, and further in their creation, installation, monitoring, and maintenance steps. Long-term benefits arise from the enhanced and deepened environmental culture, the improved landscape conservation, and the recovery of environmental services; a lively, well-informed community strongly linked to a well-conserved environment favours the creation of sustainable job opportunities, such as fishing, hunting, eco-tourism, and prevent young people from leaving this rural and relatively isolated area.

The employment of local staff and the development of new skills and activities contribute to the socio-economic development of local communities and to increase their environmental awareness and care.

Fishing. The project contrasts the current trend of lagoon bed erosion and flattening by creating slight bathymetric variations which represent new ecological niches, increasing the abundance of valuable fish species and thus benefitting local fishermen.

New socio-economic activities related to conservation. Based on the involvement of local communities in the project, the development of new youth cooperatives or small businesses related to conservation may be stimulated; potential job sectors that could be developed are wooden material production, soil bioengineering works realization, etc.

Sustainable tourism. The project will start the process to obtain the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in the Northern Lagoon; this is a practical management tool for ensuring that tourism contributes to a balanced economic, social and environmental development of the targeted area. Sustainable tourism aims to educate the tourists to the respect and deep understanding of the traditions of the visited places; it also aims to re-establish the meaning of the journey, in terms of devoting time to the discovering of other cultures and of drawing awareness from this contact, in a reciprocal exchange.

Solidarity and cooperation. In line with what described above, it is crucial to start and strengthen virtuous processes of cooperation. If sustainable objectives are shared between LIFE VIMINE, the local citizens and local organizations, associations, businesses, institutions, etc., possibilities of collaboration and support to the project and to the lagoon conservation will naturally emerge.

Guidelines

The experience arising from this four-year project will result in a progress of the state of the art regarding integrated, participated approaches to landscape management and soil bioengineering techniques, which will lead to a final creation of guidelines. The guidelines will include knowledge developed about both the technical activities of planning, design, monitoring, and maintenance of protection works, and activities related to the participatory and integrated approach of LIFE VIMINE. This work will promote the dissemination of knowledge regarding the implementation of the proposed integrated approach in other environmental contexts characterized by pressures similar to those found in the Venice Lagoon.

Evaluation of goal achievements and future perspectives

As explained above, LIFE VIMINE aims to realize soil bioengineering works to protect salt marshes from erosion and grounds its force in the involvement of local communities. This approach requires to be evaluated in order to demonstrate its effectiveness and its value. In environmental terms, we need to assess the effect of the protection works on erosion and on the salt marshes habitat conservation; in socio-economic terms, we need to assess the positive socio-economic consequences of the project activities at the local scale. One of the project partners (the FSD partner), will perform such an assessment by carrying out an economic quantification of the value of the ecosystems services provided by salt marshes in the project area, and assessing how this value is increased by participation and, in general, by the project integrated approach to conservation.

In terms of local community and stakeholder participation, the effectiveness of LIVE VIMINE is inevitably linked to its ability to start conservation actions able to sustain themselves in the long-term, beyond the end of the project itself. If this happens, the proposed approach of routine, temporally-continuous, and spatially-diffuse maintenance proposed by LIFE VIMINE can be fully realized.