© Mario Fletzer

Project Results

LIFE VIMINE ended on the 1st of September 2017. Here are its main results:

-       Direct protection from erosion of about 28.8 hectares and indirect protection from erosion of about 625.9 hectares of Natura 2000 habitats (salt marshes, mudflats, lagoon bottoms) in the Northern Venice Lagoon, including priority habitats or habitats hosting priority species or species found in Annex I of the Birds Directive, using soil-bioengineering techniques. These techniques include fascines (about 4’220 fascines were created in the project) used to construct barriers on marsh edges, groynes and wind barriers, sediment nourishment, and transplantation of about 1’200 eroded clods carrying living salt marsh plants onto the nourished sediment;

-       Restoration of 0.19 hectares of salt marsh areas, strategically located to indirectly protect other habitats from wind and waves and prevent erosion, through sediment nourishment of salt mash edges and surfaces which are now being successfully colonized by halophile vegetation;

-       Co-design of protection works against erosion and shared choice of their location with local communities, e.g. Burano fishermen;

-       Eco-friendly protection techniques: the ecological or landscape impacts (e.g. on benthos and plant communities) of the project protection works were minimal or undetectable;

-       Continuous surveillance of salt marshes in the project area by the project workers and volunteers, allowing to map all the areas under erosion, to promptly carry out the necessary ordinary maintenance of the previously-installed protection works (e.g. when damaged by waves and weather), and to identify and promptly protect new strategic eroding spots on marsh edges. This ensured the efficacy and durability of protection works and prevented erosion;

-       90 m3 of litter and waste removed from the lagoon by project workers and volunteers, during regular surveillance trips and targeted removal activities;

-       Set up of a short supply chain in the Venice mainland and in the Laghi island in the lagoon to produce the wooden material needed for soil-bioengineering protections: production of about 4’220 fascines and 7’800 poles, using material coming from wood management and reforestation activities with the support of public and private stakeholders. Sisal ropes used in waterbuses and periodically discarded were obtained for free from the ACTV company. This local short supply chain of wood and vegetal material reduced project costs, avoided waste production and carbon emissions and was a source of local jobs;

-       Creation of “green” jobs involving local communities: more than 1’500 person-days paid in the project to externally-hired local workers (e.g. Burano fishermen) to assemble fascines and construct, monitor and maintain protection works. This is a noticeable number, especially when compared to the size of the community of the Burano Island (shrinking also because of a lack of jobs), from where several workers came. Local workers understood the message of the project and worked proactively, demonstrating that stakeholder involvement in conservation increases efficiency and represents divulgation and participation de facto;

-       Restoration of the Laghi Island in the lagoon: restoration of existing facilities (built in the Project LIFE Barene 1999) and subsequent use as a logistic base for soil bioengineering works, tree pruning, removal of invasive brambles and subsequent plantation of 70 young narrow-leafed ash trees, removal of abandoned wastes and litter, opening of paths usable for recreational and environmental education activities. These activities provided a present and future source of wood for fascines and improved the landscape and natural status of the Island;

-       Creation of a wide network of private and public stakeholders, who contributed to the success of the project activities, including a permanent Working Group with relevant local stakeholders (e.g. institutions, NGOs, etc.) in addition to the project beneficiaries, which met 21 times over the project to discuss its activities in a participated manner;

-       Participation of tourism related stakeholders: participatory creation of the “Chart of the sustainable tourism in the North lagoon of Venice” and of a network of businesses which work with sustainable tourism, thus supporting local economic activities sustainably depending on salt marsh ecosystem services;

-       Education and divulgation activities aimed to educate boat owners and navigation related stakeholders to carry out responsible navigation in the lagoon: distribution of education material and creation of a project video; participatory meetings; presence at boat shows; voluntary agreements through which strategically-chosen signatories committed to conduct sustainable navigation, to disseminate related educational information, and to collaborate to voluntary salt marsh monitoring, potentially reaching, through the communication of the signatories to their members and/or customers, more than 7’300 people related to navigation in the Northern Lagoon of Venice;

-       Participatory processes such as the “Landscape and Biodiversity Laboratory” and the Free Time Bank “Condominio Laguna Nord”, which allowed us to collect information from stakeholders on the landscape and biodiversity of the lagoon, on the presence of environmental issues such as eroding salt marshes and litter, etc. Key collected material is available online on the project website and the Lagoon Atlas website in the form of a freely downloadable multidisciplinary GIS database;

-       Creation and distribution in the Venice area of 1’200 school educational kits on the lagoon and salt marshes;

-       32’500 local students reached by the project, about local 60 teachers and 21 nature field guides/operators/experts trained on salt marshes, erosion, and the project integrated approach;

-       30’000 divulgative leaflets, 10’000 divulgative booklets and 1’000 layman’s reports printed and distributed;

-       25 information boards created and installed in the Venice mainland or in the lagoon area, in strategic locations including waterbuses and waterbus stops; 8 information boards were shared with the project LIFE SERESTO, thus reinforcing the communication message on nature conservation efforts funded by the LIFE Programme in the Venice lagoon;

-       Creation of a short educational project movie on salt marshes and respectful navigation, available on USB keys and YouTube;

-       Full audio-visual recording of the final project conference (attended by more than 140 people) uploaded on YouTube;

-       Awareness raising: monitoring showed that the feeling of engagement in environmental issues, and the awareness of erosion and of the importance of salt marshes and their protection, increased over the project among local communities and stakeholders, most probably due to our divulgation, dissemination and participation efforts;

-       VIMINE was awarded a mention as a project of high ecological value and environmental sustainability out of the 97 projects that applied to the call by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism to identify the Italian candidate for the Council of Europe's Landscape Award 2016-2017, and was the Italian LIFE+ project of the month in September 2017 on the webpage of the Italian Ministry of the Environment;

-       Optimization of conservation techniques over the project: creation of Technical Guidelines on the conservation and restoration of internal lagoon environments threatened by erosion, and of a short Book describing the wood short supply chain in the mainland as implemented in LIFE VIMINE

-       Cost efficiency: we found that the cost of the conservation works of VIMINE is comparable to those of other conservation techniques currently used in the lagoon, even without taking into account that the cost of the latter techniques would greatly increase when working in the shallow innermost salt marsh environments targeted by VIMINE, where large boats and mechanical means cannot easily access for a long time due to tides (so, here we took a precautionary approach);

-       Sustainability: a cost-benefit analysis showed that the integrated approach of LIFE VIMINE is highly sustainable. The cost of soil-bioengineering is low and the benefits of defending salt marshes through an integrated approach are high, and the ratio of the monetary value of salt marsh ecosystem services to the cost of protecting them using the VIMINE approach was 9.5 at least. Moreover a large fraction of soil-bioengineering costs (59-74% depending on the performed activity) is local manpower: investing in salt marsh conservation through an integrated approach is thus not only a moral duty but a good environmental, social and economic investment;

-       Identification of key transfer sites where the approach of VIMINE could be productively applied, in Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands, based on biophysical and socio-economic indicators;

-       The Veneto Region has inserted key features of the VIMINE approach in the regional policy for nature conservation (thus including in the Venice lagoon), as “good practices” for measures of conservation for Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) as well as for Sites of Community Importance of the Natura 2000 network (“Approvazione delle Misure di Conservazione delle Zone Speciali di Conservazione (ZSC) della Rete Natura 2000”, DGR n. 786 27/05/2016): this will ensure that the VIMINE approach keeps to be carried on in the future. The after-LIFE Conservation Plan of LIFE VIMINE aims for the long-term maintenance of the protection works created in the project and the extension of such protection works to other innermost salt marshes in the lagoon of Venice.

Summing up, LIFE VIMINE has demonstrated that innermost salt marsh conservation can be achieved through techniques exerting low environmental and landscape impact, furthermore in a cost-effective manner that can also be a source of sustainable local development, including local jobs which are assured in the long-term given the need of routine and widespread maintenance of the soil bioengineering works created to protect salt marshes. Participation of local communities and awareness raising can improve salt marsh protection, making it more effective, cost-efficient, shared and, thus, sustainable in the long term.

At the following link, you can find a document summarizing the activities and results of LIFE VIMINE. Key project outputs can be downloaded in the “Documents” section of this website, or asked for by writing to lifevimine@dii.unipd.it and lpalmeri@unipd.it or by calling the LASA research group at + 39 049 827 5526 - 5528 - 5535. Those contacts may also be used for requests of more information and details (e.g. technical-scientific details): we will be happy to answer.