Joining forces to restore marine biodiversity

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Coastal and marine ecosystems are among the most productive and biodiverse. They have the potential to mitigate climate change impacts through carbon capture and storage (known as “blue carbon”), to provide coastal protection and improve climate resilience. 

They also provide a wide range of multiple socio-economic benefits such as enhanced fisheries, improved water quality, recreational blue spaces and human well-being.
In this context, Horizon 2020 Marine Ecosystem Restoration in Changing European Seas (MERCES) project and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Algal Forest restoration in Mediterranean Sea (AFRIMED) project are joining forces to advance the knowledge base and demonstrate practical approaches to implement marine ecosystem restoration, in Europe and beyond.
Although from different EU programmes and with different scopes, both projects are contributing to the common goal of restoring marine biodiversity, supporting the “blue” dimension of the EU Green Deal, the new Biodiversity Strategy for 2030
MERCES and AFRIMED proved to be an inspiration for other restoration projects of degraded coastal and marine habitats such as seagrass beds and algal forests. 
But let’s get to know them:
MERCES - Marine Ecosystem Restoration in Changing European Seas – recently ended (see project story map) and has worked in 128 restoration sites across Europe. The Horizon 2020 funded MERCES supports the practical implementation of future marine restoration actions through marine restoration protocols developed for various coastal and marine habitats, including seagrass meadows, kelp forests and deep cold-water corals. Useful project outputs include a marine restoration handbook, webinars and policy briefs (all available on MERCES website) on lessons learned and successful methods.
AFRIMED – Algal Forest restoration in Mediterranean Sea - is an EMFF funded project that started in January 2019 and is building up from MERCES work. A team of EU and non-EU countries work together to implement novel restoration actions and formulate guidelines to effectively restore macroalgal forests in the Mediterranean Sea. Ultimately, the project expects to develop replicable restoration techniques, restore forests at the scale of 10-100’s m, strengthen international ocean research, enhance socio-economic awareness, and improve ocean governance.  
Check out the joint AFRIMED-MERCES video:


To better support EU policies and objectives, we have to maximise the impact deriving from EU funding. On that front, supporting synergies and links between EU programmes is central. Even if long-term mechanisms are desirable (e.g. EU sea basin regional strategies, Horizon Results Platform, the “Mission Starfish”), short-term collaborations by teams (or groups of colleagues) implementing different EU programmes can support knowledge sharing and ultimately foster the uptake, use and capitalisation of European project results. Exercises such as the virtual workshop on “Synergies between marine and maritime projects across EU funding programmes”, organised by EASME in October 2020, evidenced the usefulness of such internal cooperation. MERCES and AFRIMED projects stood out as a clear example of project synergies and revealed how different EU programmes can jointly contribute to overarching common policy objectives. 

Picture1. Seagrass restoration plot in the Baltic Sea. Copyright - K. Kaljurand,  H2020 MERCES project.
 

Picture 2. Mapping of macroalgal populations in Sazan Karaburuni MPA, Albania – Copyright AFRIMED, EMFF project
 

Background information

Horizon 2020 MERCES project
EMFF AFRIMED project 
AFRIMED Article in EASME 
 

 

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