As the human population continues to grow and industrialize, the pressure on our planet’s natural resources and ecosystems increases. The consequences are clear: climate change, loss of biodiversity, and degradation of the land. However, there is hope in the form of conservation efforts and agro-ecological transition. By focusing on sustainable practices, we can work towards preserving the delicate balance of nature and ensuring the health of our planet for future generations.
The ADRION Thematic Sub-Cluster on Biodiversity Preservation and Protection
The ADRION region is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. However, this biodiversity is under threat due to anthropogenic pressure causing pollution and destruction of habitats. The ADRION thematic sub-cluster focused on biodiversity preservation and protection aims to address these challenges and work towards preserving the unique natural resources of the region. Two ADRION funded projects, DINALPCONNECT and ECOVINEGOALS have joined forces to maximize their impact on two types of habitats: mountains and farmlands, particularly vineyards.
Making the Alps and Dinaric Mountains a free zone for biodiversity: the mission of DINALPCONNECT
The ability for living organisms to move freely, known as ecological connectivity (EC), is crucial for biodiversity. The long-term survival of plant and animal species depends on ecological connectivity at the level of entire landscapes, which often span to two or more countries. This is particularly evident in the case of mountain ranges such as the Dinarides, which stretch along the entire Balkan Peninsula through six different countries. Even more challenging is to set biodiversity corridors between the Alps and the Dinarics mountains.
That cannot be done at local or national level, but requires transnational cooperation. However, political and economic factors have created transboundary barriers. The project DINALPCONNECT aims to remove these barriers and promote greater ecological connectivity. Main challenges have been identified, such as:
- Limited knowledge on the current state of ecological connectivity between between the Alps and Dinaric Mountains,
- Incomplete information on the location of the most critical barriers and corridors in the area,
- Poor harmonization of legislation on ecological connectivity between EU and non-EU countries,
- Limited awareness and understanding of the significance of ecological connectivity for the long-term preservation of biodiversity.
DINALPCONNECT gathers eleven partners from seven countries which established a network of pilot regions to strengthen transboundary linkages between Natura 2000 sites, where ecological connectivity has been explored and consolidated based on action plans. To support this effort, the project has examined existing policies, current pro-biodiversity businesses in the pilot regions, and spatial data. The whole package of information resulted in a strategy for ecological connectivity from the Dinaric Mountains to the Alps.
To identify key areas for preserving biodiversity and addressing barriers to ecological connectivity, the project team has gathered data on the entire mountain range. This data has been compiled into an online tool, the Atlas of Ecological Connectivity and Barriers in the Dinarides and Between the Alps and Dinaric Mountains. This resource provides valuable insights into areas where connectivity is particularly important, as well as areas where further work is needed to maintain it. In addition to the online atlas, the project has also developed a database of Pro-Biodiversity Business (PBBs) in the Adriatic-Ionian region.
DINALPCONNECT has produced a variety of materials to raise awareness and promote its efforts, including videos showcasing transnational habitats. One such video is The Ural Owl between Italy and Slovenia, which highlights the importance of ecological connectivity between these two countries for the survival of this unique species.
ECOVINEGOALS: From mountains to farmlands, preservation of habitat is key
The impact of intensive farming on the environment has become a growing concern for researchers and policymakers around the world. The use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides can have harmful effects on soil health, water quality, and air pollution, and contribute to the loss of biodiversity. Among the most problematic agricultural practices is intensive grape growing, which has been associated with high levels of pesticide use, soil erosion, and water depletion. In response to these challenges, ECOVINEGOALS project has been focused to promote sustainable grape growing practices.
The project has successfully created an open list of 29 agroecological best practices that were applied in the ECOVINEGOALS study areas in Italy, Greece, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. These best practices have been made accessible to the general public through the website ecovineroads.com. The list of agroecological best practices can serve as a useful resource for farmers, researchers, and policymakers looking to improve the sustainability of agriculture in Europe and beyond.
In addition, the project has also developed three transnational strategies to promote sustainable farming practices and address environmental vulnerability. The first strategy focuses on promoting sustainable farming practices in wine-growing regions in the Adriatic Ionina region. This includes supporting farmers to adopt environmentally-friendly practices, such as organic and biodynamic farming, to reduce the use of chemicals and protect the soil and water resources. The second strategy aims to balance grape growing with other land uses and preserve landscapes and habitats. The third one focuses on improving the ability of local communities to make decisions and resolve conflicts related to protecting the environment and landscapes. Together, these strategies presents a manifesto for social and econimic behavioural change towards the sustainable development of the viticulture sector.
ECOVINEGOALS project has also developed an open source platform, which provides access to the surveys conducted in each study area. This platform also offers a space for other projects, initiatives, and networks to disseminate their work and outputs, creating a collaborative space for the sharing of information and knowledge.
The transnational cooperation of the project has facilitated the rapid dissemination of ideas and best practices among disparate regions facing similar challenges. Thanks to the transnational partnership, the project was able to carry out studies in different environments and contexts, extending the use of the results. By working together across borders and sectors, the project aims to promote the transition to sustainable viticulture while also contributing to wider efforts to promote sustainable agriculture and rural development. An excellent outcome of this cooperation is the network AVINE. The association is made of thematic working groups covering agroecological practices, landscape and habitat preservation, and participatory governance. By bringing together experts from different fields and regions, AVINE aims to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and best practices, promote the development of sustainable viticulture, and contribute to the preservation of the natural environment.
The project’s emphasis on agroecology and agroecological viticulture has resonated with many producers, who see the benefits of sustainable farming practices in the production of quality products. Miliarakis Nikos, a winemaker and President of the network Wines of Crete, was involved in the project activities.
“Today’s market demands quality products produced with sustainable farming practices, and for us being very small producers, this is the only way if we want to survive. Agroecology is totally compatible with our objectives as the network of wine–makers of Crete, as we really value the unique landscape and our long wine history, and we try to develop wine tourism that creates many opportunities to showcase our local assets and provide our visitors with a truly enjoyable Cretan experience. Agroecology and the results of the ECOVINEGOALS project offer much food for thought for me personally, and for viticulturists and wine makers in the area, and I really hope to find a way to continue with this project”
Similarly, Cristina Laurenti, board member of Agroecology Europe and coordinator of the Youth Network of Agroecology Europe, was involved in the project.
“Collaborating with the consortium of this project is an amazing opportunity. The outcomes of this project can help to keep local people in the community, especially the young generation who need to be better informed about the opportunities that have been raised, and to consider agroecology as a way to start diversified activities and new businesses by combining viticulture with the preservation of the local landscapes and the culture of the areas in a very fashionable way.”
By joining their efforts, DINALPCONNECT and ECOVINEGOALS will be able to achieve more comprehensive and effective results in terms of biodiversity preservation and protection in the ADRION region. This collaboration will allow the two projects to share knowledge and resources, identify synergies and opportunities for cooperation, and multiply the impact of their actions. Ultimately, this collaboration will help to ensure a more sustainable future for the ADRION region and its unique biodiversity.