Europe’s first nature restoration law, one step closer to adoption

8.03.2024

The European Parliament has given the green light to the Nature Restoration Law. With this important advance, only one step remains for it to become effective: the ratification of the regulation by the Member States in the Council of the European Union. In Spain, the approval of this regulation will result in a National Restoration Plan and regional strategies to ensure compliance with the obligations arising from the regulation.

The regulation establishes restoration targets for 20% of the EU’s terrestrial and marine ecosystems by 2030 and the totality of degraded ecosystems by 2050.

It also proposes eliminating barriers and improving hydraulic connectivity in at least 25,000 kilometres of rivers, reversing the decline of pollinator populations and the restoration of forest and urban ecosystems. The text also incorporates the objective of improving different ecological indicators of agricultural ecosystems, as well as measures to promote marine restoration through appropriate fisheries management, in addition to maintaining the prohibition on reducing urban green spaces.

Restoration of marine habitats

In the case of marine ecosystems, the proposal includes the restoration of marine habitats such as cold-water reefs, where biodiversity can shelter and develop, as well as sedimentary bottoms and phanerogam meadows, which contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change. It also incorporates the restoration of habitats for emblematic marine species such as dolphins and porpoises, sharks, and seabirds.

In addition, it refers to the creation of closed areas or marine reserves, which contribute to increasing fish stocks both within and in the surrounding areas, while providing benefits for the fishing sector.

In this line, the LIFE ECOREST project is a pioneering initiative in Europe that works to restore about 30,000 hectares of deep marine habitats in Catalonia, in an area of high ecological value, and with the active participation of the fishing sector.

The areas to be restored are distributed in fishing protection zones along the coast of Girona and Barcelona and have a high concentration of endangered, threatened, or vulnerable species, including corals and gorgonians.

Aligned with the new regulation

Specifically, LIFE ECOREST develops actions in marine habitat types listed in the Habitats Directive as of Community interest, such as sandy bottoms, mud and mixed substrates and deep reefs. These actions will contribute to improving the knowledge and experiences for future marine restoration projects and fulfilling the objectives of this new regulation.

In addition, a program of actions is being promoted to strengthen participatory management and demonstrate the fishing sector’s contribution to maintaining the good conservation status of marine habitats, which is a key to maintaining marine species of commercial interest.

To date, three oceanographic campaigns have already been carried out to determine the conservation status of the areas being restored by the project, as well as the release of the first specimens of gorgonians, sponges and corals rescued and rehabilitated in the aquariums installed by the project. To this end, a rescue, recovery, and release methodology has been designed that could be replicated in other areas, helping to extend the restoration of deep habitats in the Mediterranean.

In addition, training seminars have been organized for the fishing sector to learn about and participate directly in the restoration process, and participatory governance actions have been promoted.

This initiative, coordinated by the ICM-CSIC, has as partners the Federació Territorial de Confraries de Pescadors de Girona, the Fundación Biodiversidad del Ministerio para la Transición Ecológica y el Reto Demográfico, the Universitat de Barcelona and WWF España, as well as the financial contribution of the LIFE Program of the European Union.

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