The project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the INTERREG SUDOE program

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A project designed to foster ecological connectivity

The landscapes of Southwestern Europe (SUDOE) are made up of a patchwork of semi-natural, agricultural and forest ecosystems which are all interconnected

Species (fauna and flora) need to be able to circulate and fulfil their biological cycles within their own environment and among various natural areas.

This ecological connectivity between forest environments and forest-related areas requires reservoirs of forest biodiversity and corridors that enable the different species (fauna and flora) to circulate or migrate.

Wooded areas adjacent to bodies of water play a connecting role by acting as bridges to land areas.

These landscapes, shaped by rivers and a variety of landforms, have been sculpted by the actions (both past and current) of humans.  

In places, human activities have led to a fragmented landscape, which in turn affects biodiversity at different levels (within a forest, for example, but also between various forests or along a body of water, and so on.). On the one hand, human activities may obstruct the free circulation of species between different natural areas, and on the other hand, they affect the natural areas themselves by reducing their ecological and functional quality.

Landscape managers are compelled to take these notions into consideration when defining actions to be undertaken, in order to preserve biodiversity in such a way that it remains compatible with the social and economic stakes related to the use of these environments (wood production, visitors, infrastructure, etc.).

Project objectives

The findings that have emerged as a result of the latest research into the ecological makeup of landscapes have enabled us to gain better insight into the need to adopt a comprehensive approach in order to achieve genuine, sustainable improvements in terms of environmental connectivity and biodiversity. This research work has also allowed us to establish cause-effect relationships between anthropogenic pressure (land use), environmental pressures (climate changes) and the way different biological communities respond.
All of this theoretical knowledge acquired throughout the past few years will be used in the framework of the project with the goal of initiating concrete, organised actions to improve the ecological quality and connectivity of the various regions of Southwestern Europe.

 

How ?

  • By developing a common tool for characterising the quality and ecological connectivity of forest ecosystems and waterways within the SUDOE area 

  • By applying this common tool to several areas in order to characterise the quality and ecological connectivity of their forest ecosystems and waterways and by carrying out demonstration pilot actions

  • By reinforcing the resources and knowledge available to landscape managers, to help them find the right balance between preserving biodiversity and maintaining the services rendered by these natural environments (wood production, hunting and wildlife management, hosting visitors, etc.).

  • By raising awareness about the quality of forest and river ecosystems and connectivity among various stakeholders, both specialist and non-specialist.

Project actions

 
Development of a common tool for characterising the quality and ecological connectivity of forest and river ecosystems within the SUDOE area.

The objective of this action is to reconcile the different methods of defining the ecological and functional quality of forest and river ecosystems in order to combat the deterioration and fragmentation of these ecosystems and at the same time, improve or preserve their current level of connectivity.  

The aim is to jointly define and test a shared method which will enable us to generate data, classify, prioritise and map biodiversity hotspots (forests and bodies of water) and biological corridors, i.e. networks of places that satisfy the conditions necessary for one or more species to move about the landscape and, depending on the case, within forest land and rivers.

In this context, we plan to create and host a network of experts, mainly comprising researchers and forest managers working within the SUDOE region, which will contribute technical and scientific criteria to the work carried out.  

We plan to establish an overview of the current state-of-progress (compilation, analysis, etc.) of the various work being carried out to characterise biodiversity reservoirs, ecological quality and corridors (blue-green infrastructure) and black spots. The scientific and technical information will be compiled at different levels of work.

Finally, a common methodology will be drawn up and a set of indicators for characterising the quality and connectivity of forest and river ecosystems will be selected.

 
Pilot projects demonstrating an improvement in the quality and ecological connectivity of forest ecosystems (including riparian forests)

The idea is to apply the common methodological teachings drawn up beforehand to several representative areas of the various stakes at play in the SUDOE region.
The common method drawn up previously should therefore provide us with a means of characterising the quality and ecological connectivity of several types of natural habitat (forests and rivers) at different spatial scales.

Building on feedback, the partners will carry out pilot management and awareness-raising actions on the sites with the goal of improving the quality of the ecosystems concerned and/or improving ecological connectivity.

These actions will constitute demonstration projects which may be used to train the forest managers concerned, and as a basis for the organisation of several “open days” devoted to technical exchanges.

As a result, we will obtain maps of several pre-selected areas; maps which will then be analysed and enable us to select several sites with a range of challenges on which to focus our work.

 
Defining joint, organised strategies for managing forest ecosystems (including riparian forests) in the SUDOE region

This work will take the form of a manual containing advice and management recommendations aimed at the various stakeholders involved in the management of forest and river ecosystems, i.e.:

Technical fact sheets will constitute a helpful addition to this manual by describing a series of practical case studies in which the quality of natural areas and ecological corridors has been improved. This procedural documentation will help us strengthen and complete the jointly-defined management plans for natural areas and other planning documents.

Forest owners, landscape managers, local authorities with responsibility for organising forest management and biodiversity, research institutes, NGOs, etc.

The objective is to provide those in charge of managing natural areas with the resources and knowledge they need to reconcile "preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems" and "ecosystemic services provided by these environments (wood production, hunting and wildlife management, hosting visitors and so on)". To achieve this, we plan to use all the information gathered previously, together with the findings of previous research work (both methodological and scientific and technical) in order to constitute a body of recommendations aimed at landscape managers.

Finally, “open days” devoted to exchanges of ideas and techniques will be organised on the demonstration sites identified and developed previously.

 
Raise awareness about the quality of forest and river ecosystems and connectivity

The objective of communication is to make our target audiences (politicians, forest owners, general public, etc.) aware of the activities carried out in the framework of the project. By communicating effectively on these issues, we will help promote the advantages of ensuring high-quality natural habitats, ecological connectivity as well as the role of landscape managers and local politicians, and the ecosystemic services provided by natural environments.

In the same vein, an International Congress on the connectivity of natural environments will be held in 2020 to present the work carried out in the framework of the CERES project and contribute to promoting its findings and the knowledge acquired in the course of implementing the project.

Several communication media will also be produced to help promote the importance of preserving the ecological continuity of forest and river environments as well as the role of forest managers in terms of maintaining the quality of our natural areas:

  • Explanatory brochure

  • Videos aimed at the general public

  • Presence on social media

  • Information roundup sent out every semester (online)

  • Press note 

  • Open days aimed at the general public to raise awareness about the actions involved in the project and the stakes related to ecological quality and connectivity

  • Document describing the actions to be undertaken and the main outcomes of the project.

 

INTERREG SUDOE programme

The Interreg SUDOE Programme supports regional development in Southwestern Europe, financing transnational projects between France, Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar (refer to the programme’s territorial map). The Programme promotes transnational cooperation to solve common problems in the covered territory, such as investment in research and development, competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises, carbon savings, combating climate change, environmental preservation and management and efficient use of resources.

The Interreg SUDOE Programme supports regional development in Southwestern Europe, financing transnational projects between France, Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar (refer to the programme’s territorial map). The Programme promotes transnational cooperation to solve common problems in the covered territory, such as investment in research and development, competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises, carbon savings, combating climate change, environmental preservation and management and efficient use of resources.

For more information, take a look at this video and consult the programme’s website: https://www.interreg-sudoe.eu