By Luís Costa, Gonzalo Oviedo and Julien Sémelin, MAVA Mediterranean Programme

MAVA  2016-2022 strategy is built on a set of focused Outcome Action Plans (OAPs) that aim to reverse significant threats to biodiversity. Co-created with multiple and complementary stakeholders involved in MAVA’s priority themes and regions, these Action Plans provide a framework for investment across our programmes.

In the Mediterranean, OAPs cover the following ecological targets : freshwater (M1-2), coastal wetland ecosystems (M3), sea grass, coralligenous formations and high trophic level fish species (M4-5), cultural landscapes (M6), and endangered species (M7). Although divided into sectoral themes that are related to main threats on these ecological targets  – such as water abstraction, coastal development, overfishing or illegal killing of animals –  these strategies are by no means separate compartments unrelated to each other.

We aim to connect projects and partners whenever it can bring common results, common approaches or a better network for delivering on both project outcomes and partners’ collaboration and sustainability. We present below two telling examples on where our partners are cooperating for connecting different strategies and enhancing the results for their projects.

Together for vultures and pastoralism

In our  Action Plan on priority threatened bird species, poisoning figures as one of the three main threats to vultures. One of the most important toxic substances contributing to this mortality is the anti-inflammatory diclofenac – a veterinarian drug used on livestock, which causes alarming levels of mortality of vultures, with up to 99% in the case of the affected Indian vulture populations. Our partners aim to promote a ban on the use of diclofenac in the EU as a veterinary drug, as it could have disastrous effects on European vulture populations. A large campaign has been launched by OAP partners BirdLife International and the Vulture Conservation Foundation for raising support to this cause that needs the engagement of veterinarians and cattle breeders.

On the other hand, through the Action Plan on Cultural Landscapes, we aim to stop the loss and deterioration of diverse ‘cultural landscapes’, revive locally-specific practices, and demonstrate their sustainability and benefit to the rural economy and to biodiversity. Mobile pastoralism is one of the key cultural practices, and one of our partners – the Yolda Initiative of Turkey – is mapping the large journeys of livestock across the region. As part of its engagement with transhumance with Trashumancia y Naturaleza and DiversEarth in Spain, they have been raising awareness of a very important target group – the livestock breeders in Spain -, about the veterinary diclofenac. Through joint participation in one of the main livestock festivals in Spain (in Jaen) and a common information campaign to secure a ban on diclofenac in Spain, Italy and Portugal, where over 90% of the populations of vultures of Europe occur, our partners have shown the added value of joint action across Outcome Action Plans.

On the edge between land and sea

The gulf of Oristano in Sardinia, Italy, is one of the pilot sites covered by the Action Plan on Coastal Wetlands. Although it primarily consists of the protection of six Ramsar sites around the gulf, it also encompasses the important Marine Protected Area of Sinis and Mal di Ventri. The project incorporates similar activities that are implemented in other pilots sites through our Action Plan for Mediterranean marine habitats and species.

This includes data collection on sensitive marine ecosystems and species (i.e. Posidonia oceanica, coralligenous), best practices for the protection of seagrass beds, engagement with the fishermen community and improvement of national and regional thematic legislation. The MedSea Foundation seeks to increase seagrasses’ productivity by reducing human impacts and demonstrating the value of ecosystem services to all stakeholders. These seagrass beds are often destroyed by various activities like anchoring and trawling.

In this pilot site of Sardinia, they will now foster for solutions, including the deployment of eco-mooring systems (permanent anchoring systems for recreational boats that do not destroy the surrounding habitats) and anti-trawling systems (underwater solid systems that prevent the area from trawling activities). This replicates the work in pilot sites of the Action Plan for Mediterranean marine habitats and species, like the Kuriat Islands in Tunisia and the Al Hoceima National Park in Morocco. Thereby, our Sardinia partners can join a broader set of partners, including fishery organisations like the GFCM (General Fishery Commission for the Mediterranean), which would not be an obvious connection for a group of partners engaged in wetlands conservation.

In brief…

Instead of developing Action Plans as different and disconnected strategies, we encourage the planning and implementation of common activities among them, in a way to promote common goals for conservation and mutual benefits. This has other significant advantages: it multiplies the investment of the grants, as it brings multiple benefits through common activities; and promotes cooperation between different organisations, which can find space for collaboration today and in the future, eventually with benefits for their own sustainability.