Regional cooperation for the transnational ecosystem sustainable development (RECONNECT) project aims to develop strategies for sustainable management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Natura 2000 sites. The study areas are characterised by similar habitats in different countries, which are threatened by common pressures. Creating a transnational cooperative network to confront under a common approach the environmental threats of ecosystems with a high natural and cultural interest, is the overall goal of this project. The establishment of common practices and a joint regional strategy are the main challenges of RECONNECT. The overall objective of the project is to promote efficient management of natural systems which will enhance the competence of local management authorities through the development of a multidisciplinary Decision Support System (DSS). The new transnational holistic approach which will be developed, will change the current protection strategies in the Balkan-Mediterranean area promoting more efficient and accurate management practices. The main outputs of the RECONNECT project will provide information concerning habitat attributes, as well as the essential biodiversity, socio-economic and cultural variables, which will be freely available as tools through a web-based platform.
These outputs will be beneficial for
- local, regional and national authorities by promoting the sustainability of marine ecosystems;
- management agencies by enhancing their management toolbox;
- non-governmental organizations (NGOs) by improving their activities through the suggested strategies; and
- citizens, as their involvement during the project will increase their environmental awareness.
The transnational approach that will be used during the project will combine ecological and genetic methodologies for the biodiversity assessment, as well as socio-economic aspects, under the umbrella of a common DSS promoting joint policies and practices. The protection and conservation of areas with high ecological and economical value aims to harmonize the socio-economic and legal framework between the participating countries, something which could not be achieved individually at a national level. The design of new tools such as the DSS and the Handbook of management practices will be developed through the combination of multidisciplinary methodologies targeting to evaluate ecosystem quality and to promote the sustainable conservation of these vulnerable and fragile ecosystems. During its implementation, RECONNECT project will address consistently EU horizontal principles such as sustainable development, equal opportunities and non-discrimination and equality between men and women. The project’s duration is 24 months, starting from 15 September 2017 and ending on 14 September 2019.