Erosion from human and natural causes is having a great impact on the entire Venice lagoon. A progressive deterioration of boundaries, elevations, bottom and vegetated surfaces is impacting all tidal landforms, and the surface area of salt marshes has markedly decreased over recent decades. Even the most interior located, best-conserved salt marshes are highly affected, leading to the disappearance of these unique ecosystems providing key eco-services. The causes of erosionare linked to the current models of development and lifestyles, such as waves caused by motorboats and the altered lagoon hydrodynamics resulting from the excavation of deep channels for large ships. Since it is not feasible to act upon these factors in the short term to stop erosion, effective actions to protect the salt marshes are urgently needed, taking into consideration also that current methods to combat coastal erosion cannot be applied in the interior salt marshes.
The LIFE VIMINE project aimed to demonstrate an integrated approach to the conservation of interior Venice lagoon salt marshes based on prevention through routine, temporally-continuous and spatially-diffuse actions of monitoring and maintenance, as opposed to one-off protection actions.
The regular identification and repair of the small, numerous eroded spots on salt marsh boundaries will be carried out to stop erosion before it becomes irreversible, using low-impact soil bioengineering works (e.g. nature- based solutions such asfascines) and manual labour. This cost-effective method will be merged with participatory processes to involve stakeholders in conservation works, increase environmental awareness and promote sustainable local economic activities based on salt marsh services. Eventually, the demand for salt marsh conservation will emerge naturally from local communities given the key benefits that they will derive from salt marsh services and from conservation activities (e.g. employment), thus also addressing the socio-economic drivers of erosion.
The LIFE VIMINE project demonstrated the effectiveness of an integrated approach based on soft soil bioengineering techniques and regular maintenance to protecting innermost Venice lagoon salt marshes from erosion. Its main focus was on constructing small but widespread soil bioengineering works, which are reversible and exert low environmental and landscape impacts (e.g. fascines, small sediment nourishment activities). These works help combat erosion in the Northern Lagoon of Venice caused by human and natural causes. Specific results of the project include:
These activities were calculated to help sequester 21.5 tonnes of CO2, while avoiding the emission of 674.7 tonnes of CO2. Moreover, the project team found that salt marshes can reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the lagoon from its watershed by a third.
Furthermore, the project led to the creation of green local jobs in soil bioengineering and in the short supply chain of wood. More than 1 500 days labour were paid to local fishermen and other local workers during the project. The project also created the Chart of the Sustainable Tourism of the Northern Lagoon of Venice to promote local businesses related to responsible tourism. It has thus far engaged 22 companies in the network.
To raise awareness of the environmental challenges facing the lagoon, the project team produced educational kit for schools and carried out teachers training. A total of 32 500 pupils were reached through the project activities. The project also produced and promoted new guidelines for protecting the target sites.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).