EU launches the research project AQUACROSS to support Ecosystem-based Management of freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems

AQUACROSS Kick-Off Meeting, 10-12 June 2015 in Brussels

AQUACROSSAquatic ecosystems are rich in biodiversity and home to a diverse array of species and habitats. These ecosystems are vital to Europe's economic and social well-being, including socio-economic security and human health, supplying clean water, preventing floods, producing food, and providing energy, among others. Many of these valuable ecosystems are currently at significant risk of being irreversibly damaged by human activities and by the numerous pressures these create, including pollution, contamination, invasive species, and overfishing, as well as climate change. 

To combat these pressing challenges and build resilience to these pressures, the EU is taking action on multiple fronts to safeguard the status of aquatic ecosystems and their biodiversity, as illustrated by the achievements regarding the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives, the Water Framework Directive, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, the Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water Resources, and the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy. However, despite progress, EU directives have been unable to halt and reverse the trend of declining biodiversity of aquatic ecosystems. The lack of success by EU policy is the result of, among other things, a static view towards EU policies, their fragmented implementation and the management divide between the public and private sector.

The project Knowledge, Assessment, and Management for AQUAtic Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services aCROSS EU Policies (AQUACROSS) supports EU efforts to reduce the loss of biodiversity by enhancing the environmental and socio-ecological resilience of aquatic ecosystems and improving management practices to ensure the ongoing provision of essential ecosystem services necessary for human well-being. AQUACROSS is funded through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.

At its core, AQUACROSS seeks to expand current knowledge and foster the practical application of the Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) concept for all aquatic (freshwater, coastal, and marine) ecosystems (as a continuum) by contributing to the development of robust and cost-effective responses, integrated management practices, and innovative business models addressing current and future changes in major drivers and pressures. AQUACROSS, thereby, provides an unprecedented effort for seeking synergies and overcoming barriers between policy objectives, concepts, knowledge, data streams, and management approaches for freshwater, coastal, and marine ecosystems to support the timely achievement of the targets set out by the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2012-2020) adopted at COP10 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The project consortium, consisting of sixteen institutions from twelve EU countries, gathered in Brussels on 10-12 June 2015 for the project kick-off meeting. The project consortium discussed the application of the EBM concept for aquatic ecosystems, as well as the difference and synergies between different policy and science areas across freshwater, coastal and marine realms.

AQUACROSS is led by Ecologic Institute and its partners include Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IOC-UNESCO), Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek (IMARES), Fundación IMDEA Agua (IMDEA), University of Natural Resources & Life Sciences, Institute of Hydrobiology and Aquatic Ecosystem Management (BOKU), Universidade de Aveiro (UAVR), ACTeon – Innovation, Policy, Environment (ACTeon), University of Liverpool (ULIV), Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS), University College Cork, National University of Ireland (UCC), Stockholm University, Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), Danube Delta National Institute for Research & Development (DDNI), Eidgenoessische Anstalt fuer Wasserversorgung, Abwasserreinigung und Gewaesserschutz (EAWAG), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and BC3 Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3).

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