The European Union will finance a total of eight case studies over the next few months, of around one million euros, to understand the impact of climate change on the ecosystems of the Outermost Regions (ORs) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs). This was advanced by José Manuel Viegas Azevedo, professor of the University of the Azores and coordinator of the MOVE project through the Regional Fund for Science and Technology (FRCT), who attended last May the annual meeting of the MOVE Consortium held in Gran Canaria (Canary Islands, Spain) to establish possible future lines of research for this programme.
MOVE is a pilot project funded by the Directorate-General for Environment of the European Commission as part of the implementation of the European Biodiversity Strategy. MOVE’s main objective is to identify and map the main regional and local stakeholders, as well as the assessment of the state of ecosystems and their services in the ORs and OCTs of EU. To achieve this objective, MOVE, which has been underway for about a year in its initial phase, brings together a consortium of 14 research institutions present in 6 European overseas regions.
Among the new case studies that will be developed through MOVE there is one in French Guiana that will evaluate the impact of climate change on the water cycle and whose methodology and results, can be extrapolated to the rest of the European territories involved in these type of studies.
“One of the concerns of our partners is related to the use of water, so we will develop some projects related to the state of ecosystems and aquifers, and how they can be impacted by different aspects related to climate change,” he explains. The study in French Guiana, carried out by the Centre for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research for Development (CIRAD) and the University of Hannover, will study the different types of forests and their role in the water cycle, quantifying, the capacity of each type of forest to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Two other MOVE case studies will focus on carbon fixation capacity, one at sea, based in the Canary Islands, and another land-based, in the Azores, coordinated by FRCT, which will study how to change agricultural practices so that they can reinforce the absorption of carbon dioxide. “The study seeks to compare permanent pastures, those that do not use fertilizers, with those that do, because we know that those that do not use fertilizers absorb carbon better, but we would like to quantify it,” he said.
The University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), through The University Institute of Aquaculture and Sustainable Marine Ecosystems (IU-ECOAQUA), the University of La Laguna (ULL), the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), and the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) will be involved in the Canary Islands research, which will be developed with an integrated management approach to quantify the role of underwater marine vegetation in capturing and fixing atmospheric carbon.
José Manuel Viegas Azevedo recalls that many of the projects to be carried out revolve around “the issue of the moment”, climate change, although he wanted to stress that “we are demanding that we no longer use the term climate change, but that we speak of climate and environmental catastrophe, as we have to reduce rapidly the emission of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases”.
This reduction does not occur only through a lower emission of gases, but in knowing well how nature is able to reabsorb the gases present in the atmosphere.
Among the remaining five case studies, in which the rest of MOVE’s members will participate, he points out, there is one that studies the impact of tourism on land and at sea, another on fishing and another on how urban pollution has an impact on pollution at sea. They will be developed on the islands of La Réunion, Martinique, St. Martin, Falkland and St. Helena. The projects are of 18 months duration, he details, so that “at the end of the cycle we will have interesting results to share”.