After three and a half years of work and with a European Commission co-funding close to one million euros, the MOVE project has ended with the mapping ecosystems and their services in seven Overseas entities of the European Union (EU): the Azores, Canary Islands, Sint Maarten, the Falkland Islands, Martinique, Reunion Island and French Guiana, laying the foundations, procedures and formulas for collaboration to be carried out in the future throughout the whole EU Overseas.
MOVE involved and capacitated local stakeholders in the methodologies for Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES). This methodology has become a fundamental component on the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020-2030. This strategy, in its Action 5 of its Objective 2, called on Member States to map and assess the state of ecosystems and their services in their national territories, creating a European-scale knowledge base necessary for advancing biodiversity objectives and fostering informed policies on agriculture, water, climate and landscape planning.
Alongside all this, a specific project was needed for the EU’s Overseas entities [which include the Outermost Regions (ORs) and Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)], all recognized for their exceptional biodiversity.
The participatory approach adopted in the MOVE has enabled the application of the most advanced tools and models to map, assess and evaluate ecosystem services, leveraging Blue and Green infrastructures across EU’s Overseas entities.
As explains Carolina Parelho, head of the coordination team and manager of the project, led by the Regional Fund for Science and Technology (FRCT) from the Regional Government of the Azores , “the case studies developed by MOVE have undoubtedly been an important contribution to the implementation of MAES in each of the participating regions. Today, local actors and stakeholders have tailor-made tools, methods and approaches to face the current and future challenges of mapping and assessing ecosystem services”.
The MOVE first step was to assess the status of MAES in the participating ORs and OCTs to mobilize stakeholders to define the case studies, which allowed knowing and exploiting their needs, expectations and bottlenecks in the implementation of MAES in each of the participating regions.
Supported by MOVE partners and stakeholders involved in each case study, a Red List of Ecosystems Feasibility Study, based on the IUCN global framework, was made specifically for the EU Overseas. This study provided a solid contribution to support the implementation of conservation, protection and sustainable management practices in the EU Overseas, as well as data availability, priority identification, recommendations and the next steps to be implemented.
Another major achievement of the project was the development of a MAES Strategic Plan for the EU Overseas entities. This document joins all the knowledge gathered in the implementation of the MOVE project, lessons learned and next steps to be developed into a roadmap that aims to facilitate MAES implementation across the Overseas, guiding local policies and interventions by Member States and the European Commission.
“The strategy entails specific actions covering data collection and sharing, removing legislative and regulatory gaps, improving the interaction between science and policy, increasing public support and awareness, improving administrative capacity at the local level, and incorporating ecosystem services into financial and economic instruments,” points out Carolina Parelho, PhD in Biology (Biomedicine and Environmental Toxicology) from UAç (Portugal), and postgraduate in Biotechnology in Biological Control. Since March 2019, she has been working at FRCT, being responsible for the analysis and monitoring of regional, national and international R&D&I programs in the areas of Biodiversity, Agriculture, Environment and Bioeconomy.
42 months of work
The implementation of MOVE has lasted 42 months, from April 2018 to September 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the development of various project actions, specially the regional workshops with local stakeholders to validate the MAES tools applied in each case study.
To overcome this challenge, those activities that required physical interaction were rescheduled and online platforms were preferentially used for the intended collaborative development and knowledge sharing. However, due to the synchronization and interdependence of the results of all MOVE activities, a six-month extension was necessary to conclude the project.
“It has been inspiring to see Overseas communities around the world playing an active role in MOVE success, from experts and policymakers to civil society. We are proud of the work developed, the boost in scientific capacity in the participating regions and the facilitation of regional policies. We look forward to further advancing the methodology and seeing MAES replicated in more ORs and OCTs in Europe,” says Carolina Parelho.
The MOVE results highlight the steps needed to overcome some barriers encountered for the advancement of MAES in EU´s Overseas: the fine-tuning and selection of appropriate methods for advancing MAES and supporting their implementation, taking into account the specific needs and data availability in each of the participating regions; a strong coordination and integration of methods; the consolidation and expansion of a knowledge network of EU Overseas ecosystems, by expanding the MOVE community through linking with existing initiatives; the development and dissemination of good practice guidelines to improve policy implementation in ORs and OCTs. These are the challenges being addressed by the ongoing MOVE-ON project, that will continue the work done by its predecessor.