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SEmillas REd LAtina Recuperación Ecosistemas Fluviales y Acuáticos- (Seeds of a Latin network on fluvial and aquatic ecosystems restoration)

Final Report Summary - SERELAREFA (SEmillas REd LAtina Recuperación Ecosistemas Fluviales y Acuáticos- (Seeds of a Latin network on fluvial and aquatic ecosystems restoration))

River Restoration (RR) is a relatively new discipline which aims at preserving, recovering and enhancing river ecosystems because of both their intrinsic existence value and the services they can provide to humankind. It is a key component for the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (and others as well). Developing countries, like those from Latin American (LA), can greatly benefit from introducing these ideas at an early stage of planning and management because changes are far reaching and very fast. In Europe, national centers -like CIRF (IT) or CIREF (SP)- and European organizations -like the European Centre for River Restoration -ECRR (www.ecrr.org )- were born which are quickly spreading information and momentum for a broader action, while in LA, RR is practically ignored and very few experiences can be found. This project aimed at filling this gap, starting from those research institutions which already showed sensitivity to the issue and linking them also to public management bodies in order to share knowledge and create engagement at the same time.

General objectives of SERELAREFA
- preserve, enhance river ecosystems (forms and processes) in Latin America
- contribute to flood risk reduction through River Restoration approach
- enhance the science and practice of River Restoration and foster researchers inter-exchange

Specific objectives pursued
- contribute to enhancing knowledge and experience on River Restoration in both directions, LA and EU
- give birth to a LA network, strictly connected to the EU Networks, which can foster the adoption of RR philosophy, approach and tools
- create the conditions to influence the planning and implementation of actions concerning river ecosystems and flood management, even at the river basin level, by promoting a connection, in each LA country, amongst research organizations, institutions in charge of water resources/flood and river basin management and planning, and practitioners (consultants and SMEs)
- orient the identification of EU programs which could effectively support the large scale implementation of such an important issue.


Project idea
Project idea was that a number of researchers and practitioners from Italy (CIRF, which has managed the ECRR secretary in 2007-2009) and Spain (UPM, which has the deepest links with LA and played a key role in launching the national strategy for RR in Spain) brought their experience and vision to LA, and work with LA researchers to face local challenges, while LA researchers and managers visited problems and projects sites in EU to see with their eyes such experiences and directly compare them with theirs so to point out the rationales and benefits of RR.
Joint work to identify and frame selected case studies, together with site visits, workshops, mutual lectures, sharing of publications and information and networking were the main activities foreseen and effectively carried out. Also the collection of experiences concerning RR projects in Latin America has been a concern and the organization of events to involve more subjects within the philosophy of River Restoration.

Main results achieved
It has to be pointed out that SERELAREFA was not a "scientific research project", but rather a culture-building and dissemination project. Accordingly, it was not expected to produce several papers suited for publication on peer review journals; nevertheless, we did produce material of great interest, we guess, to those approaching in general the river management issue with an innovative spirit.

- With no doubt, the effort spent, and the passion dedicated by the participants, has generated a significant momentum with very promising perspectives. This is the most important result.
- Our events and documents have reached several persons and promoted an important change of thought: River Restoration is a term and concept now circulating in Latin America , a fact to which our small project significantly contributed
- A core network is established (and everybody is welcome to join it: instructions are available on our web site).
- The project team was motivated to write at least one international comparative paper which highlights similarities and peculiarities.
- A number of cases studies have been defined and developed to different degree of insight. Indeed, this is the activity which led to most of our documents produced: as foreseen, several case studies have been identified, a clear approach to address them in the spirit of RR has been defined and in some cases even proposed to relevant subjects on the territory, some research developments have been carried out for some of them, sometimes reaching a deep insight. A specific document for the main ones is available on our web site. Some led to publications already presented to International events or currently under development.

Perspectives
Risen awareness concerning the idea that rivers need to be managed in a more natural fashion is expected as the most important outcome, together with the idea that a LA network of subjects linked by the common interest of finding more sustainable ways of managing rivers and their territory, is a very useful tool.
From all this, we expect that new research and application projects, and policies and legal frameworks, together with actions concerning information exchange, like meetings, newsletters, research networks, study trips and publications, can be started as autonomous initiatives.
And we expect that other partners and particularly persons will join the network in different future initiatives.

Info
A web site (www.serelarefa.com ) has been implemented which provides a useful information basis for all those who want to get closer to the River Restoration world in Latin America.
The web site is in Spanish because our arena is mainly Latin America as the purpose of the project was to create seeds of a network there. Of course, we assume that those, in the UE and abroad, who are interested to interact with such LA subjects do understand Spanish.

Acknowledgment: The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7-PEOPLE-2009-IRSES) under Grant Agreement n.247522