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AQUACROSS Report Summary

Project ID: 642317
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.5.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - AQUACROSS (Knowledge, Assessment, and Management for AQUAtic Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services aCROSS EU policies (AQUACROSS))

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Aquatic ecosystems are home to an array of different species and habitats, and provide numerous benefits called ‘ecosystem services’ to society. These ecosystems are under significant threat by human activity. If the degradation of aquatic ecosystems is not soon reversed, the effects will affect their capacity to provide ecosystem services and ultimately human well-being. In response, the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy has been put in place to tackle the loss of species and habitats and establish targets to protect and preserve biodiversity.
In an effort to halt biodiversity loss across freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems, the project AQUACROSS has the following four goals:
1. To support the implementation of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy for an improved functioning of aquatic ecosystems as a whole;
2. To explore, advance and support the implementation of the ecosystem based-management concept, which is understood as management or policy options intended to restore, enhance and/or protect the ability of an ecosystem to remain in good health;
3. To specifically identify and test management and business models and tools to identify the benefits of aquatic ecosystems for stakeholders, businesses, and policy-makers; and,
4. To mobilise policy-makers, businesses, and societal actors at global, EU, Member State, and case-study levels.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

AQUACROSS has analysed key environmental policies that potentially increase or lessen aquatic biodiversity loss. The work focused on understanding how the ecosystem-based management concept could potentially be used to bring together different policy objectives, which would help form a foundation to better protect these ecosystems and their biodiversity. This work also looks into how key data and information about these environments are gathered. With better data, more people and politicians can make science-based decisions that promote the health and sustainable use of these environments. To this end, AQUACROSS established a beta version of an Information Platform, which aims to provide public access to relevant information on aquatic ecosystem services.
The AQUACROSS Innovative Concept and an assessment framework were developed with the aim of linking the complex interactions between natural and human systems in aquatic environments. This work breaks down relevant concepts to broad audiences from diverse disciplines and pushes the boundaries of existing knowledge to lay the foundation for a framework that can be applied to multiple aquatic habitats and systems.
AQUACROSS is also providing a solid foundation to combine scientific disciplines, such as socio-economics, ecology and stakeholder knowledge. Detailed guidance is being developed to identify relevant threats to aquatic biodiversity as well as to assess links between biodiversity and ecosystem services at different scales. AQUACROSS delivers techniques and indicators that will allow the integration of the ecosystem services concept into decision-making.
The AQUACROSS approach is being implemented and validated in eight case studies throughout Europe. The work in the case studies is embedded in all parts of the project to ensure information exchange, integration across ecosystems, as well as interaction between disciplines. The case studies are a major source of information and data and will allow the co-creation of concepts and products with policy and business stakeholders.
Overall, the project’s research activities have laid important groundwork to impact not only the scientific community, but also policy and business communities. Through the work undertaken thus far, the project aims to continue its integrative work across aquatic realms and governance levels. Case study work will provide the opportunity to engage more directly with on-the-ground practitioners and stakeholders—where much of the expected local impact will take place. Simultaneously, engagement in EU forums and policy processes will ensure the continued impact on a broader scale.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

AQUACROSS highlights the need to bring management of aquatic ecosystems together, bridging freshwater, coastal and marine environments in an integrated way. To do this, the project focuses on the concept of ecosystem-based management and connecting science, policy, and business, as well as local stakeholders to achieve its goals and create lasting impact for the EU.
So far, the project has progressed beyond current science and state-of-the-art through its integrative research. By looking into how existing policies and financing instruments help or hinder aquatic biodiversity conservation, the project is raising awareness of how policy can affect aquatic biodiversity. Thus, the project is bringing biodiversity conservation onto political agendas and highlighting the need to discuss trade-offs and win-wins in different management options.
AQUACROSS policy work has also looked into data requirements of the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy, highlighting the current fragmented approach to how necessary information is collected and used at the EU level. Project recommendations to build better data repositories and so-called ‘Spatial Data Infrastructure’ can help both scientists and policy-makers understand how freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystem interact, as well as provide a base for better and more informed decision-making at all governance levels.
AQUACROSS research on how aquatic biodiversity links to the social system and the benefits humans gain from them can support better governance of these areas. Through enhanced protection and improved management practices in local areas, managers can maintain or even increase human health and well-being.
Knowing the importance biodiversity plays in providing valuable goods and services to society, AQUACROSS-generated knowledge can support innovation and cooperation with businesses. This can be done by identifying proven business practices as well as new options to interlink business solutions with environmental objectives. AQUACROSS activities can also highlight the need for ecosystem-based management to address aquatic biodiversity conservation across aquatic realms, thereby preserving the environment and stimulating innovation and business solutions.

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