AIM OF THE PROJECT
Ecoengineering is a technical and scientific discipline that combines technology and biology, making use of plants and plant communities for protecting soil and infrastructures, and contribute to landscape development. It matches technical (protection and stabilisation), ecological (eco-systemic restoration), landscape (improve the landscape integration) and socioeconomic (more efficient and source of employment)
The aim of this project is to generate a sector-specific theoretical and practical syllabus essential for the specialization process of the Mediterranean Ecoengineering sector. Also, to jointly develop a long term interaction scheme among the stakeholders of the ecoengineering sector and to deliver a training courses programme technology enhanced in “Soil and Fluvial ecoengineering, Hazard Assessment and Techniques Selection in Mediterranean Environment”. This new syllabus will be generated during the implementation of the long term strategy of the proposal “Specialisation process for the ecoengineering sector in the Mediterranean environment (ECOMED)”.
The aim of this project is to generate sector-specific theoretical and practical tools and syllabus essential for the specialization process of the Mediterranean Ecoengineering sector.
Landslides, erosion, and floods are natural processes which negatively affect the productivity of land and ecosystem’s dynamics and increase soil loss and land degradation. The direct causes of these phenomena are region- specific. Climate change, including changes in short-term variation, as well as long-term gradual changes in temperature, precipitation and sea level rise, is expected to be an additional stress on rates of soil loss.
Soil- and fluvial ecoengineering are sustainable tools to improve resilience against soil loss and soil degradation.
These techniques are widely used in Atlantic and Eurasian ecoregions and are gaining strength within the Mediterranean regions. Ecoengineering techniques are also useful to protect natural riparian areas affected by rapid environmental changes. Ecoengineering works have a clear dynamic response. At first the initial rigidity is offered by the inert materials. Eventually, as time progresses, the vegetation will play the major role in the stabilization of the site. Because of this, a monitoring scheme must be included in the work schedule in order to verify the successes and errors of the intervention and justify potential corrective action. The difficulties faced by this kind of works in a Mediterranean climate demands a highly specialised knowledge triangle (new processes, methods and services) within the sector. Apart from this, the particularities of this type of works demand comparisons between the original and the current state of the construction site in terms of biodiversity, soil evolution, plant anchorage, ecosystem resilience, etc. The solution to this situation can be addressed by both implementing a monitoring stage in the works and generating a knowledge transfer network involving the Mediterranean stakeholders. Currently, there is an absence of the preceding tools and therefore one of the purposes behind ECOMED is covering these gaps.
Typically, plants and parts of plants are used as living building materials, in such a way that, through their development in combination with inert materials (e.g. soil, rock, timber), ensuring a significant contribution to the long-term protection and mitigation against all forms of soil loss and erosion. The use of these living materials in Mediterranean environments involves many difficulties, notwithstanding the climate, that are not present in Atlantic and Continental regions from where the current research and publications are mainly originated. This issue has not been addressed yet in a knowledge transfer functioning scheme.
The analysis of the ecoengineering works evolution by studying the current state of existing ecoengineering works is at the same time the major missing point in the Mediterranean scenarios, and the most important source of information for the needs of the professional specialization.
Good practice examples and guidelines specific to the Mediterranean region are lacking in current training syllabus and routines.
In order to improve the specialization level of the ecoengineering sector in Mediterranean areas either an enhanced syllabus must be offered in HE centres or monitoring of the existing construction sites are needed. Within this context, the consortium of this project offers to provide a sound and practical knowledge based on the accumulated experience in order to offer to the next generation of practitioners and managers a solid and well suited training in ecoengineering restoration techniques in Mediterranean scenarios. This is needed because there is no specialised training offered in ecoengineering in most of the Mediterranean countries and there is a serious shortage of staff specialised in the technology enhanced restoration of degraded land in Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Turkey and FYR of Macedonia.
ANALYSIS OF THE SUBJECT AREA
For the analysis of the existing needs of the ecoengineering sector, for the Mediterranean climate particular case, two different tasks were undertaken.
On one hand, a literature review from symposia throughout the last 15 years was reviewed and a number of ecoengineering enterprises and HEI were surveyed for experiences with training and application of bioengineering in the Mediterranean region. After this, both problems of transfer knowledge of successful experiences between enterprises and a lack of know how were detected, agreeing on the need of this project.
Therefore, a comprehensive review of the accumulated experiences related to ecoengineering in Mediterranean areas is clearly necessary. Besides, the different conditions and particularities of Mediterranean climate have to be included in the design, calculation and work supervision of these actions.
What´s new and different have a clear dynamic response
From the needs analysis, the following features were detected:
- The current lack of practical knowledge transfer between the different Mediterranean countries is impeding a clear evolution of the ecoengineering sector in the Mediterranean areas.
- The interaction between the HE centres and the ecoengineering enterprises was pointed out as one of the major tools for the specialization needs of the sector.
- A monitoring stage is the main missing point in the application of ecoengineering in the Mediterranean region.
- An adaptation process of the existing procedures and routines currently used for design of civil engineering projects and works must be adapted to the ecoengineering work case. The new procedures will have to give answer to the particularities and the different nature of ecoengineering projects and works within a changing climate.
- An accredited sector specific training offer is urgently needed in the sector.
- There are clear job opportunities if a specialization process is embraced.
Because of all the former highlighted factors both a new syllabus for training environmental scientists, technicians and practitioners must be made if we were to have well trained professionals working in Mediterranean areas and a long term interaction scheme must be set between enterprises and HE centres. These two points are essential to professionalise the sector. For the first time, ECOMED will bring together ecoengineering enterprises and educational institutions to provide the necessary response for the sector specialization needs and potential by taking into account the particularities of Mediterranean environments.
Main innovative elements
With this proposal long term new dynamics will be started. The developed syllabus will be continually updated with the new findings and conclusions reached within the long term interaction scheme in a Mediterranean environments and within a climate change scenario.
In this long term approach changing climate effects will be detected and incorporated into the protocols and routines of the sector. In the ECOMED work awards the three best ecoengineering works in slope scenario, fluvial scenario and coastal scenario respectively will be rewarded on a two year basis.
In this competition, the implementation of curricula, protocols, routines or approaches generated during the ECOMED project will be accomplished. As the trained professionals gain experience within the industry, they will be contributing to the enhancement of the training curriculum with guest lectures, case studies, but also with internship opportunities and research/consultancy opportunities for the students/researchers at the HEIs.
EUROPEAN ADDED VALUE
Currently ecoengineering routines and protocols are country specific if they do exist at all. So far there are neither standardised nor integrated procedures in the ecoengineering sector in spite of fact that the Mediterranean countries share common challenges and climate specifics. The know-how transfer is essential to effectively fight against existing soil losses and provide resilience at a global scale.
The lack of interaction within the ecoengineering sector in the Mediterranean areas is preventing it from taking advantage of the accumulated experiences in the Mediterranean biogeography. Without interactive schemes and active dynamics within the sector it is not possible to improve its specialization level. The necessary interactions refer to both the enterprises and the academia (HE centres). Because of the particularities of the Mediterranean climate it is not possible to directly transfer other experiences accumulated and analysed in other parts of Europe (e.g. Atlantic and Eurasian areas). The important semi-empirical nature of the ecoengineering works makes the intercommunications between the countries (enterprises and HE centres) an essential issue.
The lack of adapted routines and procedures for the ecoengineering works in the Mediterranean areas is another major issue within the sector. The definition and calibration of those adapted procedures can only be made by collaborating at a European level. The analysis of ecoengineering works all over the Mediterranean areas will make this objective feasible.
In the ECOMED approach, the enterprises partners will play the essential role in determining the needs and limitations of the ecoengineering sector in a Mediterranean framework. The short and long dynamics created within the sector will offer a powerful scheme to both improve and enhance knowledge level in a continuous way.
A new core of training courses for a modular programme on “Soil and Fluvial Ecoengineering, Hazard Assessment and Techniques Selection in Mediterranean Environment”, targeting staff that has a significant educational base and expertise in disparate soil and fluvial ecoengineering disciplines is something that has not been developed yet across Europe. There is no multi-disciplinary offer that combines and links these two major aspects.
The impact and benefits of ECOMED are expected that students, practitioners, enterprises and the ecoengineering sector will:
- Benefit from innovative and more effective teaching and learning techniques in soil and fluvial ecoengineering, climate change, and be able to apply these in their work and study,
- Have a new set of job opportunities because of the improvement of the sector interconnections and its new dynamics at a European level,
- A new set of studying and specialisation (continuous professional development) opportunities for a wide range of graduates and professionals which will be applicable across many regions within Europe
- Promotion of the ecoengineering as a profession and promotion of its values common for all European counties.
- Development of a quality assurance framework for teaching and specialisation in the sector, valid across Europe
- Have adapted protocols and routines for a correct and suitable definition of the ecoengineering work at the design level, the construction level and the monitoring level,
- Have a database regarding a systematic identification, characterization and technical evaluation of the available vegetation for ecoengineering interventions in the Mediterranean area. The construction of a common database for this purpose, as well as the definition of protocols of technical characterization and evaluation are of the utmost urgency and will build a critical contribution to the successful expansion of ecoengineering in these regions.
The experiences produced in ECOMED will be perfectly translated to other climate condition since the major outcome of the project will be represented by mechanisms and dynamics necessary to improve the information exchange and the specialisation level of a particular sector (the ecoengineering sector in Mediterranean scenarios). Hence, the project experiences can benefit other ecoregions.
The consortium is composed of 14 partners, 5 universities (HEIs), 1 research center, 1 technical institute and 7 SMEs from 8 countries (Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, UK, Turkey and Macedonia). The European Mediterranean region is represented by 7 countries.
Activities will be implemented under the leadership and active decision-making of UPM (P1) that will ensure coherence, smooth exchange of information, synergies creation, and positive collaboration among all partners. UPM has a long experience of project management and coordination of several EU funded projects. An equal distribution of tasks and budget among partners and countries will ensure a strong commitment from all parties, increasing the efficient use of resources, and ensuring the delivery of all Work Packages (WPs; detailed below) in a timely manner.