Restoring the environment: the European challenge starts from Bagnoli. Interview with Roberto Danovaro – Part 2
The restoration of damaged marine habitats is a key element of Blue Growth, the European strategy for growth and development having a huge potential in terms of wealth and job creation. With its research, the Anton Dohrn Zoological Station in Naples is committed to the largest example of recovery and restoration of a marine environment in the area of Bagnoli, near Naples, also involving Italian and European institutions and research bodies. After guiding us to discover the first European sea industry, Roberto Danovaro, President of the Anton Dohrn Zoological Station, showed us an innovative project for restoring this area, which could become a model to imitate at the international level.
The European Commission estimates that only 5% of the European economic activities comes from the sea. Wouldn’t it be possible to do more, especially in Italy?
According to a recent report by WWF on the Mediterranean economy, Italy is even below this percentage, despite its over 8 thousand kilometres of coasts. The growth potential of our Mediterranean is about 500-600 billion euro per year produced by the Blue Economy: the Italian seas are over 15% of the Mediterranean, which means that 5 to 10% of the Italian GDP could come from coastal activities, while these activities currently account for little more than 2% of the GDP. Therefore, there is a great potential for improvement, but the real challenge is not to “squeeze” our seas, i.e. to exploit their potential in a sustainable way, preserving the sea environment and making the best choices.
For too long have we “squeezed” our seas with wrong choices at construction and industrial level. How can we remedy these errors?
The challenge is to recover and restore completely damaged sea areas and restore them to their former appearance. This is what we are doing with ABBACO, the pilot project aimed at re-establish the quality of the environment and bathing in the Bagnoli-Coroglio area, stemmed from an initiative of the Ministry of Education, University and Research and coordinated by Anton Dohrn Zoological Station, which represents the desire for redemption of Campania and Italy with regard to the environmental damage of the past. Challenge is bringing together the best competences from Campania and Italy, including Federico II, Parthenope and Campania universities, National Research Council, ENEA, Ispra, INGV, National Health Institute and Invitalia. After an initial phase of assessment of the state of pollution and removal of polluting sediments, the most innovative working phase will start, having the objective of restoring in the Bagnoli area the same quality of bathing and the habitat of the beginning of the 20th century, with algae, sponges and corals on the seabed. They will be raised in the Marine Farm & Factory, the largest sea factory project in Europe that is being set up in the Bagnoli area thanks to MIUR funds, where the sea organisms will be raised for research, education and industrial application purposes.
So, besides the recovery, a sort of restocking and restoration of the sea area will also be performed.
The Bagnoli area will become the most important case study in Europe on environmental recovery and restoration of sea environments. The ABBACO project joined the research objectives of MERCES, the first European project dedicated to the restoration of sea habitats involving 16 European countries under Italian leadership. The Bagnoli experience will become a European model to be adopted in other contaminated areas in Europe and Italy, thus contributing to overcoming the logic of the past according to which reclaiming an area only means removing pollutants. The new vision is to give back to the sea environment also its natural component, including algae and microorganisms that can perform the important task of removing polluting agents in a natural way.
Just like the restoration of works of art requires advanced skills, also the restoration of sea environments needs specialized professionals, doesn’t it?
This is exactly one of the professional perspectives for the future. The restorer of sea environments will be a sought-after figure, with skills from ecology to restoration techniques. Italy has the best competences in the world in cultural heritage and the challenge will be to have specialized professionals also in environmental heritage of sea and Earth. At the Anton Dohrn Zoological Station we have already taken up this challenge and we are training some experts who will soon be involved in the reconstruction and requalification of the submerged environments of the Bagnoli area and who will then exploit the acquired skills in several Italian and international projects.