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Towards integrated management of freshwater Nature 2000 sites and habitats (FRESHABIT)
Start date: Jan 1, 2016, End date: Sep 30, 2022 PROJECT  ONGOING 

Background Freshwater habitats are among the most threatened habitat types globally. In the 2007-2012 conservation status assessment of the EU Habitats Directive (Article 17), none of the freshwater, coastal, and groundwater dependent wetland habitats in Europe fully met favourable conservation status, and most are in unfavourable conservation status. Almost 50% of European water bodies are failing to achieve the environmental objectives set by the Water Framework Directive in 2015. In Finland, the conservation status of most freshwater habitats has been assessed as ‘unfavourable’. Freshwater habitats are often altered by human activity, such as land reclamation, water-borne traffic and hydropower production, and degraded by eutrophication and hydromorphological changes in water bodies and their catchments. Climate change poses further risks for freshwater, via changes in evapotranspiration, the growing demand for freshwater resources, and through changes in nutrient leaching and habitat suitability. European freshwater-related directives have a common goal of protecting and regulating the use of the freshwater environment. To ensure future sustainable use of freshwater wetland systems, implementation of the multiple directives controlling ecosystem services, biodiversity, cultural heritage and renewable energy need to be harmonised. Actions are also needed to enhance catchment-level and cross-sectional cooperation among different administrative and operational actors and institutes, such as public administrations implementing the Water Framework Directive, the administrative bodies involved in implementing the Habitats and Birds directives, NGOs and the private sector. Objectives FRESHABIT focuses on fresh- and groundwater dependent habitats, coastal and estuarine habitats and species depending on water in several Natura 2000 network sites across Finland. The project aims to develop new methodology and indicators for assessing the conservation status of freshwater habitats. It further aims to improve the ecological status, management, and sustainable use of these habitats, by developing networks and operational models, and testing them in selected catchments. The project will enhance capacity building, by setting up coordination structures and pathways that enable the full implementation of the prioritised action framework (PAF) and other environmental policies. By improving multisectoral cooperation, FRESHABIT aims to develop new model frameworks and operational models to facilitate long-lasting results. The main objectives of FRESHABIT are to: Build coordination structures, models and networks for integrated planning, implementation and monitoring schemes for directives related to freshwater management, and to demonstrate these in eight regional networks of Natura 2000 sites; Improve the conservation, management, and sustainable use of freshwater habitats and related resources by enhancing cooperation among administrative and operational actors, particularly by emphasising private-public partnerships; Improve the conservation and ecological status of freshwater habitats and related species in selected regional networks by habitat restoration; Develop and demonstrate methodology related to assessment, modeling and monitoring of freshwater habitats, ecosystem services and cultural heritage; Develop biodiversity and ecosystem service indicators serving both national and international monitoring and policy needs; and Enhance sustainable use of freshwater resources by integrating conservation approaches in ecosystem-based entrepreneurship and to improve environmental awareness.In addition to the IP budget itself, the project will facilitate the coordinated use of €4 320 773 of complementary funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and national and private funds, as applicable.
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