Improving integrated management of Natura 2000 sites in the Vouga River, from catchment to coast, Portugal

Main EUNIS Habitats identified in Case Study 5; Source: Ana Lillebo, University of Aveiro
Area characterisation: 

The case study area includes the downstream section of the Vouga river, the freshwater wetland Pateira de Fermentelos, the Vouga river estuary, which is part of Ria de Aveiro coastal lagoon and the adjacent coastal area. It includes several habitats integrated in the Natura 2000 network, meaning that this area contributes significantly to the coherence of Natura 2000 and/or contributes significantly to the maintenance of biological diversity within this biogeographic region. This site contains one of the largest freshwater lakes of the Iberian Peninsula with a mosaic of wetland habitats, reed beds and marshland as well as riparian vegetation. The confluence of the Vouga river with Ria de Aveiro coastal lagoon forms an area of 3000 ha of low depth waterways, freshwater wetlands, salt-marshes, which is recognised as model of balance between human activities and wildlife.


The main objective of this AQUACROSSCase Study is to contribute to the improvement of integrated management of aquatic Natura 2000 sites, from catchment to coast, involving the concepts of Science-policy-stakeholders interface.


To achieve objective the Case Study will have a clear practical focus on: Engagement of stakeholders at different levels; Review of Laws and Policies; Mapping and Assessment of ecosystem services (ES) using data and indicators available at national and European level; Valuation of the provided ES; Assessment of the causalities between biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services at the Natura 2000 sites; Assessment of the impacts and emerging drivers of change on status and trends of biodiversity and ecosystem function, resilience and services; Development of innovative ecosystem services oriented management concepts (including participatory initiatives), common frameworks and tools for the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

As this case study addresses the continuum from freshwater to marine realms, it involves a complex institutional framework regarding water management and spatial planning. It also involves several stakeholders with potential conflicting interests, including social groups with direct or indirect interests, municipalities, representatives of economic sectors, common citizens, NGOs, among others. Due to the above mentioned complexity it is of paramount importance to have all key stakeholders involved, including local population or common citizens.

Potential impacts/benefits: 

The Case Study approach encompasses the organisation of stakeholder events, the development of useful spatially explicit information and modelled scenarios to support and promote stakeholders discussion by giving all end users the opportunity for sharing their views, to participate in the decisions, share objectives, and ultimately to forecast possible trade-offs.

Transferability of the result: 

This project is a Case Study under the Horizon 2020 project AQUACROSS, which builds on work undertaken in the previous pillars to develop concepts, practices and tools for better implementation of Ecosystem Based Management. This includes identifying and understanding the linkages between aquatic ecosystems and human well-being and identifying innovative management responses for aquatic ecosystems.

Lessons learned: 

As part of the Horizon 2020 AQUACROSS project, this Case Study seeks to advance the application of Ecosystem Based Management for aquatic ecosystems. AQUACROSS aims to develop and test an assessment framework, which considers the full array of interactions, including human activities, within aquatic ecosystems.