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Project #7: NaturDive, taking action to save Posidonia, the lungs of the Mediterranean

Founded in Cannes in 2017, NaturDive is a non-profit made up of citizens who are committed to protecting the marine environment, with a desire to act in favour of marine biodiversity in the Mediterranean. It implements, develops and encourages all actions that seek to study and preserve the marine environment. Today, NaturDive is taking action in four complementary areas: observing in order to assess the ecological condition of the environment, understanding by contributing to scientific knowledge, educating citizens and future generations on the preservation of the environment, and also protecting and restoring coastal marine ecosystems.

The Amis du Festival is providing the Cannes-based non-profit NaturDive to support the “Restoration of the Posidonia aquatic plant habitat” part of the Prime project.

© NaturDive - Ioana Stoicescu


The Posidonia aquatic plant habitat in the Mediterranean is highly threatened


Posidonia, the lungs of the Mediterranean, are currently out of breath and disappearing at a rapid rate. It is now urgent to protect this life-saving plant that makes up one of the planet’s most important marine ecosystems, and which constitutes an unequalled source of oxygen for coastal waters. Posidonia serves, in particular, as a living space and nursery for marine flora and fauna: for over a thousand plant and animal species, this aquatic plant habitat forms a shelter and spawning ground where there is an abundance of food resources. 


The benefits of Posidonia go further still: its capacity to capture carbon at a large scale make this plant a carbon sink of worldwide interest to slow down global warming. As an example, it can store five to eight times more carbon per hectare than the Amazon forest. It is also a species that is considered as an indicator of the overall quality of coastal waters, as, being sensitive to pollution, it can only develop in clean waters. All of these advantages and resources make it an unrivalled ecological treasure.


But today, Posidonia’s rapid decline is worrying. Despite its status as a protected species and the numerous advantages it confers to humanity, aquatic plant habitats of Posidonia are in decline in multiple regions of the Mediterranean. This overall reduction is estimated at around 10% over the course of the last 100 years, but a recent analysis of the entirety of Posidonia’s habitat is more concerning, indicating a real decline of 34% of aquatic plant habitats over the last 50 years. The Alpes-Maritimes region is the territory that is the most impacted as it is where there is the greatest loss of Posidonia plant habitats. 


The main reasons? Boat anchors thrown into the sea that pull up the leaves and roots of the plants, pollution, and the fixed moorings that stabilise buoys can each destroy 5 to 10 m² of aquatic plant habitat each year. 


© NaturDive - Ioana Stoicescu


From awareness raising to restoration


To combat this ever-increasing degradation of Posidonia habitats, the NaturDive non-profit has created the Prime (Posidonia Restoration Initiative for a resilient Mediterranean Ecosystem) project which establishes conservation measures based on three modules. 


The first is working on preserving existing Posidonia by education thanks to educational marine areas, by surveillance, allowing for an understanding of the destruction of Posidonia habitats, and by awareness raising, exposing seafarers and the general public to the actions that are harmful to marine life. 


The next module focuses on preserving existing Posidonia by implementing environmentally-friendly anchoring practices. This involves a number of buoys located in a given area allowing boaters to moor to one of them rather than throwing their anchor into the sea. This kind of environmentally-friendly anchoring makes it possible to lighten the pressure that anchoring has on the sea floor and thus protect aquatic flora and fauna. 


Finally, through its third module, the PRIME project is investing in the sea floor to restore damaged Posidonia, beginning with that located on the Marguerite and St Honorat islands, and then throughout the Bay of Cannes. In order to partially attenuate the decline of underwater plant life, the restoration of such plant life, in appropriate areas, is an effective option that has the potential to re-establish reserves and lost carbon sinks, as well as the other important ecosystem services provided by underwater plant habitats. This action allows not only for a return to the initial state of Posidonia, but also to strengthen existing plant habitats. The Festival’s donation will be entirely focused on the “Restoration of the Posidonia aquatic plant habitat” part of the project.


These three modules carried out together will ensure a positive and long-lasting impact. 


The Prime project will be the largest Posidonia habitat restoration project in France, with 3,000 m² in area rehabilitated over 3 years, from 2022 to 2025.



 

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