Coastal wetlands are highly valuable marine ecosystems currently facing several threats. In the north Adriatic Sea, there are some of the few remaining coastal wetlands in the Mediterranean region of Europe. Their extent has been significantly reduced over the past centuries leading to a loss of over 80% in coverage of these coastal areas. The researchers are trying to identify the drivers of these losses using the pilot areas of the CASCADE project as case studies. Coastal land use change and changes in the dynamic conditions of natural cycles, such as sediment regimes, have severely affected the stability of these systems. This instability has been aggravated by climate change.
Wetlands are one of the most important biodiversity hotspots and changes in physical cycles are not the only threats endangering their living organisms. Exotics species are spreading in these environments and becoming invasive. However, experts are asking themselves whether this is ecologically relevant. Some species might be able to survive and non-native species can have similar functions to native ones, guaranteeing functional biodiversity. These are some of the questions that the researchers in CASCADE are trying to address.
Laura Airoldi, Professor at the Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna illustrates what has been done in the framework of the project CASCADE to study some of the major threats to these systems while exploring some potential strategies for recovery.