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MEDSCAPES - Development of Landscape Character Assessment as a tool for effective conservation of natural heritage in the Eastern Mediterranean

The MEDSCAPES project aimed to develop and apply a Best-Practice Methodology for Landscape Character Assessment (LCA) in the East Mediterranean context, to be used as an integrative planning and risk-assessment tool for sustainable territorial planning and landscape-scale protection of the natural and cultural heritage.

The project was funded by the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) for Cross-Border Cooperation in the Mediterranean (CBC-MED) and was being implemented by eight (8) partners from four (4) countries of the East Mediterranean –Cyprus, Greece, Lebanon and Jordan. The project partners were:
- The Laona Foundation for the Conservation and Regeneration of the Cypriot Countryside (lead partner),
- The Open University of Cyprus,
- The Mediterranean Institute for Nature and Anthropos,
- The University of Aegean (Greece),
- The Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon,
- The American University of Beirut,
- The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (Jordan), and
- The German Jordanian University.

The project’s results were:
1. A fully tested, regionally-adapted, Best-Practice Methodology for LCA in the East Mediterranean context,
2. Landscape character typologies and maps for the whole of Cyprus (Level 2 LCA, at 1:50,000 scale) and pilot areas of Greece, Lebanon and Jordan (Level 1 LCA, at 1:250,000 scale, and Level 2 LCA in selected sub-parts),
3. A model approach for community participation in landscape-scale nature protection, building on the Arab Hima concept,
4. A risk-modelling software package for land-use planning and decision-making,
5. Distance-learning and training materials, based on the above results.
6. A cadre of trained LCA practitioners in each partner organisation.

MedINA led the Work Package 4, which was devoted to developing the Best-Practice Methodology (BPM) for LCA in the East Mediterranean. Building on existing knowledge, incorporating input from the implementation of the landscape characterisation process in the pilot areas, and taking into account stakeholder needs and expert views, MedINA  drafted and finalised the BPM in close collaboration with all project partners. The output of this exercise was a scientific paper on the BPM (to be submitted to an international journal by the end of the project) and a BPM summary to be posted on the project website, whereas the BPM was sent to 20 relevant academic researchers and 20 governmental stakeholder bodies during the second year of the project cycle.

In addition, MedINA actively participated in all of the project’s Work Packages, conducting the LCA process in a pilot area of 5 Municipalities in the Prefecture of Ioannina, Region of Epirus (Municipalities of Ioannina, Zagori, Konitsa, Metsovo and Voreia Tzoumerka). The characterisation process was carried out initially at Level 1 (scale 1:250,000), including desktop study (spatial data collection and on-screen landscape character mapping), fieldwork validation and consultation with the local communities; upon completion of the Level 1 exercise, a Level 2 (scale 1:50,000) assessment was undertaken in a smaller area (corresponding to one Municipality), which was selected in the course of the project.

Vjosa / Aoss River Ecomuseum: Promotion and protection of the natural and cultural heritage of the Vjosa / Aoos river basin (VAEcoM)

The VAEcoM project aimed to create a cross-border ecomuseum focused on raising awareness of and protecting the natural and cultural heritage of the Aoos river basin on both sides of the Albanian-Greek border. The goal was to jointly protect, promote and raise the profile of the Aoos river basin, starting at its source (and including the Voidomati and Sarantaporo rivers and the Mastrochoria villages) and ending in Tepeleni, Albania. The ecomuseum was created through scientific and in situ research and close cooperation with local scientists, local stakeholders and the ordinary citizens of the area.

The Vjosa / Aoos river ecomuseum project was funded by EU and national funds within the framework of the IPA cross-border programme “Greece-Albania, 2007-2013”. MedINA was the lead partner of this project and it was implemented along with three other partners, Pindos Perivallontiki (GR), the Institute of Nature Conservation in Albania (AL) and the Forest Directorate in Permet (AL).

Outputs of the project
• Four open-air thematic routes, two in each country which shed light on the identity of the area as this is perceived by its inhabitants and will combines elements including natural formations, monuments, celebrations and rituals.
• A trilingual printed guide to the thematic routes in Greek, Albanian and English.
• A virtual tour which allows visitors to access information and to experience the four thematic routes before or after their visit.
• A website which hosts the entire ecomuseum (virtual tour, information guide, project information) -
• Two capacity-building workshops in Greece and Albania
• An international conference which took place in Konitsa, Greece on 25-26 January 2014
• A cross-border network of organizations and people that are taking care of the management of the ecomuseum since the end of the funded project.

Implementing the European Landscape Convention in Greece

The scope of this project was to facilitate the implementation of the European Landscape Convention in Greece, after its ratification in February 2010. By providing scientific expertise to the Greek Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change on how to implement the obligations concerning the Convention itself, MedINA played a decisive role in the document’s national ratification.

The project’s main objectives were:
a. Proposals on how the Greek legal framework can be modified to facilitate the implementation of the ELC
b. Development of methodologies for the inclusion of landscape studies in spatial plans and environmental impact assessments
c. Averting threats to specific landscapes of exceptional value
d. Making widely available the results of the project
e. Mobilising the Greek Landscape Association

In order to achieve the above objectives the following activities were undertaken:

- A thorough study of the obligations of the ELC
- Comparative analysis of Greek statute law and European legal framework on landscapes
- Advising the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change towards the adoption of specific legal measures and policies for the implementation of the ELC
- Designing together with the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change a project entitled: Actions for the Implementation of the European Landscape Convention in Greece.
- Comparative analysis of the landscape characterisation methodologies applied in Europe (based on the Landscape Character Assessment (UK), the Historic Landscape Characterisation (UK), the Landscape Catalogues of Catalonia and the Landscape Character Assessment of Iceland)
- Development of landscape methodologies for the inclusion in landscape studies in: 
  • Regional Plans, 1:250,000 (Decision 10106/2011, Government Gazette Issue 45/AAP/17.03.2011)
  • Local Spatial Plans, 1:50,000 
  • Strategic Environmental Assessments  
  • Environmental Impact Assessments
- International Workshop on landscape methodologies held in Athens (17-18 December 2011), aimed at exchanging knowledge and experience between experts of LCA methods and MedINA, discussion of the Greek Landscape Character Assessment approach at a local level and the sharing of research results, along with the possibility of developing a Landscape Character Assessment Method potentially applicable to other Mediterranean countries. The proceedings of the workshop were published by the end of November 2012.
- Averting threats on Cape Maleas Peninsula and the island of Lemnos through close collaboration with local communities
- Dissemination of results through participation in National and International Conferences as well as the publication of articles
- Mobilisation of the Greek Landscape Association through active support of its daily running and development.

Conservation and Management of Greek Landscapes

In 2007, MedINA received financial support from the MAVA Foundation in order to carry out a project entitled Conservation and Management of Greek landscapes. Having jointly recognised the significance of landscapes in relation to nature protection, the MAVA board agreed to move forward with MedINA in an effort to develop a new scientific, technical and political approach to the sustainable management of Greek landscapes, particularly as the country had no existing legal or administrative framework for landscape protection.

The aim of the project was to promote the protection of Greek landscapes through sound scientific research, public awareness campaigns and increased community participation. In regard to this the following objectives were identified:

- Documenting Greece’s primary landscape types.
- Analysing the threats these landscapes face and developing strategic proposals for remedial action.
- Improving the instruments of governance for landscape development and management, through public awareness and lobbying.

To achieve the above objectives, the following activities were planned:

- Interdisciplinary research on the history, formation and threats facing Greek landscapes.
- Study of the typology of Greek landscapes and the compiling of a resulting inventory.
- Fieldwork in three characteristic sites.
- Organisation of a national workshop and an international conference.
- Utilising the mass media for a campaign on Greek landscapes.
- Development of a website to be hosted by MedINA’s portal.
- Establishment of a national network that will continue to promote the protection of Greek landscapes during and after the completion of the project.
- Lobbying the Greek government and the media on landscape conservation.

The project’s results included:

a. Research reports on Greek landscapes and fieldwork in three specific sites.
b. Publications:
- In Search of the Greek Landscape. Published in Greek in 2010, this book includes the papers presented during the national workshop and the conclusions jointly reached.
- Reclaiming the Greek Landscape. Published in English, this book will bring together much of the experience gained throughout the project, including the main papers of the national workshop and the international conference, the results of the three case studies and detailed recommendations for the future of landscape protection in Greece.
c. Organisation of a national capacity-building workshop and an international conference on Greek landscapes.
d. Public awareness campaign leading to the better understanding of landscapes.
e. Landscape website hosted by MedINA’s portal.
f. A national network focusing on the promotion of Greek landscape protection.
g. Ratification by the Greek government of the ELC, as well as designation of a responsible service and initiation of management and conservation measures.

Major contribution of project:

The Conservation and Management of Greek Landscapes project has successfully contributed to the expansion of knowledge regarding Greek landscapes through scientific research and in-depth studies of three characteristic areas, bringing about a greater understanding of the threats that landscapes face and the potential management processes that will result in sustainable development and landscape enhancement. This knowledge has been made widely available through two workshops, various publications and networking with experts and organisations both within Greece and internationally, including the establishment and support of the Greek Landscape Association. The project has also resulted in positive actions taken by the Greek government after successful lobbying by MedINA, such as the ratification of the European Landscape Convention and the formal decision to establish the Committee on Landscapes in the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change.