Leading coastal and marine ecologists, economists and maritime engineers from 38 organisations across Europe, Turkey and Israel gathered in Barcelona between 2 and 5 November 2021 for the official kick-off meeting of the new project. It is one of the just four projects, among 180 candidates, funded by the so-called Green Deal call of the EU Horizon 2020 programme supporting the restoration of ecosystems and their services.
Under the leadership of Project Coordinator Prof. Augustin Sanchez-Arcilla and Project Executive Dr Iván Caceres from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) the meeting discussed the milestones, challenges and work plans ahead of this ambitious project. REST-COAST research activities are centred around nine pilot sites. Three of these sites, among which the Ebro Delta on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, will benefit from large-scale restoration actions.
REST-COAST will address some of the key challenges to coastal ecosystems today - all consequences of a long history of environmental degradation of our rivers and coasts. Even today coastal management is often based on single-sided use of resources proven unsustainable in the long term. These inherent problems are now exacerbated by climate change. For example, rising sea levels cause coastal erosion and loss of soil fertility in coastal areas due to infiltration of salty water in the aquifers, as seen in the Ebro Delta, a key rice-producing region in Spain. Similarly, numerous dams and barrages upstream many European rivers have drastically reduced the natural transport of sediments from mountainous areas towards the sea. The reduced deposition of sediments causes the retreat of deltas visible in just a few decades and is often measured in many square kilometres of fertile land lost to the sea.
The goals of REST-COAST are to demonstrate that large-scale coastal restoration is not only possible but vital for our adaptation to climate change. Coastal ecosystems can provide low-carbon adaptation potential to reduce risks and provide gains in biodiversity, ecosystem service delivery (such as agri- and aquaculture, flood protection and tourism).
Professor Sanchez-Arcilla says “Unless we decarbonise coastal protection and introduce the exceptional coastal blue Carbon potential of coastal ecosystems, it will be hard to simultaneously advance in coastal protection and climate mitigation”. He expects that REST-COAST “will demonstrate how coastal adaptation can be carried out with a controlled carbon footprint and cost, although it will require early action and investments based on coastal optimism”.
The restoration of vulnerable coastal ecosystems, such as wetlands, dunes, or seagrass beds requires the overcoming of technical, economic, governance and social barriers to restoration upscaling. REST-COAST will reinstate the perturbated river-to-coast connectivity and increase the resilience and delivery of coastal ecosystem services, for which the pilot sites will provide ample opportunity under present and future climate scenarios. The nine Pilots represent vulnerability hotspots for the main EU regional seas (Baltic, Black, North Atlantic and the Mediterranean). Through engaging communication activities REST-COAST shall increase the commitment of citizens, stakeholders and policymakers towards long-term maintenance of coastal restoration.
This project receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No 101037097.
 The other two sites are Wadden Sea shared between the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark and the Lagoon of Venice in Italy.