Science and Technology

Técnico leads European project to safeguard and enhance biodiversity

The BioValue project recently won 2.5 million euros and will start in the 2nd half of 2022. The consortium brings together academic partners, local authorities and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Protecting and enhancing biodiversity through spatial planning tools, environmental impact assessment and financial and economic instruments. This is the main goal of “BioValue” (Biodiversity value in spatial policy and planning leveraging multi-level and transformative change), a project led by Instituto Superior Técnico, which recently got a 2.5 million EU funding, under the Horizon Europe – Cluster 6: Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment.

The project, which will last for 3 years and officially starts in the 2nd semester of this year, is led by the Técnico professor Maria do Rosário Partidário (Department of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Georesources – DECivil) and CiTUA researcher).

Fully aligned with the new EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, the BioValue project aims to contribute to driving transformative change in spatial policy formulation, planning practices and infrastructure development. “We are talking about all policies that have territorial implications, either because they arise and require land use planning and urbanism to be implemented, or because they have territorial expression with implications, positive or negative, on biodiversity”, explains professor Maria Rosário Partidário. “For example, development policies on tourism, agriculture or forestry, energy, transport and mobility, housing, that is, urban development in general, among others”, adds the Tecnico professor.

All these policies, whether national, regional or municipal, whether explicit – published in regulatory instruments with a legal basis or in guiding principles -, or implicit – expressed in speeches or arising from systematic practices, habits, behaviours or routines – represent patterns or forms of action. “If we act on these macro guidelines for territorial development, following the Sustainable Development Goals, the objectives and guidelines of the Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy, we will successively try to transform the actions so that, by fulfilling their specific objectives, we can simultaneously contribute to safeguarding and enhancing biodiversity”, says the CiTUA researcher.

This “green” project aims to “recognise how biodiversity contributes to adding value to the territory”, highlights the Técnico professor. These situations are first analysed on the basis of existing knowledge and experience, in order to define a conceptual framework, and then they will be tested in three case studies: in Portugal, Italy and Germany.

The consortium consists of three universities, a research institute, a non-profit organisation, a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), and two local authorities (public bodies), representing a total of four EU Member States. In addition to Técnico, the other members of the consortium are: Aalborg Universitet (Denmark), Helmholtz-Zentrum Für Umweltforschung (Germany), Universita degli Studi di Trento (Italy), Fondazione iCons (Italy), the Municipality of Mafra (Portugal), the Comune di Trento (Italy), and the CoKnow Consulting agency – Coproducing Knowledge for Sustainability (Germany). According to professor Maria Rosário Partidário, the fact that the project brings together academic partners, local authorities and small and medium-sized enterprises “will allow to leverage collaboration between science, politics and society through interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research”.

BioValue includes 6 work pages (WP) and, besides coordinating WP6, the Técnico team is responsible for the WP4, called transformative change. “The WP4 summarizes the intersection of the three instruments that BioValue will work with: management and territorial planning instruments, environmental assessment instruments and economic and financial instruments. It is applied to case studies, the results are analysed, structure learning takes place, and proposals for transformative change are formulated, using mechanisms developed by project partners in the context of other previous European projects. One of the innovations underlying the project is precisely these three instruments, with a view to creating transformative changes to safeguard and enhance biodiversity and territories, which, as the Técnico professor points out, has never been done.

The BioValue research team hopes to have the opportunity to closely monitor the implementation of these policies and tools. However, the Técnico professor stresses “these are complex and non-linear processes”. Therefore, and so that the results of this project can be visible in the coming years, the team is focused on “creating capacities, mechanisms for collective learning and empowerment so that the partners most connected to the practice on the ground can themselves be precursors of change”.