The ESPO Award 2016 will be presented to the port authority that succeeds the best in safeguarding and further upgrading the nature in the port area, both on land and at the waterside. The five projects that are shortlisted for this year’s Award are the projects of Bremen, Cartagena, Dunkirk, Guadeloupe and Riga.
ESPO is proud to present the shortlisted projects, before the winner is announced during the official Award Ceremony at the Egmont Palace in Brussels on 9 November.
Freeport of Riga Authority (Latvia)
From science to society. Research and restoration of the Daugava river estuary biotope capacity
ESPO: Congratulations! You have been shortlisted for the ESPO Award 2016! Could you briefly describe your project?
The territory of the Freeport of Riga lies on the Daugava river estuary and includes natural green and blue areas, which occupy about 1/3 of the port area. One of the Freeport of Riga Authority’s (FRA) objectives is to develop more sustainable preconditions for the surrounding urban space. The project “From science to society. Research and restoration of the Daugava river estuary biotope capacity” helps to assess the green and blue areas of the Daugava estuary from the point of view of sustainability of biological resources and conservation of protected species and biotopes. The project provides interdisciplinary knowledge and a tool for enhancing sustainable development within the Freeport of Riga, assessing wetland biotopes and ecosystems and the benefits they provide.
ESPO: How does your project contribute to the societal integration of the port?
During the project implementation, some interest groups gradually started to get involved in the project activities. The first and the most surprising was the proposal of local residents, living near the site Kremeri, to collect all cut reeds and use them for domestic purposes. At least ten households were involved in this process, and in this way the project popularised environmentally friendly management of biological waste. Secondly, there was the idea to not only cooperate with ornithologists during the annual bird watching campaign “Towers’ Contest”, which is organised by the Latvian Ornithologists Society each spring, but also to develop the social dialogue with bird watchers and visitors.
ESPO: Could you describe the original and innovative character of you project?
20 % of Latvia’s inland territory is covered by wetlands. These are areas with heritage value, where human activities, estuarine nature beauty, natural processes and ecosystem services coexist in harmony. The dynamic and ever-changing estuarine habitats has served for centuries as a place for waterfowl and fish species’ nesting and feeding. Due to high biological capacity, huge areas of the Daugava river estuary where defined as nature protected areas, some of them are situated within the Freeport of Riga area. However, due to sedimentation and hydrogeological processes, the biological capacity of certain wetland biotopes had decreased and they could not serve as breeding and feeding grounds for birds and water species anymore. This is the reason why, it was concluded in 2007 that their population was decreasing. A complex reconstruction of estuarine biotopes had never been done in Latvia before, which is why a “learning by doing” policy was chosen to achieve the best results. The initiative to restore the existing biotopes and to change their biological capacity to renew natural processes was a real challenge. To keep an open mind and to look for additional solutions every year was the idea that we followed from the very beginning, as we know – flexibility is the key word for the ever-changing Daugava estuary.
ESPO: Why do you think your project deserves to win the ESPO Award 2016?
Inspired by birds’ sonorous in the sky and winds’ whispers in the Daugava river estuary reeds, we believe that our project should receive recognition based on humanity and deep comprehension of natural values common to every member of the society.
We worked for the project in view of understandign the needs of different groups of society within and around the port and communities of birds and fishes, whose lifestyle is closely connected with and at the same time independent from the port activities. Interdisciplinary attitude and sustainability were as well milestones as pointers to the project team to move forward leaning on both of them. All the project team as a whole and everybody as an individual involved in the projects implementation (starting from mowing-machine operators and scientists to project leader or coordinator) had understood the goal of the project. Moreover, they have given their effort to the project, shared their personal knowledge devoting it to the societies’ needs, creating the benefit and reaching the best possible results.
ESPO: How would you make your experience in developing the project available to others?
The unique character of the project experience could serve as an idea for similar projects in Latvia and in the Baltics. Dissemination of knowledge and experience obtained during the project implementation is interesting not only for the project team but certainly also for professionals and scientists. The scientific publications on research results should be published at different research works and publications. Networking with wider public during different local events and festivities in Latvia would be the cornerstone of building a common understanding of natural values and attract attention of every member of the society.
I am truly proud to present for a wider audience this uncommon and inspiring project, representing the interests of the ever-changing habitats of the Daugava river estuaries’ multi- purpose space.
Leonids Loginovs, CEO of the Freeport of Riga Authority