Opis odabranog projekta i motivacija za odabir

The CAscadeR1 team consists of students from the First Rijeka Croatian High School (PRHG) and students from Liceo Carlo Cafiero from Barletta (Italy). We jointly decided to monitor the implementation of the CASCADE project (CoAStal and marine waters integrated monitoring systems for ecosystems protection and managemEnt), whose main goal is to develop a set of concerted and coordinated actions including monitoring and management to enhance the knowledge and to evaluate the quality and assess the vulnerability of inland, coastal and marine ecosystems in Italy and Croatia with the final objective to restore endangered species and to support integrated management. We decided to monitor the implementation of the CASCADE project because we believe that the topic the project deals with is extremely important and current, and every contribution to the protection and preservation of the ecosystem is important.

The CASCADE project was implemented as part of the INTERREG Italy – Croatia program from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2022 in a total of 11 pilot areas on the Italian and Croatian coasts. The leading partner on the project was the Italian region of Apulia. The total project budget was EUR 5,817,547.00, and the European Union co-financed 85% of the total project costs from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The Croatian part of the team, i.e. the students of the First Croatian High School, with their civic initiative called “A Drop in Sustainable Cascade” tried to investigate the contribution of the CASCADE project to the protection and management of ecosystems and to spread awareness about the implementation and goals of the aforementioned project in Croatia. The goal of this citizens’ initiative was to point out the importance of cross-border cooperation and encouraging transparency in the implementation of EU projects. In addition to the above, the desire is to use the initiative to encourage decision-makers in the Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, as well as associations and organizations dealing with the protection of the marine environment, to implement projects with a similar theme in our county. The Italian part of the team, made up of Liceo Carlo Cafiero students, focused on researching sea temperature over the years, the connection of chlorophyll with temperature, coastal kilometers, toxic algae (especially Ostreopsis Ovata), plastic, oil disasters and the like with the aim of contributing to the preservation of marine ecosystems.

Opis značajnih faza istraživanja

The starting point of our research was the primary and secondary data we found on the websites of the Interreg and Copernicus programs, the websites of partners and other available sources from various open databases, as well as information published in the media, and we also contacted various experts. We visualized all collected data with the help of graphs and infographics. Given that we did not get answers to all questions from the research of available data, during the third step of project implementation we prepared questions for all project partners. Among other things, we were interested in why they decided to join the CASCADE project, how many of them worked on the project, and how they would evaluate their experience of participating in the project. We asked them what the project contributed and what were the main results of the project in their pilot area and how they spent the allocated funds, and we asked if and how they informed citizens in the local community about the CASCADE project. We also asked them to list the main challenges they encountered during the implementation of the project and briefly describe how the project is sustainable even after its completion.

From the responses of the project partners, it can be concluded that the project partners are satisfied with their participation in the project, that the CASCADE project certainly contributed to the protection of marine ecosystems, and that they would recommend participation in the implementation of similar projects to other counties as well. The project partners emphasized that through participation in the project, they expanded their knowledge of the situation in their pilot areas, acquired valuable useful equipment, encouraged several coastal cleaning actions, and established new and improved existing areas for integral management. All project partners pointed out that they informed citizens in the local community about the implementation and goals of the CASCADE project, most often through various workshops for children of preschool and primary school age and adult citizens. Surveys with citizens were conducted by only a few partners. Given that the project partners did not conduct research with citizens and did not include high school students in the workshops, the Croatian part of the team decided to conduct research with students in their school. A total of 75 students participated in the research, and the results showed that only a small number of students are familiar with this topic, although 86.7% of them estimate that the topic covered by the CASCADE project is of personal interest to them. 97.3% of students believe that the preservation of marine ecosystems in the Adriatic is an important topic, while only 2.7% of them do not think that this topic is important. The Italian part of the team also conducted a survey in their school to check students’ knowledge of the sea. They found out that their schoolmates were not aware of all the mysterious beauties of the sea.

Prijedlozi i follow-up

As part of our civic monitoring, we sought to explore the CASCADE project’s contribution to ecosystem protection and management, and to spread awareness of the project’s implementation and goals. We were interested in how and to what extent the implementation of the CASCADE project contributed to the protection and preservation of marine ecosystems in the Adriatic Sea. Considering that the project has ended, we can conclude that the project has received some visible positive changes, however, not enough time has passed yet to be able to conclude to what extent the implementation of the CASCADE project was successful and how successfully all the set goals were achieved. In this sense, we propose further monitoring of activities in the pilot areas, such as, for example, monitoring the increase in the population of the endangered and protected Pinna nobilis and other endangered species, analyzes of sea water quality, etc. In addition to the above, we propose the implementation of further scientific research with the aim comparison of results in order to determine the effectiveness of the interventions undertaken in the pilot areas. Also, after carrying out research with representatives of the project partners, we believe that the involved counties should have informed a larger number of citizens about the goals of the project and its implementation and encouraged them to be more actively involved and contribute to the project activities. We hope that in the future, additional educational workshops and will be carried out, in which a larger number of citizens will be involved, since the preservation and protection of marine ecosystems also depends on the human factor. We hope that thanks to this project, citizens will become aware of the problems and join in solving them. We will continue to monitor the results and positive changes that the implementation of the CASCADE project will result in, and we will be happy to get involved in activities that will contribute to the protection and preservation of marine ecosystems.