European Natura 2000 Award
"The award helps us to demonstrate the importance of correct management of marine biodiversity on Natura 2000 areas", said Ulrik Berggreen from the Danish Nature Agency, winner of the 2015 Conservation category Award.
Thanks to the Blue Reef project, around 5 ha of cavernous boulder reefs – a particularly rich type of marine habitat - have been restored within the Laeso Trindel Natura 2000 site in the heart of the Kattegat Sea. Whereas habitat restoration is quite common on land, this is one of the first large-scale restoration projects of its kind in a marine area.
"We protected nature that people cannot see", commented Ulrik Berggreen. "The stone habitat was disappearing due to past extraction used for building purposes. We protected and rebuilt the habitat".
The objectives were to recreate a stable reef with significant areas of crevices and steep slopes, and to restore the former very shallow parts of the existing reef. The work, which was carried out by the Danish Nature Agency in collaboration with its partners Aarhus University and DTU Aqua, involved the deployment of over 100,000 stones.
The project has turned out to be a resounding success. In less than 4 years the overall biomass has increased 6–8 fold per m2 of seabed and the population of certain key fish species, such as cod, hake and pollack, has tripled. The ecological benefit is expected to increase further in the years to come.
This particular project has also made it possible to ally biodiversity conservation with development of new economic opportunities for fisherman, who benefited from the improved marine habitats. "In addition to that, the project provided other benefits such as greater resilience to climate change", concluded Mr Berggreen.