Main EUNIS Habitats identified in Case Study 5; Source: Ana Lillebo, University of Aveiro

In the context of environmental (e.g. Natura 2000 network; Biodiversity Strategy) and water related (e.g. WFD; MSFD) policies and the Integrated Coastal Zone Management recommendation, Case Study 5 attempts to co-develop prospective scenarios taking into account management options foreseen at local/regional level, and to discuss with stakeholders possible trade-offs among sectoral activities in the considered area. The main challenge regards the use of the best available information in a trans-disciplinary perspective to contribute to the integrated management of a complex socio-ecological coastal area that includes freshwater, transitional and marine realms under classification of Natura 2000 network.

Case study area: The case study area includes the downstream section of the Vouga river, the freshwater wetland Pateira de Fermentelos, the Vouga river estuary, which is part of Ria de Aveiro coastal lagoon and the adjacent coastal area. The area includes several habitats integrated in the Natura 2000 network, classified as Special Protection Area (SPA) and/or as Site of Community Importance (SCI) (see figure), meaning that this area contributes significantly to the coherence of Natura 2000 and/or contributes significantly to the maintenance of biological diversity within this biogeographic region. The area also includes the São Jacinto Dunes Nature Reserve, and the Pateira de Fermentelos Lake and Águeda and Cértima Valleys are classified under Ramsar convention (1559 ha). This site contains one of the largest freshwater lakes of the Iberian Peninsula with a mosaic of wetland habitats, reed beds and marshland as well as riparian vegetation. The confluence of the Vouga river with Ria de Aveiro coastal lagoon, named Baixo Vouga lagunar, forms an area of 3000 ha with unique characteristics due to a strong relationship between man, land and water. This area comprises low depth waterways, freshwater wetlands, salt-marshes and is recognized as model of biodiversity and balance between man activities and wildlife. The lagoon area is classified as a Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site ( and has one of the largest continuous salt marshes in Europe. In this lagoon, Spartina maritima (Curt.) Fernald and Juncus maritimus Lam. form extensive mono-specific stands, in low- and mid-marshes respectively.

Objective: The main objective of this Case Study is to contribute to the improvement of integrated management of aquatic Natura 2000 sites, from catchment to coast, involving the concepts of Science-policy-stakeholders interface. To achieve this objective it will have a clear practical focus on: Engagement of stakeholders at different levels; Review of Laws and Policies; Mapping and Assessment of ecosystem services (ES) using data and indicators available at national and European level; Valuation of the provided ES; Assessment of the causalities between biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services at the Natura 2000 sites; Assessment of the impacts and emerging drivers of change on status and trends of biodiversity and ecosystem function, resilience and services; Development of innovative ES oriented management concepts (including participatory initiatives), common frameworks and tools for the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Stakeholders: As this case study addresses the continuum from freshwater to marine realms, it involves a complex institutional framework regarding water management and spatial planning. It also involves several stakeholders with potential conflicting interests, including social groups with direct or indirect interests, municipalities, representatives of economic sectors, common citizens, NGOs, among others. Due to the above mentioned complexity it is of paramount importance to have all key stakeholders involved, including local population or common citizens.

Approach: Case Study 5 approach encompasses the organisation of stakeholder events, the development of useful spatially explicit information and modelled scenarios to support and promote stakeholders discussion by giving all end users the opportunity for sharing their views, to participate in the decisions, share objectives, and ultimately to forecast possible trade-offs.

Lead partner organisation: 

The University of Aveiro leads research on Case Study 5.

Cooperating Institution & Representative: 

The Regional Hydrographic Administration for Portugal Centre Region, a department of the Portugal Environment Agency, is the cooperating organisation for AQUACROSS Case Study Five: Improving integrated management of Natura 2000 sites in the Vouga River, from catchment to coast, Portugal. The Portugal Environment Agency is a public institute under the aegis of the Portuguese Ministry of the Environment, Territory Management and Energy. It is responsible for proposing, developing, and monitoring public policies related to the environment and sustainable development, in close cooperation with other sectoral policies and public and private entities. The Regional Hydrographic Administration for Portugal Central Region focuses on oceans, seas, coastal areas, lakes, and rivers in the central administrative district of Portugal.

Case Study 5 and the Portugal Environment Agency are represented on the SPBTT by Celina Carvalho.

Find out more about this case study:

Improving integrated management of Natura 2000 sites in the Vouga River, from catchment to coast, Portugal