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Development and exploitation of new forms of sustainable tourism in protected natural areas (Emilia-Romagna)

Background

In the “Delta del Po” Park (Emilia-Romagna) the fragmentation of landscape produces a lot of relict natural areas surrounded by a more or less diverse territorial matrix. Assuming that it is not possible to preserve areas of natural importance without control and without knowing which human activities are included, it is essential to design and create new forms and possibilities of eco-tourism, in order to spread more and more the message of respect and enjoyment of the natural heritage. Among the mechanisms that may trigger sustainable tourism, the realization of naturalistic – cultural paths are able to increase the potential of the sites to be promoted. Lately, at European level, to increase the level of research activities, also to get people involved at broader level, the need has arisen to link research and sustainable tourism to the concept of citizen science. Formally, citizen science has been defined as "the systematic collection and analysis of data; development of technology; testing of natural phenomena; and the dissemination of these activities by researchers on a primarily unprofessional basis". Many citizen-science projects are now taking advantage of mobile phones and other consumer electronic devices with recording capabilities for easy data collection.

How does the activity develop in Emilia Romagna?

In compliance with the fundamental criteria of sustainability, the proposed action considers the possibility of introducing new functions in the territory, through which further the purposes of maintenance and improvement of environmental quality and the creation of new uses of land resources. This activity, involving a coordinated effort between the public and private parties, aims to create a regional network of companies operating with producing local products, and preserving and promoting the traditional activities. Informational seminars will be organized, in relation to different targets, especially schools, citizens and economic operators (e.g. lifeguards, traders, etc.). The seminars will aim to disseminate the principles and actions of the project and, more generally, to spread the culture of citizen science. In the preliminary phase, all the instrumental resources that already exist on the recognition of animal and plant species will be identified and networked among themselves. The “SiiT Project - School-oriented Interactive Identification Tools: exploring biodiversity in a cross-border area” is cited as example, aimed to enhancing the knowledge of biodiversity in an area from the eastern Adriatic to western Slovenia. On the basis of these ones, special media and digital guides will be studied, which will lead to the discovery of some ecosystems and animal and plant species that characterize them. These guides have the characteristic of being free to download and can be used for recognition in the field of animal and plant species, also by those who are not particularly expert; they represent a kind of operational tool that can also allow the citizen, passionate or simply curious, to contribute to research indicating the presence, or disappearance, of a given species in a particular environment. The information can then be shared on the activity’s blog.