The Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory (MWO) was launched in 2008 as part of the MedWet Regional Initiative, and is a scientific and technical instrument overseen by the TdV. Its main objectives are to: (1) develop and synthesise knowledge on the status and trends of wetland ecosystems in the Basin, and on the progress made to preserve them; (2) pass this knowledge on to relevant stakeholders (primarily institutions, but also civil society, academic researchers and nature managers); and (3) promote more ambitious public policies that protect wetlands.
Following the in-depth work carried out over the last fifteen years by the MWO and its partners, which is presented in the first two “Mediterranean Wetlands: Issues and Perspectives” reports published in 2012 and 2018, various assessments of its research have been carried out, all of which confirm its high quality and scientific relevance. However, several possible areas for improvement have also been identified. For example, the lack of linkage between the pan-Mediterranean studies carried out by the MWO and the national and local contexts that determine them may result in a limited impact on national public policies of the MWO’s results and recommendations.
Based on this observation, as well as on the MWO’s experience and legitimacy as a key stakeholder in the development and dissemination of knowledge about Mediterranean Basin wetland ecosystems, it was decided to give it a new impetus that will make it a genuine strategic tool for the TdV’s pan-Mediterranean influence, and also for shaping local and national public policies so they will take better account of wetland conservation.
A new dynamic, a new team
The first example of this new dynamic is the strengthening of its team, with the arrival of Anis Guelmami who has become the new MWO coordinator. With 12 years of experience working on this initiative, and in particular integrating into it Earth Observation (EO) tools for monitoring Mediterranean wetlands, and supporting national partners in their implementation of global and regional conventions relating to these ecosystems (Ramsar, Sustainable Development Goals, Barcelona Convention), his expertise and network will enable the MWO’s results to be applied more effectively nationally and locally, meeting the ‘real’ needs of partners working at these levels. As coordinator, he will also oversee the MWO’s future deliverables, including the third part of the periodic reports “Mediterranean Wetlands: Issues and Perspectives.”
Anis Guelmami will be strongly supported by the MWO’s core team, which welcomes three new recruits:
Michael Ronse: As MWO project manager, his main responsibility will be to lead the scientific and technical work needed to produce the third report on the status and trends of Mediterranean wetlands. With his skills and knowledge in GIS, ecology, and multifunctional land management, he will also play an active role in discussions on the monitoring indicators developed by the MWO, and on the exploitation and dissemination of results. As a new ambassador for the MWO, he will also support the coordinator and the whole team in promoting this strategic tool throughout the Mediterranean, particularly among local and national stakeholders.
Nina Bègue: A remote sensing research engineer, she will make a major contribution to the development of the MWO’s geo-referenced databases, and more specifically those derived from Earth Observation tools. She will be in charge of deploying and integrating new Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies (machine and deep learning algorithms) based on these data and helping process them.
Elie Gaget: A research scientist in eco-statistics, he will provide support to the whole team in calculating indicators, which requires considerable expertise in statistics, as well as in conducting comparative analysis using the MWO’s various databases. He will also assist in promoting the MWO’s scientific results, through the development of new areas of research that will help to advance knowledge on the conservation of Mediterranean wetlands and their biodiversity.
The new team will also be strongly supported by Thomas Galewski, the coordinator of the Science-Society Interfaces theme. In addition to helping better coordinate the MWO’s work with that of the TdV’s other ‘Mediterranean’ teams (The Mediterranean Alliance for Wetlands, and the Mediterranean Waterbird Network), he will continue his research activities on the MWO’s biodiversity indicators, the production of thematic reports, the promotion of knowledge acquired through scientific publications, and international representation, to support the MWO coordinator.
Other members of the Tour du Valat will also be involved in the work carried out by the MWO.
Strengthening links with partners
In addition, this new dynamic for the MWO will involve further consolidation of links with its strategic partners, primarily the MedWet Regional Initiative.
In the short and medium term, we plan to relaunch our joint missions in MedWet countries, to better reconnect with country-level partners and increase our visibility with Ramsar focal points and other national intermediates that have just arrived on the Mediterranean scene.
Finally, the Mediterranean Wetlands Geoportal is another product set to become a flagship tool for the MWO. It will ultimately centralise geo-referenced information and data on the status and trends of Mediterranean wetlands, harmonise them, put them in a form usable on a national scale, and facilitate their dissemination via an online tool that is scalable and easy to use.