Nature protection and socioeconomic impact of the LIFE Artina project

Life-artina-Lastovo

The LIFE Artina project is a five-year project in which Sunce is also involved, and we are nearing its completion. The main goal of this project was to create conditions for the declaration of new marine areas of importance for birds (SPA) in Croatia, focusing on the protection of specific target species of seabirds: Yelkouan Shearwater, Scopoli’s Shearwater, and Audouin’s Gull. This project covers the geographical islands of Lastovo, Vis, Korčula, and Palagruža, along with their archipelagos.

You can learn more about the project and its activities on this website.

Within the framework of the LIFE Artina project, in addition to conducting numerous research activities for the protection of seabirds and their habitats, a specific study was conducted to understand the opinions and attitudes of target groups, while simultaneously monitoring the socio-economic dimensions of its implementation.

Various stakeholder groups were involved in the project, and for this research, the focus was on the residents of Lastovo, visitors to the islands, and elementary school students from Lastovo, Vis, and Korčula. This research aimed to analyse how the target groups perceived the project at the beginning and how they perceived it after its implementation. Additionally, the goal was to assess the impact of activities aimed at the conservation of seabirds, including understanding their attitudes, changes in their beliefs, and behaviour, and the level of awareness regarding the specific issues addressed by the project.

In parallel, the purpose of the research was to evaluate how the implementation of the LIFE Artina project affected the economy and the population of this area, providing a deeper insight into the socio-economic consequences of project activities on the economy and the population of Lastovo. The target groups, or participants, were examined through a maximum of four hypotheses: H1 Has better knowledge of seabirds; H2 Has better knowledge of the threats to seabirds; H3 Has a higher awareness of the importance of conserving seabirds; H4 Is more willing to support projects focused on nature conservation. The research results are presented below.

The local community of Lastovo

Data were collected from 122 participants in 2019, while 103 participated in the surveys in 2023. The local community actively participated in the project through various initiatives, including informative brochures, educational trails, project information boards, events such as Albatross Night, volunteer cleaning actions, lectures, media publications, and direct interactions.

The research has shown that a larger number of respondents can distinguish between different species of seabirds and have become more aware of the need for their protection. It has also been established that respondents have gained significantly more knowledge about these birds. Most surveyed individuals recognize the importance of conserving seabirds in the Adriatic, have heard of the LIFE Artina project, support it, and believe that the project has had a positive impact on the local community. Respondents stated that they have become more active in nature conservation through their behaviour and decisions.

On the other hand, at the beginning of the project, 84% of respondents were willing to support the project, but in later surveys, a significant drop-in support for future similar projects was recorded. There was also a concern about the possible discontinuation of further efforts to protect seabirds after the completion of this project.

All surveyed parameters indicate statistically significant differences between participants in project activities and those who did not participate. These results show that participants are better informed, more aware, and more inclined to support future initiatives compared to those who did not participate. The most common reasons for not participating in the project were a lack of time, cited by approximately half of the respondents, while a quarter expressed a lack of interest. Additionally, 12% stated that they were uninformed about the project or could not explain the reasons. Interestingly, information about the project reached men and older and younger age groups to a lesser extent.

School children of Lastovo, Vis, and Korčula

Through the project, an educational program about seabirds for school children who are part of the project area was developed and implemented. A total of 99 entrance surveys and 85 exit surveys were collected. In addition, surveys were also conducted among children who did not participate in the educational program.

After completing the education, most participants were able to name at least one species of seabird, and the majority of them recognized all three species. The surveyed children also showed progress in accurately identifying threats to seabirds, such as light pollution, noise, and plastic waste. Although participants expressed an extremely positive attitude at the beginning of the research, significant statistical differences were observed between students who participated in workshops and those who did not, as well as among students before and after participating in the education.

life-artina

Visitors to the Island of Lastovo

At the beginning of the research in 2012, 113 participants were included through entrance surveys, while in 2023, 131 participants took part in exit surveys. The LIFE Artina project did not have specific activities exclusively directed at visitors to the Island of Lastovo. Instead, visitors were informed through informative brochures, educational trails, project information boards, participation in public events such as Albatross Night, and media publications. It is important to note that a relatively small number of tourists and visitors to the Island of Lastovo were familiar with the LIFE Artina project before or after arriving at the destination.

The survey of visitors showed that they have limited knowledge about seabirds, although there was a statistically significant difference in recognizing only one species of bird, the Yelkouan Shearwater. It was also determined that they now have a better understanding of the threats facing seabirds. Despite this, respondents did not express a significantly increased level of awareness and a positive attitude toward the project, which remained unchanged throughout the project’s duration. Participants expressed very strong support for projects focused on nature conservation and the protection of seabirds, both at the beginning and at the end of the project, with support exceeding 95%.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the LIFE Artina project has played a significant role not only in the preservation and protection of seabirds in the Lastovo Archipelago and offshore islands but also in fostering collaboration between researchers and the local community. The results of this research highlight the crucial role of community involvement in nature conservation projects. They demonstrate that when local communities are actively engaged and informed, there is a noticeable positive impact on their knowledge, awareness, and willingness to support conservation efforts.

Although some initial skepticism in supporting similar projects after the completion of the LIFE Artina project was observed, it is essential to recognize that ongoing efforts in educating and involving the community can help bridge that gap. Furthermore, by providing knowledge, especially to younger generations, about the importance of seabirds and the threats they face, we encourage children to become stewards of their environment. This not only enhances their understanding of the natural world but also fosters a sense of responsibility and dedication to preserving it for future generations.

Tagovi: