The National Park of Cinque Terre welcomed Net Zero’s five innovation teams in Manarola, Cinque Terre, a World Heritage Site in Northern Italy, to share their knowledge and experiences in implementing a climate change adaptation plan for recovering their traditional abandoned terraces and rejuvenating endangered marine life. 

Net Zero in 5 TerreCinque Terre (the land of 5 hamlets), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is known for its steep terraces, cliffside hiking trails and vineyards, and a string of colourful houses by the Mediterranean Sea, which houses the world’s most unique ecosystem. For centuries, locals in Cinque Terre shaped the slopes rows supported by drystone walls to create terraces to plant grapevines, olive trees, lemon groves and more, while taking advantage of the vegetation that held the soil together. With unsustainable mass tourism leading to habitat decline for marine species and high demand for services, people started moving away, abandoning their farming lands, terraces and fishing practices. The large-scale emigration of local communities has led to a loss of traditional farming practices and agro-cultural knowledge. In addition, rapid climate change has exposed Cinque Terre to rainfall and risk of landslide and flooding, threatening the natural vegetation and marine life. 

Drystone walls and the enhancement of coastal biodiversity can effectively improve the territory's resilience to climate change while contributing to environmentally sustainable development. Moreover, considering the deep connection between marine and land ecosystems in Cinque Terre, the National Park has also established the Cinque Terre Marine Protected Area (in line with UNESCO World Heritage Buffer Zones) and the Sea Cetacean Sanctuary to protect marine biodiversity from invasive human activities. 

To learn from these heritage-centric climate adaptation projects, the Net Zero teams conducted a study visit to Cinque Terre from 16 to 20 April 2023. Our partner, Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, shared their on-the-ground knowledge, lessons and successes from their two ongoing initiatives: STONEWALLSFORLIFE and Life-A-Mar Natura 2000.  

The Net Zero team was welcomed by Patrizio Scarpellini, Director of Cinque Terre National Park; Nicoletta Portunato, Site Manager, Office for the UNESCO site Porto Venere, Cinque Terre e le Isole; and Marta Gnone, Regional Directorate for Cultural and Landscape Property of Liguria – MiBACT. Francesco Marchese, Site Manager, explained the climate-cultural story of Cinque Terre, highlighting the topography of the site, history of its settlements, climatic conditions, natural resources and prevailing risk factors, as well as local knowledge held by the communities. Emanuele Raso, geologist and demonstration site manager, highlighted the STONEWALLSFORLIFE project, which aims to demonstrate how an ancient technology – dry stone walls – can be used to improve an area's resilience to climate change. He presented a detailed analysis through a GIS-based landslide susceptibility map, which helped inform the areas to be monitored and the typology of intervention. 

Net Zero in 5 TerreThe first day concluded with a hike on the Manarola terraces guided by Stefano Mezzani, an Environmental Excursion Guide, to see the environmental, social and economic benefits of restoring dry stone terraces. Mr Giacomo Pepe, Mr Andrea Mandarino and Mr Andrea Vigo, researchers from DISTAV (Department of Earth, Environment and Life Sciences), University of Genova, who were working on-site, explained how monitoring and repairing drystone walls has helped ensure long-term maintenance to protect the six hectares of terraces bounded by drystone walls and its inhabitants against the effects of extreme meteorological events. 

The next day focused on community engagement and participatory approaches and was led by Alessandra Bonazza, Research Scientist at the Istituto di Scienze dell'Atmosfera e del Clima (CNR-ISAC). Four community members representing the local police, farmer associations, NGOs and the tourist management office joined a curated roundtable meeting. Ms Erminia Sciacchitano, Advisor for Multilateral Relations for the Minister’s Cabinet, Ministry of Culture, Italy, participated in the discussion and made policy-level contributions. 

Net Zero playing InSIGHTThe ICCROM team also engaged various groups and community members to conduct a participatory vulnerability and capacity assessment using inSIGHT – our tool to identify the community's risk perceptions and traditional knowledge practices and develop short-term mitigation and adaptation strategies for sustainable heritage-based climate solutions.

The Net Zero team observed the process and learned from the interactions that unfolded during the session. They concluded by identifying the strong need for a connection between policymakers and knowledge bearers to bring sustainable and positive change on the ground. 

We extend our thanks to the Cinque Terre National Park and Fondazione Manarola for hosting our teams and sharing their knowledge and experiences. We also thank the local community members and groups who participated in our roundtable discussions and the inSIGHT activity. Net Zero in 5 Terre

Coming up next: Participants of the Net Zero Project have been working on their action plans in consultation with cross-sectoral professionals from different backgrounds. On 3 May, they will make their final presentations in front of a multidisciplinary jury composed of: 

  • Ms Erminia Sciacchitano, Advisor for Multilateral Relations for the Minister’s Cabinet, Ministry of Culture, Italy 
  • Ms Josefine Lindstrom, Project Manager, Swedish Postcode Foundation  
  • Mr Sanjaya Bhatia, Head of Office Incheon, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Office for Northeast Asia (ONEA) & Global Education and Training Institute (GETI) 
  • Ms Sarah Stannage, Executive Director, International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works – IIC 
  • Mr Valéry Freland, Executive Director, ALIPH Foundation 
  • Ms Valerie Magar, Unit Manager, Programmes Unit, ICCROM 
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