Following the non-achievement of the AICHI targets and most of the Good Environmental Status objectives for 2020, active restoration has been emerged (also envisaged by the EU) as one of the preferred tools that may boost sequels of marine protected areas and other conservation measures. Restoration acts promote biodiversity, enhance carbon sequestration and accelerate coastal and offshore resilience. Yet, we still lack a program that combines conservation and restoration under a unified setting, as the involvement of local citizen, embracing socio-economic parameters into opportunities. Thus, an advanced restoration program must conjoin ecological perspectives together with societal commitment and clear economic benefits for local communities. Above all, it must be designed with continuity beyond the lifespan of a project.
Responding to the above, OCEAN CITIZEN proposal represent a novel restoration approach in which (1) restoration is depicted as a toolbox holding ubiquitous properties and as such it is experienced in 3 sites, representing different marine ecosystems (in one of the sites all tools are used in concert) and different environments: subtropical, tropical and cold temperate; (2) a profession of “gardeners of the sea” is created and endorsed, including detailed curriculum; (3) the project targets the restoration of the most neglected marine biome, encompassing the various types of Marine Forest (MF) organisms (seagrasses, seaweeds, sponges, corals, gorgonians, etc.);(4) new ecoengineering aspects are applied, including Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture and Smart Enhanced Reefs (SER); the SERs act as substrates for massive recruitment and transplantation of MF organisms (5) the is performed on land, and in situ, from shallow, mesophotic to continental shelf areas (to 90-100 meters depth); (6) a novel approach for C sequestering and sink (7) the full involvement of citizens and local stakeholders with a complete business plan.