The project is structured into six major activities:
A1 - Elaboration of conservation priorities and selection of target species in the different islands
During this first phase the partners will cooperate using common criteria to prioritise their conservation actions and to select plant species that will be included in the project. Species selection will mainly be based on the criteria of the regional responsibility and the threat degree (sensu IUCN, Red Lists). Inclusion in the Annexes of the Habitats Directive and/or in other national and local regulations will also be considered. Plants associated with wetlands will have a particular focus and will be selected for conservation actions. Considering the regional responsibility criterion, priority will be given to both endemic plants and plants deserving a conservation interest for an island (e.g. Peripheral and Isolated Plant Populations).The results of this phase will be a set of common criteria used for conservation priorities and a dynamic list of selected plant species for each island.
A2 - Planning in situ and ex situ activities
After the species selection, plant populations that need urgent in situ conservation measures (e.g. management, alien plant eradications, fences, translocations) and populations where seed collection should be performed for germplasm conservation and use will be identified. Where relevant, in cases of target species selected for in situ conservation actions, propagative material (seeds) may derive from collections already conserved in the partners’ seed banks from previous projects and in particular from the project `Ensuring the survival of endangered plants in the Mediterranean islands'.
A3 - In situ conservation actions
This action includes in situ measures aimed at improving the conservation status of the selected species/populations. The preferred method will be translocations (including reintroductions and/or reinforcements). Additionally or alternatively, other management measures may include passive defence measures (i.e. fencing the population area from livestock) or measures such as eradicating or controlling pest plants, planting native vegetation within or around the area, and reconnecting isolated remnants.
The translocations will be performed for the selected plant species after conducting a preliminary analysis of historical and current natural distribution ranges and availability of sites, in order to confirm if the reintroduction or recovery would be possible and feasible. In addition, researches on the life cycle, reproductive biology, population biology and ecological requirements of the particular species or plant group will be carefully evaluated. A preliminary ex situ cultivation of the target plants selected for recovery plans will be implemented in each Botanic Garden or Institution of the project partners.
A pilot translocation plan will be created for each target species taking into account the guidelines of IUCN/SSC (2013). A similar approach will be adopted in order to plan the passive or other management actions. Translocations will be monitored regularly in order to verify if and to which degree the initial objectives have been accomplished.
In situ conservation actions will be implemented for minimum 30 target plants (minimum 5 plants per island covered by minimum 10 actions).
All the above-mentioned activities will be implemented in collaboration with the local relevant authorities of each island, responsible for the management of natural areas; moreover, the local authorities will be actively involved in in situ actions and in the monitoring programmes.
A4 - Ex situ conservation actions
Collection, curation and storage of seeds / fruits for germplasm conservation will be performed for the selected target species. Germplasm collection and curation will be carried out for the species and for the populations pinpointed and it will adhere to national and international regulations and standards (such as those developed by the international networks of GENMEDA and ENSCONET). The germplasm will be collected following criteria aiming at maximising the representativeness of the genetic diversity of the populations of each island. To achieve this goal, collections of the same taxon may be carried out in more than one populations and, for those taxa occurring in two or more islands, they will be sampled considering their multiple occurrence.
Ex situ actions will concern a total of 600 accessions of 120 target taxa (100 accessions for minimum 20 taxa per island). As a precautionary measure, aiming at ensuring the conservation of the collected germplasm, accessions will be duplicated in the seed banks of other partners of this project or, if appropriate, with other institutions.
Data concerning the germination eco-physiology of the collected germplasm will be obtained through seed germination tests. The species to be tested will be selected on the basis of their abundance in terms of number of seeds per accession. Therefore, germination tests will be carried out only for those species whose distribution allows the collection of adequate quantity of seeds to be used both for ex situ conservation and seed germination tests.
Besides the ex situ conservation of the seeds in long term collections, each institution will guarantee the availability of plants for use in recovery plans. Part of the seed collection will be dedicated to a “seed active collection” for the production of plants. In cases of extremely endangered perennial plants, a collection of cuttings could be useful to maintain ex situ a "copy" of the wild population. Maintaining living plant collections in the partners’ respective gardens will enable their use in recovery plans but also, in some cases, the dissemination of the project results and education.
In addition, the project partners will carry out joint field trips covering the entire collecting season and all the islands so as to share know-how and solutions to problems.
A5 - Networking and communication
Networking among the project partners, local institutions and authorities on each island and related international initiatives and projects at Mediterranean level is considered as a priority and aims to improve collaboration and effectiveness of plant conservation. Special actions are devoted to enriching the network `GENMEDA' (Network of Mediterranean Plant Conservation Centres) and expanding its current 13 members from 7 countries with new members from other parts of the Mediterranean including Northern African and Near East countries.
Communication in its various forms will include the project website, a leaflet, a Layman’s report (addressed to the local management authorities and wider public) and short videos/spots in English and local languages of the project islands. Each partner will organize at least one local event to disseminate the aims of the project and the key issues related to the theme of native flora conservation. These events will be open to local people and authorities as well as to anyone who might have an interest in the topics. The project partners will present the project in scientific meetings (international and national events) and a final international workshop dedicated to presenting the results of the project will be held before the end of the project.