Adriatic coastal rewilding initiative joins the European Rewilding Network

March 28, 2023

The Italian association Paliurus aims to protect and restore a wilder delta by developing a sustainable nature-based tourism paradigm on the Adriatic coast, supporting local jobs while enhancing nature. Joining the European Rewilding Network will help the initiative amplify its message and increase community engagement.

Beach of Scerne, in Pineto, Abruzzo.
Francesco Verrocchio


Biodiversity at risk

With its programme ‘Wilder coast of Scerne’ the Paliurus Association has become the latest initiative to join the European Rewilding Network. Dedicated to enhancing the wildness and biodiversity found around Scerne on the Adriatic coast, the Paliurius Association’s vision is to create a new tourism paradigm on the western Adriatic coast that can reduce and mitigate current threats to the natural environment caused by unsuitable development and mass tourism. Moreover, their effort is focus on a contiguous area to the small Marine Protected Area Torre del Cerrano, with the ambition to scale up the ecological connectivity and the so called “reserve effect”.

Instead, Paliurus is seeking to establish the wilder coast of Scerne as a more sustainable, nature-based tourism destination, which will ultimately serve to better protect local wildlife and simultaneously empower local people to take pride in responsible stewardship of their rich natural and cultural heritage.


A sea of urbanization

The area around the small Italian seaside town of Pineto – of which Scerne is a northern part – remains a refuge to many species which have become rare elsewhere along this stretch of the Adriatic coast, with regional wildlife declines driven by habitat fragmentation, widespread development and increased urbanisation. Continuing urban sprawl, dumping and illegal fishing are all ongoing threats.

And yet despite all these human pressures, the area retains enormous potential for nature and nature-based tourism. Where the nearby Vomano River enters the sea, a rich wetland complex is planned, rewetting areas to support a mosaic of fresh, brackish and saltwater environments, restoring the natural connection between the coast and inland hills. Already the coastal agricultural plain provides an important stopover and breeding site for many bird species, which nest in the reeds, in surviving riparian vegetation and along the pebbly shore.

Wetlands behind the beach of Scerne.
Gianluca Turilli


Rich in wildlife

This area’s natural richness in endemic Mediterranean species is partially recognised with some local municipal protections. Hunting is forbidden around the town and the Vomano River mouth is designated as a no-take fishing zone, supporting the area’s potential for rewilding.

Beech marten, weasel, European polecat, red fox, roe deer, wild boar and even the Apennine wolf have all been seen in the area, while bottlenose and striped dolphins can be seen just offshore, but it is the rich birdlife that is most readily observed. Kingfisher, little ringed plover, and northern lapwing all breed here, while the Kentish plover has become the flagship species for the area, symbolizing the environmental consequences of uncontrolled urbanisation and exploitation along the Adriatic coast.

The area also supports the presence of green toads in its network of small canals and ponds, and seahorses can be found in the coastal shallows. And the area could be a suitable nesting site for loggerhead turtles, with a nest having been reported in neighbouring Roseto as recently as 2013 and even in the south beach of Pineto, in the Marine Protected Area Torre del Cerrano, at the end of the summer 2022.

Yellow horned poppy (Glaucium flavum).
Francesco Verrocchio


Long-term focus

By mediating with local stakeholders and raising environmental awareness Paliurus is striving to build a long-term conservation strategy for this section of the Adriatic coast. The ‘Wilder coast of Scerne’ is supported by volunteers who are all highly motivated to reduce the threats to the Scerne area and boost local wildlife, with various plans in development.

For now, industrial fishing still occurs in the waters offshore, while sport fishing is allowed within a buffer zone that extends 3 nautical miles from the coast. However, Paliurus is working to reach agreements with fishers and local authorities to restrict fishing activity within this buffer zone to catch-and-release, or even establish the gazetting of some inshore no-take zones.

The ecological succession towards the sea.
Francesco Verrocchio


Raising awareness

To showcase the value of the natural environment along the Adriatic coast and raise environmental awareness among both the younger generation and adults, Paliurus has made four documentary films which have been screened in public events. Similarly, the volunteers set up a photographic exhibition to nurture greater interest in the area’s natural and historical heritage.

Paliurus continue to produce and distribute educational materials promoting the protection of nature from urban sprawl, human disturbance, and habitat fragmentation, while lobbying relevant organisations and institutions to both improve and enforce current legislation related to the conservation of local coastal ecosystems and endangered species.

Chairman of Paliurus Francesco Verrocchio hopes joining the European Rewilding Network will help his organisation continue to grow, refining its communication skills, amplifying its rewilding message, and helping them to further increase community engagement. “Paliurus is very proud to have become part of the European Rewilding Network, where people who share our concern about the depletion of nature in Europe have teamed up to rewild Europe’s degraded landscapes and ourselves. We hope being part of this network will give us an opportunity to amplify our message and increase support for our important work.”

Sea Knotgrass (Polygonum maritimum).
Bruno Mariani


A platform for exchange

Today rewilding is gaining momentum as a progressive and effective approach to conservation in Europe. Underpinning this trend, the burgeoning European Rewilding Network continues to foster collaboration and amplify results.

Founded by Rewilding Europe in 2013, the aim of the ERN is to enhance the efforts of each member by facilitating the exchange of skills, insight and experience. Members meet regularly, usually via webinar, while nature-based businesses can also apply to Rewilding Europe Capital, Rewilding Europe’s enterprise loan facility.

Rewilding Europe extends a warm welcome to all European rewilding initiatives that focus on practical, result-oriented rewilding and encourages them to apply for ERN membership.