Background (CI16)

Background (short)

The Mediterranean coastline is approximately 46000 km long, with around 40% of the coastal zone being under some form of artificial land cover (Plan Bleu, 2005). Mediterranean coastal areas are threatened by development that modifies the coastline through the construction of buildings and infrastructure that are needed to sustain residential, tourism, commercial, transport and other activities. This development can cause irreversible damage to landscapes; habitats and biodiversity; and shoreline configuration. This Ecological Objective 8 (EO8): Coastal Ecosystems and Landscapes, does not have a precedent in other regional ecosystem approach initiatives, such as Helcom or OSPAR, neither in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

The UN Environment/MAP emphasizes the integrated nature of the coastal zone, particularly through consideration of marine and terrestrial parts as its constituent elements required by the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Protocol. The aim of monitoring the EO8 common indicator 16 “Length of coastline subject to physical disturbance due to the influence of manmade structures” is twofold: to quantify the rate and the spatial distribution of the Mediterranean coastline artificialisation; and to provide a better understanding of the impact of those structures to the shoreline dynamics.

GES for Common Indicator 16 can be achieved by minimizing physical disturbance to coastal areas close to the shoreline induced by human activities.  Definition of targets, measures and interpretation of results regarding this common indicator is left to the countries, due to strong socio-economic, historic and cultural dimensions in addition to specific geomorphological and geographical conditions.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Example of urbanized coastline (photo provided by G.Giorgi)

Background (extended)         

The land, inter-tidal zone and near-shore estuarine and marine waters in Mediterranean are increasingly altered by the loss and fragmentation of natural habitats and by the proliferation of a variety of built structures, such as ports, marinas, breakwaters, seawalls, jetties and pilings. These coastal manmade infrastructures cause irreversible damage to landscapes, losses in habitat and biodiversity, and strongly influence the configuration of the shoreline. Indeed, physical disturbance in particular in sandy coasts due to the development of artificial structures in the coastal fringe can disrupt the sediment transport, reduce the ability of the shoreline to respond to natural forcing factors, and fragment the coastal space. The modification of emerged beach and elimination of dune system contribute to coastal erosion phenomena by lessening the beach resilience to sea storms. Coastal defence infrastructures have been implemented to solve the problem together with beach nourishment, but preserving the natural shoreline system with adequate sediment transport from river has proved to be the best solution.

Around 40% of Mediterranean coastal zone is already under some form of artificial land cover. This share is expected to grow, especially since urban population in Mediterranean coasts is expected to increase by 33 million (30 million of that increase in the south and east) between 2000 and 2025 (UNEP/MAP, 2012). In addition, importance of tourism in these areas should be considered as well, since tourists can double the number of permanent dwellers in peak periods in some areas. That is why the construction of holiday homes is one of the important drivers of land consumption. 

In the Mediterranean, the linear nature of coastal urbanization and the speed of the phenomenon is significant (Plan Bleu, 2005). The consequence of the growth in population growth, infrastructure and facilities results in increase in artificial land cover in the coastal zone. Monitoring the length of coastline subject to physical disturbance due to the influence of manmade structures and its trend is therefore of paramount importance, in order to preserve habitat, biodiversity and prevent coastal erosion phenomena. Also, access to the coast, beaches, visual qualities of coastal landscapes, decreasing potentials for other users to develop, such as tourism etc. are important elements to take into account. 

The EO8 also reflects the aim of the Barcelona Convention to include coastal areas in the assessment, which became a legal obligation upon the entry into force of its Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone Management in the Mediterranean (ICZM Protocol). In the Article 16 of the Protocol, the Contracting Parties are required to “set out an agreed reference format and process to collect appropriate data in national inventories “regarding the state and evolution of coastal zones.

Figure 2
Photo by Marko Prem