MECO PROJECT BASES FOR THE INTEGRATED SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF MEDITERRANEAN SENSITIVE COASTAL ECOSYSTEM

RESULTS

SUMMARY

General objectives of the project were 1) the derivation of a management strategy for the sustainable development of coastal areas in the Mediterranean, and 2) to provide a manual of recommended guidelines for its application in a general context in the region.
To achieve this aim an assessment of the current ecological state of the coastal environments along a gradient of human impact was carried out at four sites in the southern Mediterranean: sand beaches of Maltese Islands (small pocket beaches highly impacted); Smir-Restinga, Mediterranean coast of Morocco (a littoral lagoon-dune-beach system, moderately impacted); Iles de Kneiss, Tunisian eastern coast (an island system, to be proposed as a natural reserve); 4) Nefza-Zouara, Tunisian north-western coast (dune fields, still pristine). The sites had been chosen for their national and regional potential value, both ecological and economic. They reflected the diversity of Mediterranean coastal environments.

The project was subdivided in six main work packages. 1) Geography, 2) Ecology, 3) Socio-economy,. 4) Modelling, 5) Management. A manual was then produced to be used by coastal managers in the Mediterranean. Contents of the manual are: multidisciplinary frameworks, a characterisation of the study sites, methodologies at different levels of approach (from landscape to species and genes) and guidelines to develop management plans for coastal areas, integrating information from baseline scientific research. Results derived from the project are shown as examples and discussed for their applicability in similar contexts in the Mediterranean.

Achievements and results of the project were the following. 1) A baseline information was produced on the study areas, specific coastal habitats and ecosystems. The present state of health of the ecosystems identified above was estimated. 2) Suitable biological indicators were identified and their value assessed as indicators of the adaptability of the ecosystems to changes. 3) Methodologies and bio-assays were developed for the early identification of loss of diversity in local populations, based on genetic diversity within populations at the macromolecular level (proteins and DNA), behavioural variation and population dynamics. 4) Socio-economic constraints and potentialities were identified and characterised regarding the economic and cultural value of each study-area. Socio-economic activities were monitored and assessed, with specific reference to tourism, and information provided to enable the correlation of activity and management practices with biological activity and diversity. 5) Suitable indicators were identified for monitoring management measures in the areas. 6) Management strategies were developed for resource use and enhancement in coastal areas. 7) Management plans for a sustainable use of the considered areas were developed.

The major challenge of the project was to integrate different disciplinary approaches and backgrounds of an international partnership, composed both of scientists and coastal managers, to develop an useful product for a sustainable development, such as the management plans for specific coastal areas, applicable also in a wider context and other scenarios in the Mediterranean.