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

SUMMARY OF THE PROJECT
 
RATIONALE 

Marine sandy beaches present a hostile geophysical environment in which the endemic fauna exists in a state of dynamic equilibrium. Pollution and human exploitation for recreational use now threaten this, but, although coastal tourism contributes significantly to the economy of many countries, management of sandy littoral ecosystems is still largely ad hoc, if at all. Recent European policy to promote recreational use has met with measurable success in improving the water quality in coastal areas where tourism is important, but conservation of the sand-beach habitat appears to be a secondary factor. Especially threatened is the strand line fauna and guidelines for a management policy are required, based on environmental audits of diverse sandy beaches over a wide geographical range. 

OBJECTIVE  

The project is focused on sandy coastal environments and associated areas in the Mediterranean region. The general objective of the project is the derivation of a management strategy for the sustainable use and development of coastal areas in the Mediterranean, and to develop guidelines for the management of sand-beach and related environments, with a view to maintaining bio-diversity and the non-disruptive use of sand littorals. 

APPROACH  

1) The characterisation of sites in terms of geography, ecology and present and potential use, by a multidisciplinary team of researchers. 
2) The establishment of data base for future environmental monitoring to be used by both the appropriate scientific and management agencies. 
3) The identification of suitable biological indicators at different scales (e.g. molecular level, population level, ecosystem integrity). In this context bio-diversity will be assessed, identifying the more important species, populations and assemblages of international, national and local interest, including endemics. Key species have been selected according to various criteria, including general availability and ease of identification, their contribution to the community and their amenability to bioassay. 
4) The development of bioassays of environmental quality, using key species identified above, to be proposed for an early identification of human impact on diversity. 
5) The development of models describing in an integrated way ecosystems in the identified sites. 
6) The analysis of the socio-economic parameters of the study-area, with specific reference to tourism, and comparison, from the socio-economic point of view, of possible sustainable development projects to be realised in the areas and proposed for similar areas in the region. 
7) The development, as end products, of management strategies for resource use and enhancement in the study areas. 

Duration of the project: 36 months from the project take off, on November 1st 1998