Ecosystem Approach (EcAp)-MED project

Pilot project in the Adriatic on testing the candidate common indicator
"Land use change" in the Mediterranean



Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach (EcAp) in the Mediterranean is the overarching principle of UNEP/MAP and its Barcelona Convention and is to be integrated in all of its policies and activities. Decision IG.21/3 on the "Ecosystem Approach including adapting definitions of Good Environmental Status (GES) and targets" was adopted as a key milestone in the implementation of EcAp at the 18thOrdinary Meeting of the Contracting Parties in December 2013 (COP18, 2013).  The Decision expresses the Parties' agreement on regionally common targets, lists of indicators to achieve GES in the Mediterranean and an integrated list of Mediterranean GES targets and indicators.

An EcAp roadmap was also agreed as part of this Decision; it considers how to achieve an integrated monitoring and assessment programme by the next meeting of the Contracting Parties, which for the first time would ensure a common basis of assessment for the Mediterranean marine and coastal environment. As part of this EcAp roadmap, expert level monitoring discussions took place in the various Correspondence Groups on Monitoring CORMONs), including on Coast and Hydrography.

The CORMON Coast and Hydrography took place in May 2013 and agreed on one common indicator and one candidate common indicator for the Mediterranean region, noting that the usage of the candidate common indicator, which is related to land-use change, would need further testing before the Contracting Parties could agree to its regional usage as a common indicator. This pilot project aims to follow up on the CORMON outcomes and to test the applicability of the land-use change candidate common indicator through a sub-regional pilot.


Why land-use change indicator?

Changes of land use have a direct implication for the ecosystems, habitats and species in coastal zones as they cover both terrestrial and marine aspects. By changing the land uses, mainly from "more natural" to "more manmade", the integrity and diversity of coastal ecosystems and landscapes is adversely affected or even lost.

By definition, the indicator "change of land use" can be described as the extent, and type of land use that directly affects wildlife habitat and, thereby, impacts local and global biodiversity. Human alteration of landscapes from natural vegetation to any other use typically results in habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, all of which can have devastating effects on biodiversity. Land conversion is the single greatest cause of ecosystem and habitat fragmentation, loss or even extinction of species (,_land-use_change_and_forestry - cite_note-Bierregaard-6). Of particular concern is urban sprawl in coastal areas where the natural areas, habitats, agricultural or forestry areas are converted to built-up areas. This process, known as 'littoralisation' means changes in the way land is used, e.g. clearing of forests for agricultural use or change from agricultural land to urban use. Land take by the expansion of residential areas, tourism developments, and construction sites is the main cause of the increase in the coverage of urban land at the Mediterranean coastal level. Agricultural zones and, to a lesser extent, forests and semi-natural and natural areas, are disappearing in favour of the development of artificial surfaces. This affects biodiversity since it decreases habitats, the living space of a number of species, and fragments the landscapes that support and connect them.  Similarly, an increase in the area covered by artificial surfaces puts strains on already-stressed water resources, preventing absorption by aquifers and percolation into ground water resources on the one hand but also creating additional flood risks due to xtreme weather events as a result of climate change on the other.

The ICZM Protocol requires the ecosystem approach and a balanced allocation of uses to avoid urban sprawl (Articles 5 and 6). The limitation of the linear extension of urban development, including transport infrastructure along the coast (Article 8), is one of the major objectives and principles of this legal instrument.  Regular reporting on the state and evolution of coastal zones (Article 16), on the basis of appropriate indicators (Article 18), is also required. To comply with these requirements, to allow for the assessment and to consequently propose policies to better manage coastal areas it is crucial to implement the common indicator on change of land use which embraces many concepts, such as land take, calculating the percentage of built up areas and understanding the trends in the evolution of urban areas. Detection of urban sprawl area and the continuation of linear development of urban areas along the coast, as well as fragmentation of coastal habitats or change of landscape types, can also be considered. Moreover, the sets of data needed for identifying land-use change can be used also for two other indicators mentioned above (i.e. fragmentation of coastal landscapes and habitats, changes of landscape types) in particular.

The land-use change indicator aims to monitor progress towards achieving the first goal for coastal sustainability, as set out in the ICZM Protocol. The indicator has one measurement -calculation of the percentage of built-up space on land and at sea. The aim is to allow the evaluation of the trends in urban areas so to avoid urban sprawl and limit linear extension of urban development, including transport infrastructure, along the coast. The objective is to acquire the information about the extent to which the coastal zone has been built-up over the past several years because this will indicate the degree of pressure on the coast and the likelihood of further changes in the future. The information on whether development on the coast has been greater and more intense than in the wider region, and the trends in the developments making use of marine waters, is also important. Such data can also help understand patterns of development and unravel cause-effect relationships, especially between activities and the overall impact on achieving Good Environmental Status (GES).

It is evident that this indicator on land-use change has a relatively higher weight in comparison to any other indicators which are "one issue" oriented.  It deserves, therefore, to be considered for being re-introduced to the list of common indicators. Data availability and coverage of the whole Mediterranean with the required data was the major obstacle that prevented this indicator being included in the latest decision of the Contracting Parties in Istanbul (December 2013). By comparison, some major EU-funded projects (such as Pegaso, Medina) have made a great progress with this specific indicator as the availability of data has improved and have produced valuable results that could encourage the CORMON Coast and Hydro meeting to reconsider the importance of this indicator, bringing it back in to the common list of EcAp indicators.

Taking into account the decision IG 231/3 of the COP 18 (Istanbul, December 2013) on the ecosystems approach, including adopting definitions of Good Environmental Status (GES) and targets, and the recommendations of UNEP(DEPI)/MED395/6 of the Correspondence group on Monitoring Coast and Hydrography meeting (Athens, 28 May 2014), which put the land-use change indicator on the list of candidate common indicators, it was agreed that it would be ideal to test this indicator at a sub-regional (Mediterranean) level before it is decided whether it is to be included, or not, in the initial phase of the Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme from 2016 on.

After bilateral consultations, all of the Adriatic countries expressed their interest in participating in such a pilot: "EcAp indicator testing". Results of the project have been presented at the PAP/RAC Focal Points meeting held in May 2015.   

The main recommendation of the COP decision on EcAp monitoring and reporting is to propose
methods and monitoring techniques which do not create additional extensive financial obligations for the countries. Therefore, the purpose of this pilot project is to test this indicator by using remote sensing information that will guarantee a harmonised picture for the whole sub-region. Due to different land-use classes, data sources, formats and legends that countries use to present land use, this pilot gives an excellent opportunity to provide a harmonised view of the state of coastal zones. At a later stage of the EcAp process, the way of verifying the results obtained by the countries could be envisaged so the results can be used for the reporting purposes as well. Alternatively, the effort to harmonise national land-use classes and sources of data, for example, would be extremely time consuming and technically very difficult to perform. The pilot project will, therefore, provide a solid starting point, based on a common method, to develop regional and sub-regional policies and measures in order to approach GES.  

Non-EU countries will be eligible to get full support from this pilot project. The EU countries, however, will participate on a non-cost basis, which involves activities such as desk work but participation at meetings cannot be covered by the pilot budget. In any case, all the countries will profit from the common method and data sources (satellite images), their processing and the outputs generated by the available technology. 


Overall objectives

The major objective of this pilot project is to test the monitoring of the changes of land uses in the Adriatic coastal areas so to test the feasibility of monitoring techniques and its applicability for other Mediterranean sub-regions. The objective is also to test the draft monitoring guidelines or this specific indicator and provide evidence for the usage of the results for meeting the requirements described above.

Specific objectives

The specific objectives include the following:

- Provide a common approach for testing the land-use change indicator by using remote sensing data provided by relevant satellite images;
- Test the land-use change indicator for the whole Adriatic region;
- Analyse the data acquired and present results on the evolution and development of coastal areas in a given time period;
- Provide inputs for the monitoring guidelines;
- Present possibilities for further use of acquired data, such as for other coastal indicators.


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