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|Desertification Indicator System for Mediterranean Europe|
Lead authors: Claudio
Zucca and Veronica Colombo <email@example.com>
g Description of reasons leading to littoralisation and why it is an issue in the context of desertification
Author: Claudio Zucca and Veronica Colombo <firstname.lastname@example.org>
defined as "concentration of economic activity in coastal areas as
a result of urban growth, industrial activities, tourism and irrigation",
constitutes one of the elements of specific vulnerability described in
the CCD Annex IV for the Northern Mediterranean. More generally, littoralisation
can be defined as the process of concentration of economic activities,
population and settlements in coastal areas. The process can be associated
with the abandonment of the hinterland settlements and therefore with
a flow of population and resources from the inland towards the coast.
In other cases it can be due to differential or preferential development.
In the first case, littoralisation and land abandonment are two aspects
of the same problem, typical of wide areas of the Northern Mediterranean,
particularly of the Iberian peninsula. This problem is causing big social
unbalances and increasing pressure on the natural resources both in the
hinterland (see land abandonment) and on the coast. The process can also
be characterised by the "tourism" component and by the development
of this activity, sometimes in competition with the others, sometimes
in parallel with them. The common and more remarkable consequence of the
phenomenon is coastal urbanisation. In some cases a concentration of intensive
agricultural activity is also observed, as in the south east of Spain
and in several regions of the southern Italy and Greece.
Issue relevance (consequences).
Coastal urbanisation is a particularly risky type of urbanisation because
the coastal context introduces elements of high environmental vulnerability.
These consist of:
This kind of urbanisation dynamic
can be viewed as a desertification cause when its direct and indirect
effects are considered to be:
These environmental problems, widespread
in the Northern Mediterranean countries, are more severe in those areas
where during the last decades development policies have favoured mass
tourism. Tourism in the Mediterranean is characterised by movements of
people mainly concentrated in summer period towards areas of interest;
more than 30% of world tourism is attracted by the Mediterranean region,
80% of which by the European countries (Spain, Southern Italy and France,
Greece). The Blue Plan foresees for 2025 an average of 200/250 millions
visitors per year. During their permanence tourists create an economic
sector that satisfies all their needs. They introduce new urbanisation
patterns, characterised by high per capita land consumption (extended
residential and service areas) and more demanding quality of life standards
(especially in terms of water consumption). The pressure exerted by these
seasonal mass movement cause impact on the environment, economy and cultural
and natural heritage, in some cases favouring development, in many others
altering fragile equilibria.
When the littoralisation is driven
by tourism development, other critical elements emerge:
Causes: opportunities gradient.
Essentially caused by political, economic, social factors which result
in better opportunities for investments and employment along the coast
(policies/incentives supporting tourism development; different opportunities
for new investments and; attraction of urban models of life; other). Land
degradation in inner land (human induced water shortage and soil degradation)
can strongly contribute to determine this opportunities and income gradient.
In some cases this flow can be favoured by recent climate changes, especially by the significant rainfall decrease. No clear trend exist for Northern Mediterranean regions, but this seems to be very relevant for other regions (data from Morocco suggest a strong and clear decrease of national annual average over last 30 years).
Examples of reasons for littoralisation in Mediterranean
Typical examples of the phenomenon in Northern Mediterranean regions are the Iberian and Italian peninsulas (the pictures above are night time satellite images), where tourism is an important driving force. The case of the Province of Alicante in Spain is emblematic: the "wall of cement", due to an uncontrolled urbanisation along the coastline as the result of a development policy based on mass tourism, has had a severe impact on the environment. Now it is recognised as the cause of loss of fragile coastal ecosystems (humid areas) and of accelerated coastal erosion. Italy is one of the most populated countries in Europe, with an average population density of 189 people/sq km, but with a density of 500 in the plains and along the coasts, where 18 million people live (a 30% increase between 1951 and 1991). Tourist presence in coastal areas exceeds 30 millions per year. Tourist settlements created "linear cities" with a total volume of 3,150,000 m³, of which 850,000 are used only during summer. The related continuous coastal urbanisation by building residential settlements, secondary homes and other tourist structures has endangered areas of ecological importance and irreversibly degraded important dune ecosystems and humid areas.
The concentration of economic activity in coastal areas as a result of population and urban growth, industrial activities, tourism and irrigation is probably the most important event in terms of territory development in the Murcia Region in the last 25 years. It started slowly in the 1960s and increased dramatically 1990s. It has caused important environmental degradation processes in the area. Littoralisation and land abandonment are two aspects of the same problem, since economic activities moved from the inland areas to the coastal areas and so did the population. However, not all the processes are simultaneous and sometimes "succession" processes in land uses are present. The first stage is the establishment of irrigation farming activities in coastal areas, with better climatic conditions for cultivation in the more profitable periods (autumn-winter), mainly in greenhouses and mainly for exporting to other EU countries. At the same time, processes of abandonment of dry farming activities in the rural areas inland occur. The settlement of urbanization associated with tourism and agricultural activities in the coastal areas has drastically changed coastal landscapes.
The development of tourist activities became the second level of the succession process. As demands for resources for tourist developments increased, land uses changes were promoted. The land used for agricultural activities and natural areas on the coast reached very high prices, and farmers and owners were persuaded to sell to urban developers. The consequence is coastal urbanization. This change in the landscape from greenhouses to tourist developments (resorts, hotel accommodation, golf clubs and associated activities) is now a common process in coastal areas.
Apart from the effects on the landscape, littoralisation also causes social imbalances and increasing pressure on natural resources both inland (see Desertification issues: Land abandonment) and on the coast. Water demands are increasing very fast and conflicts between users are arising, so that big problems are likely in the future. Pressures on natural protected areas and traditional activities are very high, sometimes causing very serious damage to the environment, as well as very important social and economic changes.
On the other hand, migration processes
from inland to the coastal areas are being partially compensated by new
tourist settlements in these rural inland areas. However, these activities
are often not regulated, and they are adversely affecting rural landscapes
and resources. At the same time public investment is much more concentrated
in coastal areas, and inland rural areas become less and less attractive
for the remaining inhabitants.
Agri Basin, Italy
The Basilicata coastline, which includes part of the Lower Agri Basin, features the concentration of the economic activities with strong territorial imbalance compared to the internal areas. Following the development of the intensive agriculture, the growth of the tourism is the phenomenon that mostly has characterized the dynamics of the coastal areas. During the five year period 1996-2001 tourist presences in Basilicata increased by over 60% with a 12.1% annual mean rate. In particular the growth in the Lower Agri Basin (Metapontino), that recorded a 41% increase over two years, was mainly attributable to the opening of new bathing resort, that has strongly increased the attraction of the area.
The map below shows the distribution of the tourist presences in the municipalities of the region underlining a clearly defined concentration in six areas in which 90% of regional tourism is focused. Some of these areas are composed of single municipalities, or a group of several. The areas shown in red receive more than 50,000 tourist presences annually and the Lower Agri Basin absorbs 73.9% of the regional tourist presences.
The relationship between tourist presences and resident population (tourist density) offers an indication of the tourist vocation of the town and therefore, indirectly, of the role that the tourism develops in the town economy. The Lower Agri Basin contains many of the municipalities in which there are more than 1,000 tourist presences per 100 inhabitants.
The development of tourist activity poses significant problems to both the environment and society. The area is one of great natural interest (Areas SIC) and the tourist pressure in brief periods of the year is characterised by an upsurge in water demand and in waste production. The development of the area is attracting strong external investment from organisations that will build new resorts and tourist landings. An ongoing study of the Basilicata Region is drafting a law to endow the Ionian coast with moorings for 1,500 boats and associated infrastructure.
This decision has
to take account of the scarce natural replacement of the coastline by
deposits from the rivers that flow into the Ionian, which are the same
ones containing dams (Month Cutugno on the Sinni, Pertusillo and Gannano
on the Agri, Camastra on the right tributary of the Basento) for the accumulation
and the management of irrigation and drinking water. Along the rivers
there are numerous enterprises (both authorized and unauthorized) involved
in the extraction of conglomerates causing a progressive withdrawal of
the coastline and a rotation northwards of the mouths of the principal
local rivers. The extraction is so evident and accented that the planners
of a new harbour, to be constructed in a resort in one of the Agri municipalities,
had to undertake strong mitigation action unforeseen just a few years
ago when the harbour was planned. Injections of 30,000 m³ of sand
a year were anticipated (more than 3 m³ of sand a day) for the artificial
reconstruction of the coast. The purpose is to reduce the erosion of the
wave zone at the mouth of the Agri, withdrawing sand from the above wave
zone that instead will be interested from an advancement of the line of
coast for the obstruction of the right dock of the harbour.
of how the indicators inter-relate
The two main starting points that
can lead to littoralisation dynamics are represented by land abandonment
process in the hinterland and preferential development in coastal areas.
The main driving force of preferential
development of the coastal areas is the legislative framework (Water use
basin management plan, Policy
enforcement), the economic dynamics and subsidies (National funding,
Regional/Local funding) that lead to intensive agriculture in the coastal
plains (measured by Land
use intensity) and to coastal urbanisation.
Moreover, both population flow and
agricultural development contribute to concentration of economical activities,
population and settlements in coastal areas. This process can be measured
The urbanisation process can be effectively
described by indicators that measure socio-economic dynamics (Population
growth rate, GDP
per capita, Employment
contribution to local GDP), resources demand (Water
consumption by sector, Aquifer
over-exploitation), tourism development (Tourism
Both tourist and agricultural activities
cause a pressure due to a competitive use of resources and services on
environment. These consist in degradation and/or consumption of soil (soil
loss due to Urban
sprawl), water (quantified by Groundwater
depth (change in), Water
quality) and biodiversity (assessed by Biodiversity
conservation and Forest
added by sector shows how intensive agriculture and tourism activities
can lead to changes in terms of labour productivity.
Negative effects of littoralisation
and uncontrolled urban sprawl, consisting in resources degradation, "seasonality"
of jobs and services and abandonment of traditional activities, can be
limited by sustainable land management policies.
Implementation of techniques of sustainable
agro-ecosystem management, as Soil
erosion control measures and Soil water conservation measures, can
contribute to prevent inland degradation and the consequent land abandonment
and population flow.
Introduction and application of sustainable policy as Local Agenda 21 or Penetration of tourism eco-label can lead to better urbanisation patterns. This kind of approach prevent socio-economic unbalances, pressures on natural resources and population flow from hinterland to coastal areas.
 Scheme not exhaustive, because
exclusively based on the indicators included in the related table.