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LIFEnews features 2012

LIFE supports integrated management approaches for Europe’s coastal zones

Europe’s coastal and marine environments experience a variety of inter-related environmental challenges which LIFE is helping to tackle through contributions to goals set out in the EU’s Coastal and Marine Policy. This policy framework contains two distinct and complementary areas of intervention covering maritime matters and integrated coastal zone management (ICZM)

Photo:LIFE05 ENV/IT/000894

European ICZM methodologies are based on flexible integrated management processes which aim to achieve sustainable development results for our coastal areas. Integration occurs at different levels in successful ICZM models, including joined-up design and delivery of policies and legislation by different administrative authorities. Inter-regional co-operation is also often required and cross-sectoral collaboration remains absolutely essential. Consequently, the use of participatory approaches for finding mutually agreed solutions to sustainable development challenges is inherent in ICZM. The ultimate aim is to achieve thriving coastal communities based around healthy coastal ecosystems.

Coordination requirements for such ICZM goals require careful planning and significant amounts of resources to implement. Funding of ICZM approaches can hence sometimes be seen as an obstacle to their uptake. LIFE however has shown that its EU funds can be used effectively as both a stimulus for, and delivery tool of, effective ICZM. LIFE has been, and continues to be, involved in co-financing different types of ICZM actions. For example, LIFE can be used to help plan and/or set up an ICZM programme for an area. LIFE may also be used to help implement various aspects of an ICZM strategy. A review of how LIFE’s funds can support ICZM-related actions is provided below.


LIFE has provided important support during the expansion of EU ICZM methods. This dates back to a series of projects from the ICZM Demonstration Programme which explored integrated management approaches and cooperation procedures in European coastal zones. Findings from these path-finding ICZM LIFE projects fed into the EU's ICZM recommendation which is currently under revision (please see the roadmap and impact assessment).

Following on from LIFE’s earlier ICZM contributions in the Demonstration Programme, other LIFE projects have also generated essential ICZM experiences which boost our know-how about ICZM processes. For example, Sweden’s LIFE02 ENV/S/000355 highlighted the productivity of an innovative ICZM strategy

Photo: LIFE02 ENV/S/000355

for connecting forestry and nature conservation. In neighbouring Finland, LIFE00 ENV/FIN/000666 introduced ICZM concepts to a territory of more than 22 000 islands. Useful results were adopted by key socio-economic sectors in coastal areas such as agriculture, tourism and fishing.

Greece’s LIFE00 ENV/GR/000751 helped to anchor ICZM approaches within management systems of the Zakynthos National Marine Park. Success factors for this ICZM model included the efforts to work with different stakeholders that LIFE helped to co-finance. Results led to increased cooperation between interest groups who had previously been at odds with each other. Such outcomes offer good added value at an EU level from LIFE’s support since they provide useful ICZM tools that can be replicated elsewhere in Europe. This is especially relevant because participatory approaches sit at the heart of ICZM methodologies and all projects dealing with ICZM need to incorporate stakeholder involvement actions.

Conflict resolution

One of ICZM’s main aims is to integrate the various economic activities that occur in coastal zones (as well as in their immediate inland areas). ICZM provides a process for collaboration and conflict resolution so that local and regional stakeholders can join together to better understand each others’ perspectives and interests. Results aim to find mutually acceptable solutions for taking forward economic development in a manner that limits impacts on coastal environments but also still manages to maintain and increase their overall socio-economic and cultural vitality.

This approach can be very useful for harmonising the interests of key coastal sectors such as tourism. Here ICZM helps to avoid problems associated with haphazard and unplanned fashion development, and it can also maximise the opportunities that tourism offers for regeneration of coastal zones. LIFE’s ETICA project (LIFE04 ENV/IT/000488) has shown how EMAS can be used with good effect as an ICZM tool for the tourist sector. A group of seven municipalities took part in ETICA and, thanks to LIFE, all of these are now better equipped for maintaining high levels of bathing water quality in their beach resorts.

Such positive conclusions built on the experiences in sustainable coastal tourism techniques that were developed during the MED-COAST (LIFE00 ENV/IT/000167) project. MED-COAST was implemented by Italy’s Rimini and Spain’s Calvià regions. It involved preparation of ICZM strategies which went on to be implemented in the target areas. These strategies applied a technical collection of sustainable tourism tools that were prepared using LIFE funds. The relevance of MED-COAST’s products to other tourist destinations outside the Mediterranean zone was recognised by a diverse mix of authorities (from as far afield as Lithuania and the UK) who joined forces with the MED-COAST partners to take forward a larger project called SUVOT, which was funded with help from the EU’s INTERREG programme.

Photo: LIFE00 ENV/IT/000167

Environmental conflicts in coastal zones are not limited only to tourism and ICZM provides a mechanism for helping other economic sectors, such as fishing and renewable energy, to develop sustainably with support from multiple stakeholder groups.  Sourcing more of our power from renewable energy is a high priority for the EU and our coasts can provide both ‘green’ and ‘blue’ energy from harnessing the wind, waves  and tides. For example, in the Dutch LIFE09 ENV/NL/000426 sea energy project, LIFE funding is being used to test the possibilities for generating blue energy from a full-scale, high-tech tidal wave device. Considerable benefits are anticipated from the project which is identifying valuable knowledge that could be applied and replicated around the EU’s coasts.

Pollution control

Coastal pollution is another ICZM issue which LIFE can help tackle. Coastal areas face double threats from pollution since they may be victims of major maritime disasters, such as oil slicks or chemical spills, and they also suffer from pollution generated inland that washes into the sea from streams or rivers. Denmark’s LIFE04 ENV/DK/000076 (along with its predecessor LIFE02 ENV/DK/000151) developed oil spill detection sensors to help reduce the pollution threats along EU coasts. Greece’s LIFE99 ENV/GR/000567 project also contributes to this goal though its specialised oil spill cleaning system.

Onshore sources of coastal pollution include agriculture and urban areas. Nutrient ‘run-off’ into water courses from these sources can lead to the proliferation of algae and in turn the eutrophication of coastal waters. Sweden’s LIFE08 ENV/S/000271 is testing innovative technology to tackle this problem with a wave-powered device that mitigates oxygen depletion (‘hypoxia’) by aerating coastal waters.

Ports and harbours are vital elements of coastal zones but their operations tend to create noise and air pollution, as well as waste production and general landscape degradation. ICZM approaches here promote improved sustainable development synergies between ports and cities, and project actions around major European ports via LIFE05 ENV/NL/000018 show how noise levels can be managed with good effect. LIFE05 ENV/IT/000894 was also focused on harbour pollution through its treatment of storm water problems in port areas.

Coastal wildlife

Europe’s coats are home to a rich wealth of biodiversity and all ICZM activities incorporate nature conservation considerations.  Many LIFE Nature projects have been involved with habitat work that make ICZM contributions through their support for improving and managing Natura 2000 network sites in costal zones. Projects actions include habitat restoration operations to improve the conservation status of protected species as well as other environmental investments aimed at boosting the ecosystem services provided by coastal habitats.

LIFE project results in these domains have reversed or prevented coastal erosion and provided buffers against rises in sea levels (which is a key climate change adaptation measure). Furthermore, management plans for Natura 2000 coastal sites have been developed through LIFE projects which apply the aforementioned stakeholder participation processes to help agree procedures for managing tourist pressures in sensitive areas through controls on public access to such sites.

Demonstrations of the positive outcomes from these types of LIFE projects can be seen through the likes of LIFE05 NAT/IT/000037, which used an integrated approach to managing Tuscan tourism pressure during the implementation of dune habitat restoration. LIFE05 NAT/D/000152 is another noteworthy example of LIFE’s ability for integrated management of coastal habitats (lagoons, dunes and salt meadows habitats). Some 34 different Natura network sites were covered by the project which spread across Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia and Lithuania.

These projects noted in this article represent a relatively small sample from the long list of LIFE actions which can be found in the LIFE website’s project database related to coasts and ICZM components. More information about LIFE around Europe’s coastlines will also be published later this year in a new edition of the LIFE Focus journal series that will be dedicated to coastal projects.

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