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Examples of how land and marine management use and management depend on weather and climate conditions are found throughout Mediterranean countries. Increasing demand for food crops can be expected in the near future based on trends for increasing population in many of these countries. Concurrently, shortage of water resources, increased desertification, soil erosion and salination trends are expected consequences of climate change and intensified land-use. Guaranteed food security, alleviation of poverty and abatement of malnutrition of the rural population are major aims of sustainable development in the Mediterranean region external to Europe.

Self sufficiency for grains used in bread and pasta production, as well as other uses such as bio-energy, are important aspirations for the Mediterranean agricultural sector, that needs to be addressed in conjunction with the sustainable production systems under climate change. It is necessary to guarantee agricultural production under a threat of a changing climate (closely related to natural vulnerability) and the socio-economic basis of individuals (closely related to socio-economic vulnerability). It is also necessary to include the concerns and impacts on subsistence agriculture, as the social and economic benefits of subsistence livelihoods is not always understood nor considered in climate change policy.


Increased desertification is a regional consequence of the global warming, leading to the degradation and biodiversity losses in already very sensitive and non resilient natural and human altered ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, lakes and rivers, and wetlands. Expanding desertification is very problematic for the Mediterranean countries of Europe and northern Africa. Drought conditions are radiating out from the region due to higher temperature, less water and heat stress; and the shift to a more tropical weather pattern of hot dry summers and warmer dry winters. Within northern Africa, there are expanding deserts, as temperature increases and precipitation patterns shift, which impacts on the southern and eastern extents of Mediterranean countries like Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia,. The effect then is increasing desertification from both the land and the sea for many countries.

Another complicating factor is the decreasing snow precipitation and snow pack which results in less ground and river water, and thus less water for agriculture and human uses. These changes have already been witnessed for the Italian Alps and the Po River valley. Within Morocco, climate changes may decrease precipitation and snowfall in the Atlas Mountains. This precipitation and snow pack feeds underground and surface rivers and oasis that are essential for irrigated and natural agriculture in Morocco, particularly on the fertile central and coastal plains.


Climate change will increase water demand in all sectors, including irrigation for agriculture. Sea level rises will flood the coastal zones and delta regions of rivers, and there will be saltwater intrusion into groundwater aquifers and possible pollution of fertile land in the coast and deltas. Temperature rises will reduce productivity of crops creating agricultural and economic losses. Increase in precipitation variability is expected, which ultimately leads to increases in flood frequency and intensity, as well as the degradation of the surface of soils and erosion of watersheds. Inadvertently, this will lead to an increase of sediment discharge in rivers and reservoirs, a decrease in reservoir lifetime and the time to recover the investment, and a decrease of manageable water resources. These impacts, along with the projected population increase in some regions will amount to severe water stress, which will lead to substantial negative impacts for humans and biodiversity and ecosystems health.


Climate change features, including increasing mean and peak temperatures and increases in number and intensity of droughts, are the most threatening factors for forests, and will impact forests to varying degrees. Climate change makes forests drier, leading to an increase of forest fires in number and severity due to increases in temperature and lower humidity. This situation is most severe in the Mediterranean regions, where summers have become hotter, with less humidity creating ideal conditions for forest fires. As a consequence, fauna is most likely to be affected through the change or the degradation of habitats, leading to extinctions or migration of species. Forest vulnerability and resilience, and practices for sustainable forestry, will also need to be considered. Changing conditions may increase vulnerability to bacteria, viruses and agricultural pests, and favour different assemblages of trees.

Some of the predicted climatic patterns are already manifesting for forests, making this a very high priority issue for the EU, which is being addressed within the Portuguese Presidency and is an issue in the Regional Stakeholder consultations. In prior years, there were extensive forest fires in Spain and Portugal. In the summer of 2007, there were significant forest fires in Greece, as well as in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria, encouraged by the combination of higher temperatures, less moisture, seasonal winds, human practices and inadequate government response. In the future, there will be increasing risks to agriculture, and specifically forestry, orchards and pasture, from the interconnected factors of drought, higher temperatures and fire risk. Forests are notable repositories of carbon, and all these fires also resulted in significant carbon releases.

Wetland and estuaries

A combination of higher temperatures and heat stress, declining precipitation, and saltwater intrusion in coasts and estuaries is likely to result in a decreased wetlands and related ecosystem functions. Natural or semi-natural wetlands provide economically important goods and services, and enhance or maintain the general quality of environment. They play a vital role in flood control by absorbing heavy rainfall and purifying water supplies; and are also valuable for their production of natural resources (i.e.,. fish, timber, grass, harvested plants and medicines, waterfowl and wildlife).

Temporary wetlands and freshwater marshes are typical habitats of the Mediterranean and are climate-sensitive. They represent biodiversity hotspots and are vital for local communities, as they permit the growing of grass for herds of sheep, goats and cattle, as well as the ongoing harvest of useful plants. Stockbreeding can have positive effects, if there is no overgrazing, for the conservation of biodiversity and maintenance of grasses and marsh plants. The combination of long-term climatic fluctuations, changing Mediterranean characteristics, and human-induced changes represent risks for the conservation of those very sensitive ecosystems, and it is important to address the role of climate change and the adaptation of local communities and land and water management.

Climate change will also impact the extensive lagoons and brackish rivers of the Atlantic and Mediterranean regions. One well known European example is the Venetian laguna. A less well know example is the salt water lagunas in the central region of Portugal. Another example is the coastal lagunas of Morocco where aquaculture and fisheries are present, and the harvesting of marine plants is practiced. Within laguna, aquaculture can involve fresh and marine waters, and requires a synthetic approach that considers changes to both ecosystems. These ecosystems play an important role as nurseries for many fish, invertebrae and plant species, and react quickly to any changes.

Agriculture and Aquaculture

These comments draw upon a recent consortium pre-proposal under the CGIAR climate challenge program which addressed climate change, agriculture and security. EUCC- The Coastal Union was a participant in this proposal, which was led by the National Institute of Forestry Engineering of Morocco and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research of Germany.

Consistent with the Food and Agriculture Organization; agriculture is defined expansively to include the interconnected activities of farming; forestry, grazing, and aquatic, coastal and marine aquaculture. Social, economic and environmental global concerns demand the conversion of conventional agricultural practices to a more sustainable one, ensuring higher and stable yield, and environmental safety. It is anticipated that increased weather variability will cause severe impacts for these natural and semi-natural ecosystems, with longer term climate trends and impacts on weather variability.

Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems - such as coastal estuaries, forests, grasslands, lakes and rivers, and wetlands - provide food and other ecosystem goods and services for local populations, particularly in developing countries with vulnerable economies dependent upon natural resource exploitation. In all countries, agriculture plays an important role for the countries’ economy and wellbeing, as well as meeting social and cultural needs. In Europe and adjacent countries, lands, waters, and coasts tend to be fully utilized often for multiple purposes, where forestry co-exists with farming, seasonal or year-round grazing, and recreational access.

For agriculture, it is necessary to develop complex understandings of the interactions between these multiple uses and climate change. However, simple adaptive management strategies will be required that can be readily communicated and implemented. The focus needs to be on understanding local and varying impacts, and responding to the concerns of commercial and subsistence farmers, fishers, foresters and grazers in the context of their traditional practices.

Capacity development and knowledge transfer

Capacity development and transfer of knowledge and adaptive management practices could occur across Europe and throughout the Mediterranean region. For example, there are common crops, agricultural practices and traditions, as well as common challenges now and in the future. Portugal has an enduring tradition of local food and related handicraft production, which will have to be protected, amidst regional and national responses to climate challenges. In Italy, there is the beginning of national program to introduce drought and disease resistance seeds in the Po River valley, which has been suffering from recurring water shortages.

Plants and crops in the southern portion of the Mediterranean are adapted to lesser levels of precipitation and periodic droughts, suggesting they may be increasingly useful for the northern portion. Given the subsistence and small agriculture traditions in that area, there may be also be increased genetic variability within those crops, which could provide resistance to diseases and pests. Countries like Egypt and France can provide models for the involvement and participation of local agriculture and users, with their tradition of the inclusion of small farmers in local projects, and agricultural cooperatives.

Awareness raising and capacity building is needed for a diverse range of stakeholders, including subsistence agricultural practitioners and users who will be the most vulnerable and least resilient members of the civil society across all countries. It is necessary to develop stakeholders’ knowledge (on climate change, adaptations and sustainable practices), skills (problem solving, decision making and prediction) and attitudes (concern for climate change and risks, self-protection, resilience, empowerment).

Knowledge and technology transfer, capacity development, and particularly the synthesis of suitable adaptive management practices can occur between developed and developing regions. Innovative technologies and strategies could also be utilized including web-based, and GIS consultation, communication and management strategies.

Related carbon sequestration

It is important to recognize that while the emphasis is for adaptation; there will be mportant opportunities for carbon minimization and carbon sequestration which can be considered in tandem. For example, there are links between adaptive management strategies for agriculture and carbon minimization, and choosing strategies with a lesser carbon footprint. There could also be the reduction of energy uses and substitution of renewable energy for hydrocarbons in agricultural production, harvesting and processing.

Carbon sequestration opportunities could be available for coasts, wetlands, forests, agricultural and pastoral lands throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. One possible approach could be to develop model carbon minimization and sequestration opportunities, with academic, scientific and commercial support, and using the latest understanding of carbon sequestration strategies.

Combating rural poverty and stabilizing rural economies are among the biggest challenges facing developing countries. By expanding markets for carbon sequestration and reductions in agriculture and other land and water uses, there will be an opportunity for small and subsistence farmers throughout the developing world to participate in and benefit from carbon markets.

Currently, the share of such projects in the carbon market is limited by the rules and regulations under the Kyoto Protocol and the EU ETS. The BioCarbon Fund, World Bank Carbon Finance Unit and other organizations promote land uses and carbon sequestration with the objective of demonstrating that these project activities are important to the growth of the carbon market. They are trying to modify the current rules and regulations under the Kyoto Protocol and the EU ETS, which exclude a large portion of the developing world from gaining access to the carbon market.

As part of the EU green paper on adaptation of climate change and overall ECCP II, the EU could consider modifying its approach to carbon sequestration, credits and markets to allow credits to be allocated for aquatic, coastal, and land uses within Europe and internationally that sequester carbon, methane and other greenhouse gases. Further, the EU could actively support and encourage these changes globally through international climate negotiations, and aid and funding policies.