State of the Art Overview: Theme 6

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Increased human exploitation and infrastructure developments in the coastal and estuarine zones influence the geo-and eco-morphology resulting in enlarged stress on coastal habitats. These effects of human activities on coastal biotopes are the basis of Theme 6, and the concepts upon which this is constructed are based on system processes including development in time. The evaluation of existing concepts for dealing with habitat change, and the identification of obstacles to effective management (including knowledge gaps) is an important aim of Theme 6. Technologies are identified for the recovery of habitats through the development of coastal environment-focused technologies.



The concept of Theme 6 is focused on the eco-morphology in coastal habitats related to wetlands and estuaries taking into account the various human activities that may influence the area. To the left is a simple diagram illustrating the various human caused impacts that may influence the habitat: Physics pertains to ship traffic, navigational channels, harbours, fishing, and activities from tourism. Chemistry includes chemical substances such as oil spills, nutrients from agriculture, urban sewage and other topics related to water quality. Biology and Geology are the ecological factors in the coastal zone including various biotopes and species from flora and fauna and the sediment dynamics, type of sediment, type of dynamic morphology in the area. The problem faced is increased human exploitation and infrastructure developments in the coastal and estuarine zones influence the geo-and eco-morphology resulting in enlarged stress on coastal habitats.


The topics presented in Theme 6 include research on the effects of development and use in different European countries. The goal is to find means to evaluate existing concepts for dealing with habitat change and identifying obstacles to effective management, including major existing knowledge gaps. It is also the vision to identify promising technologies for recovery of habitats through the development of environmental technologies that are focused on the coastal environment. In the table below, an indication of the impact from various human activities on the coastal zone is given.

Management needs to address all the direct threats to marine and coastal areas in order to protect and conserve the biodiversity and habitats. The threats to marine habitats are accumulating over time, because there are various sources of impact as indicated in the above table. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment states that “Marine and coastal protected areas already dot coasts around the world, and the number of protected areas continues to increase. By far the bulk of these protected areas occur in coastal zones, and many include both terrestrial and aquatic components. However, even with the large number of individual sites, coverage accounts for less than 1% of the world’s oceans. Many marine protected areas occur in relatively close proximity to human settlements— in fact, nearly 10% of the world lives within 50 kilometres of a marine protected area, and over 25% of the worldwide coastal population lives within 50 kilometres of one." The figures for Europe are believed to be even larger. Another aspect is that management effectiveness of most marine protected areas remains questionable even though The Water Framework Directive and projects undertaken under the LOICZ (Land–Sea Interactions in the Coastal Zone) initiative are European examples of how management is taken seriously in Europe aiming at and resulting in lower pollutant loads and improved conditions in estuaries. But the need for even larger integrated water resource management schemes is persistent not least because of the dynamic nature of the water environment. Some of the major topics identified for Theme 6 are given in the non-exhaustive list below:


The articles on regulations are primarily concerned with EU regulations forming the major part of the overall regulations for the coastal zone. They include the overall water framework directive addressing the ecological and chemical status of marine habitats, maritime policies and proposed marine strategies and specific directives addressing EU’s policy on nature conservation consisting of two directives, the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive and NATURA 2000, which is a number of protected coastal areas all over Europe.

Tools and Methodologies

Methodologies for assessing the human impact of the coastal habitats vary from Habitat/biotopes mapping and Habitat assessment using GIS, remote sensing and other measuring techniques in the field to dynamic models describing the mater-sediment-nutrient interaction to economic methodologies for assessing human pressure on the coastal habitats and the general benefits for the environment. In this respect the idea of ecosystem services needs to be more closely addressed. We derive many goods from the coastal ecosystem not least seafood, but also recreational services. These goods represent important and familiar parts of the economy. What has been less appreciated until recently is that this ecosystem also perform fundamental life-support services including purification of air and water, detoxification and decomposition of waste, regulation of climate, and not least production and maintenance of biodiversity.

Tools addressing the eco-morphology in coastal habitats are varied depending on the aspect under consideration. It varies from field investigations, dynamic modelling, economic assessments and management strategies. One way of learning about others experience is through case studies, continuously being added to the list.

The ENCORA idea is to generate and maintain strong networks within the European coastal community. This is done both through the personal communication among individuals but also through collaboration and exchange of knowledge. A non-exhaustive list of relevant research projects in Europe is given.

New research issues

  1. Relationship between ecosystem function and the provision of services.
  2. Identification of ecosystem functions (relationship with biodiversity); quantification of ecosystem services; environmental limits of acceptable change (e.g. biodiversity loss)
  3. Impact of environmental change on ecosystem services: overexploitation of resources; land use change and habitat fragmentation; climate change; pollution; invasive species
  4. Restoration technologies for ecosystem services

Conclusions drawn

Impact of measures on sustainability and safety and good-practice guidelines Measures of sustainability in an ENCORA perspective attempt to describe the negative impacts between human activities or interventions, ecology and the coastal environment. Measures vary between disciplines and those used in economics, for example, may be quite different from others used in areas such as biology and engineering. For biology, which is the most important aspect with regard to coastal habitats, several useful measures have been developed by researchers, and the simpler measures are then often combined into composite measures which attempt to more fully assess the sustainability of the system. The various topics within Theme 6 may have different measures depending on the specific content.

Sustainable development - operational definitions, practices in EU countries, impact of measures and guidelines for policy/practice Sustainable development is a goal for most habitats, because it ensures the system services to be available at the same time securing the state of the specific environment. The topic is still under investigation and needs to be addressed in relation to the work on the European Action Plans.


Ecosystem-based Management Tools
Millennium Assessment - This is a very important link to an investigation carried out by UN
Link about ecosystem services
The main author of this article is Edelvang, Karen
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

Citation: Edelvang, Karen (2008): State of the Art Overview: Theme 6. Available from [accessed on 17-08-2017]