About Littoral 2012
Coasts are of crucial importance in many aspects and at many levels. The economic contribution of coasts, in terms of production, logistics and tourism to name a few, is a substantial part of GDP for many countries. The social value of coasts, linked to residency, labour and leisure, is continuously growing. Yet also the importance of coasts for nature, with the diversity of ecosystems and habitats, the enormous productivity and the connectivity function, should by no means be underestimated.
It is clear that in coastal regions all these functions, and the respective users and stakeholders, come together. As the goals are often conflicting, a sound integrated management of coasts is of vital importance. With a growing number of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) initiatives, both at local and at international level, the challenge of combining functions in coastal regions has clearly been acknowledged over the past two decades.
However, the reality in which ICZM originally emerged in the early 1990’s, has changed dramatically in the past few years. More than ever before, coasts are under increasing demographic pressure, with more and more people settling in coastal areas. also the economic developments keep accelerating. With the predicted continuous growth of maritime activities due to globalization, there is no reason to believe this will come to an end soon. Of a more abrupt nature are the global economic and ecologic crisis, of which we only gradually seem to grasp the size and urgency.
The conflicting nature of several uses of coastal areas is only enhanced by the combination of an economic and an ecologic crisis: while there is an urgent need for drastic measures to limit global change, a more stringent protection of the environment through existing or new legislation and enforcing of this legislation is considered to halter economic recovery. Still, the demographic shift towards coasts also puts higher demands on coastal productivity, for instance in the form of fisheries and aquaculture, for which a healthy coastal ecosystem is a prerequisite.
It is thus clear that the Integrated Coastal Zone Management of the past two decades will not suffice to organize coastal regions in a sustainable way in the future, given the current grand challenges in sociology, economy and ecology. During the Littoral2012 conference, we want to look forward towards what we see as the coasts of tomorrow: how can policy makers, scientists, practitioners and involved stakeholders work together to shape coasts in such a way that social, economic and ecologic goals are aligned and achievable.
There are of course many aspects, both generic and site-specific, to what could be considered as tomorrow’s coast. For the Littoral2012, we have highlighted four themes that will each require careful attention in governing coastal regions: measuring sustainability, coastal productivity, innovations in coastal infrastructure and coastal nature conservation.
Each of these themes will be introduced by a leading expert in the field, followed by a number of presentations in which state-of-the-art research and tangible case studies will be presented. The four themes will come together during a high-level debate, where a number of policy makers and scientists, together with the audience, will discuss where we stand, where we want to be and how we can get there.
The Littoral series of conferences are unique in the sense that they bring together not just scientists, or policy makers, yet all involved stakeholders: we invite practitioners to challenge scientists, industry to promote solutions, researchers to transfer knowledge and ideas, and policy makers to set frameworks. In short, we invite you, as an interested stakeholder in coastal regions, to join us in Oostende, and jointly make Litteral2012 a great success!