The realisation that natural ressources are running out and that our human activities have an impact on the environment encourages us to improve the sustainability of our development models. In our societies, where economics is always considered as the essential development driving force, environmental protection is regarded as an expense instead of being considered as an investment.
Why is that so while the benefits we derive from nature are huge? We all depend on the vital ecological functions and services it provides. From this point of view, nature is to be considered as a common good that is irreducible to economics. However, the contributions of nature to the socio-economic development are real. Insufficiently recognised, they are not well integrated in public and private decision-making.
Because of their attractiveness, Mediterranean coastal territories crystalise a number of challenges. All around the basin, the increasing pressure stemming from human activities and climate change affect the biodiversity and ecosystems of these territories. Coastal wetlands and coastal zones especially, feature a particularly rich biodiversity and are very useful to man. For these same reasons, they are also very vulnerable. To allow «current generations to meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs»1, these spaces should serve as priority laboratories where pioneering sustainable development policies are put in place. This implies that elected officials, economic actors, citizens join forces to manage, in a concerted and balanced approach, the environmental and socio economic challenges of their territories.
Thus, investing in environmental protection does not consist in fencing off nature, but in agreeing on usage rules to preserve the natural capital over time and to ensure the sustainability of the ecological services it provides. Concrete initiatives demonstrate that protected coastal areas are a driving force to build sustainable coastal economies. The socio-economic benefits of marine protected areas and protected wetlands are numerous and tangible: creation of activity and jobs in the sectors of artisanal fisheries, tourism, recreation, culture, but also indirect benefits (water supply, natural hasard mitigation, carbon storage …). In a broader sense, these areas contribute to the attractiveness of territories, the quality of life of their inhabitants, their well-being and health, their education, citizenship as well as their feeling of freedom2. Even though such benefits are not easy to quantify, they are nonetheless important to consider3.
Let us just remind that it is a preserved nature which, combined with managed usages, are the source of these benefits. The recovery of fish stocks, a richer biodiversity, a living nature, are prerequisites to the dynamism of a protected coastal area and its influence over a larger area.
Many concerted initiatives are underway on the Mediterranean coast and concrete results have been demonstrated.
1 Brundtland report « Our common future » (1987)
2 See the framework defined by A. Sen
3 All these dimensions of well-being are linked to the ecological services provided by the ecosystems as evidenced by the United Nations programme, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessement (2000-2005) and more recently in the framework of The Economics of Ecosystem Assessment programme (2008-2012 and later) .