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Publications and Reports

LIFE and Coastal Management (2012)


Coastal zones are among the most productive areas in the world, enjoying high ecological and economic value. They offer a wide variety of valuable habitats and ecosystems services that have always attracted humans and human activities. Currently, more than 40% of European citizens live near coastlines, stretching from the North-East Atlantic and the Baltic to the Mediterranean and Black Sea. This intensive concentration of population and excessive exploitation of natural resources puts enormous pressure on our coastal ecosystems leading to biodiversity loss and habitat destruction. Coastal zones are also among the most vulnerable areas to climate change. Risks include flooding, erosion, sea level rise as well as extreme weather events. These impacts are far reaching and are already changing the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities. Within the European Union, it is estimated that 13 million people are threatened with displacement if sea levels rise by one metre, with a yearly bill for inaction of up to €6 billion. The EU, aware of these multiple and sensitive issues, has promoted, in particular through a Recommendation issued in 2002, the integrated, cross-sectoral management of coastal areas and cross-border cooperation. The Recommendation on ICZM, and the ratification of the ICZM Protocol to the Barcelona Convention for the Mediterranean in 2010, offer harmonised policy tools facilitating the implementation of integrated policies. Within this context, and within the larger framework of the Integrated Maritime Policy, the European Commission has launched and financed a number of projects and initiatives supporting or illustrating this approach. The LIFE programme (the EU’s financial instrument for the Environment) is one of the main EU funding instruments supporting the adoption and implementation of concrete ICZM projects and the development of best practices in managing coastal zones. This report provides an overview of various LIFE projects that contribute to the knowledge, protection, and sustainable use of the coastline environment. It provides examples of how policy has fed into practice for the benefit of Europe’s coastal regions. In particular, after an introduction about ICZM policy framework, the report focuses on the analysis (including description of relevant case studies) of the following issues: - Implementing coastal management; - Activities impacting on coastal areas; - Sustainable shipping and harbours; - Coastal climate change adaptation; - Improving the coastal environment; - Integrated coastal habitat actions. The vulnerability of coastal areas to the effects of climate change has prompted the EU to begin the process of revising its Recommendation on ICZM in order to promote a greater focus on climate change adaptation at local and regional level. A number of completed and continuing LIFE projects offer useful lessons for the ICZM process in this area. For instance, projects demonstrating how local and regional authorities can incorporate climate change data and scenarios into coastal risk mapping and long-term planning; or projects taking action on saltwater intrusion by working with, rather than against, nature to strengthen the resilience of coastal ecosystems and communities. A knowledge-based approach, involving all key stakeholders has been an essential element of LIFE projects’ efforts.

Reference information

European Commission – LIFE Programme


EU policy, ICZM, LIFE programme, adaptation, case study, stakeholder involvement

Climate impacts

Flooding, Sea Level Rise, Storms


Adaptation Measures and Actions, Sector Policies


Coastal areas

Geographic characterisation


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