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[New Publication] Climate Change and Mediterranean Coastal Areas: Understanding the Impacts and Developing Adaptation Strategies - An overview of the CIRCLE-Med Research Projects

From the cliffs of the Algarve to the Gulf of Tunis, from Spain’s Ebro river to the Dalmatian coast, the Mediterranean’s 46 000 kilometers of shoreline are home to a wonderfully unique natural and cultural heritage. Birthplace of ancient civilizations and cultural crossroads, today 420 million inhabitants from 21 different nations live around this “inland sea”.

Its coast is a dense concentration of major societal and economic stakes in a variety of sectors: industry, tourism, agriculture, and port facilities. It's also a region of remarkable biodiversity. A place of refuge during the Quaternary Period's ice ages, the Mediterranean basin also provides a home for 10% of the world's species of fl owering plants, and a great number of other plant and animal species.

Mediterranean, a threatened region.

In a context of ever-increasing anthropogenic pressures, the advent of climate change raises numerous questions. According to the fourth report published by the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), Mediterranean ecosystems would be among the most threatened by the predicted evolution of the climate. So what exactly will be the impacts on the sea's level, on its degree of acidifi cation, or on precipitation patterns-on all of these vulnerable equilibriums? How will these changes impact coastal ecosystems, transitional waters, and the water table? What might be the consequences of climate change on water quality and the availability of water resources-an issue of vital importance to local populations-or for aquaculture and agriculture? How can communities be prepared today so that they will be able to adapt to the coming changes, and to that end, what sort of tools do stakeholders need to be able to do so?

Multidisciplinary study.

At the interface of the fields of climatology, hydrology, biology, economics, and social sciences, the critical questions about this necessary adaptation require a vast array of new scientifi c knowledge and the answers will provide essential data for decision-makers on both the local and global scale. Having this in mind the international coordination of CIRCLE-Med funded eight research projects, the results of which were presented on the 22 nd and 23 rd of March, 2011 at a conference in Aix-en-Provence (France) which brought together 65 individuals-scientists, and leaders and representatives of the local authorities from 10 different countries.

Nine different countries working toguether.

Working together on both innovative and complementary projects, research teams from nine different countries worked intensively over two years to collect an extensive amount of new knowledge to better prepare for climate change adaptation. Some of these projects represent foundational advances in fields that had not up until now received much research focus. The information found within the following pages is just a brief overview of these new developments: in addition to the detailed final reports for each project, about thirty scientific publications, as well as numerous papers in the process of being prepared or accepted, have stemmed from the hard work of the CIRCLE-Med teams.

Natural and social sciences interface.

In addition to increasing our understanding of the impacts of climate change on the Mediterranean basin, CIRCLE-Med's projects, carried out with the goal of assisting the decision-making process, have encouraged a dialogue about these complex questions among the scientists, administrative offi cials, and local authorities at each location. As a result, their work also represents a great number of advances towards an integrated, proactive, and interdisciplinary management approach to the problems facing Mediterranean coastal areas. With this goal in mind, the participatory experiments undertaken at the local level have been equally fruitful in terms of providing precious methodological tools for informing the key stakeholders, for mobilizing them, and for developing adaptive mechanisms in a cooperative manner.

A trully European Research Area Network spirit.

Finally, the CIRCLE-Med series of projects has also provided a precious contribution to the process of networking research data throughout Europe and the different universities and laboratories along the southern Mediterranean coast, within the spirit of the ERA-Net (European Research Area Network) mechanism. From Montpellier to Faro, from Tunis to Haïfa, Palermo to Tirana, strong connections were established between the scientific teams working on these projects, but also with other research partners, public organizations, local authorities, and key economic players. These connections, both the contractual and informal ones, constitute one of the major benefits of such projects. It is essential now that these relationships be maintained, and that good use be made of them, through future collaborative efforts, so that the work initiated by CIRCLE-Med might be pursued or complementary research paths explored. Our societies' responses to the crucial challenges posed by climate change, be they on the global or local level, focused or integrated, must be capable of providing long-term solutions.