The coastal zone and coastal ecosystems at the land-sea interface are the primary target of Biarritz 2011 international symposium for many reasons :
- They are areas of high biodiversity and intense productivity while they support high human densities with the multiple uses and economic activities that come with.
- Coastal areas represent about 75% of the ocean production while they cover only 5% of the oceans total surface. They are the place of multiple uses hence conflicts as regards the use of space and resources through activities like fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, energy production, port development, and urbanisation. Following the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, it is estimated that about 60% of the coastal ecosystems of the world are degraded.
- Coastal ecosystems are highly constrained and have been through tremendous changes in the level of the sea. The coastline is generally highly unstable in the short- and mid-term.
- Coastal ecosystems status depends on landward activities up t the top of the watershed including rivers fluxes and trajectories strong modifications. Dam building, which has been on the increase throughout the 20th century and consequently altered most of the European rivers, is still developing in Asia and Africa for energy production or water reservoir, which also has a strong impact on most of the great rivers and hence on coastal areas.
- While coastal ecosystems provide many ecological services, their degradation is reflected in the world ecological footprint which is now well beyond the Earth biological capacity to provide the necessary resources and absorb the wastes. The issue of integrated coastal management related to the preservation of these ecosystem goods and services is more urgent than ever.
In this context, the conference, associated with a large marine resource users and maritime activities technical exhibition : Oceanovation, will cover the watershed hydrology and water run-off including estuaries as well as ocean and coastal waters changes as regards its biological productivity throughout the multiple trophic levels.
These highly diverse ecosystems are exposed to extreme hazards (tsunamis, flooding, surges) and global changes including climate change. These pressures threaten up the very functions and services that are provided by coastal ecosystems and in fine human well-being.
The range of coastal risks is linked to the coastal ecosystem vulnerability to global changes, either directly (e.g. climate change) or indirectly (e.g. demography) generated as defined in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment logical framework.
Vulnerability is a function of three interconnected elements : exposition to risk, sensitivity and resilience level, or capacity to adapt to the factors of change.
Considering risk relate strongly with the precaution principle as stipulated in the 1992 Rio declaration in a two steps approach : i) scientifically-based risk analysis to improve forecasting accuracy and, ii) forms of risk management that makes it acceptable from the social, environmental and economic point of view.
Sustainable development lies at the crossroad of social, environmental and economic aspects, which suppose the crossing up of scientific disciplines, which should lead to collective learning between scientific communities and beyond, with the many other groups contributing to knowledge development. Such an ambition should be underpinned by an extended but coherent network of partnerships between stakeholders and institutions involved in the governance and management of complex coastal socio-ecosystems.
The conference will make the link between the different topics at stake in order to promote a fair understanding of the main physical, chemical and biological processes determining the structure and the functioning of coastal ecosystems. This will require a pluridisciplinary approach, combining scientific but also traditional and local ecological knowledge in regard to the interconnection dynamics in between physico-chemical, biological and socio-economic factors.