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Ecosystem approach

The ecosystems approach (EcAp) is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. Implementation of the EcAp in the Mediterranean is the overarching principle of UNEP/MAP and its Barcelona Convention, and is to be integrated in all of its policies and activities. The ecosystem approach process has been supported by two projects, both financed by the European Commission: EcAp-MED I (2012-2015) and EcAp-MED II (2015-2018).

EcAp milestones

At the 15th Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention (COP15, 2008), the Contracting Parties have decided (through Decision IG.17/5 ) to progressively apply the ecosystem approach (EcAp) to the management of human activities in the Mediterranean, with the ultimate objective to achieve a Good Environmental Status (GES) of the Mediterranean Sea.
At COP17, in 2012, the Contracting Parties agreed (through Decision IG.20/4 ) on an overall vision and goals for EcAp, on 11 ecological objectives, operational objectives and indicators for the Mediterranean. A six-year cyclic review process of EcAp implementation was established (EcAp MED I 2012-2015), with the next EcAp cycle set to cover 2016-2021.
At COP18, in 2013, the targets for achieving GES of the Mediterranean Sea and its coastal zone by 2020 were adopted. In addition, through Decision IG. 21/3  (the so called "COP18 EcAp Decision") the EcAp roadmap was agreed on. The Contracting Parties also agreed to design an Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme (IMAP) by COP19, which would, for the first time, ensure a common assessment basis for the Mediterranean marine and coastal environment. As part of the EcAp roadmap, expert-level monitoring discussions took place in the various Correspondence Groups on Monitoring (CORMONs) meetings on Biodiversity and Fisheries; Pollution and Litter; and Coast and Hydrography sub-clusters.
At COP19, in 2016, the IMAP was adopted. The IMAP provides guidance  to the parties on how to practically implement quantitative monitoring and assessment of the ecological status of the Mediterranean Sea and coast in line with the EcAp. The COP19 Decision IG. 22/7   implies that "the existing national monitoring and assessment programmes will be reviewed and revised as appropriate so that national implementation of IMAP can be fulfilled in a sufficient manner". The core of the IMAP are the common indicators, belonging to 11 Ecological Objectives (EOs), that summarise data into a simple, standardised and communicable figure and are applicable in the whole Mediterranean basin, monitored by the Contracting Parties. The common indicators are tools for monitoring the state of the environment, while the real „on-the-ground" changes are achieved by implementing strategies, plans and programmes, such as the ones advocated by the ICZM Protocol.

EcAp MED II project

The overall objective of the EcAp-MED II project (full title: Mediterranean implementation of the ecosystem approach, in coherence with the EU MSFD) is to support the UNEP/MAP Barcelona Convention and its Southern Mediterranean Contracting Parties to implement the EcAp in synergy and coherence with the implementation of the European Union (EU) Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The eligible countries for the project are Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, with all the other Contracting Parties (CPs) invited to participate at their own cost.

The Protocol on ICZM in the Mediterranean , one of seven Protocols of the Barcelona Convention, requires the implementation of the ecosystem approach as a guiding principle for reaching sustainable coastal development. In its Article 6, for example, it says that „the ecosystems approach to coastal planning and management shall be applied so as to ensure the sustainable development of coastal zones". The ICZM Protocol strongly encourages development of national strategies, plans and programmes, as well as practical tools for the real implementation of the ecosystem approach.

PAP/RAC's role

The focus of the PAP/RAC involvement in the EcAp-Med II project is to assist in the implementation of the Coast (EO8) and Hydrography (EO7) indicators, as well as to contribute to the overall project implementation in coordination with the MAP Secretariat. The indicators, the implementation of which is governed by PAP/RAC are:

  • EO7 common indicator on Hydrography ("Location and extent of the habitats impacted directly by hydrographical alterations");
  • EO8 common indicator on Coast ("Length of coastline subject to physical disturbance due to the influence of manmade structures"); and
  • EO8 candidate common indicator on Coast ("Land-use change").

In the previous phase (EcAp MED I), one of the most important PAP/RAC's roles was the implementation of the pilot project on testing the candidate indicator "Land-use change" in the Adriatic . Here, the monitoring of the land-use changes in the Adriatic coastal areas was a test of the feasibility of monitoring techniques and their applicability in other Mediterranean sub-regions. The draft monitoring guidelines for this specific indicator were developed within this project , along with a summary of the project results.

In this, second phase of the EcAp MED, one of the PAP/RAC's important tasks will be to assist with the formulation of country-specific EcAp monitoring programmes (one per each eligible country) for the Coast and Hydrography indicators. PAP/RAC will organise several training courses with the aim of assisting countries to prepare their national monitoring programmes by building capacities of national counterparts to understand the objectives of each indicator and how to use the monitoring guidelines prepared during the previous phase of the EcAp MED project. Also, an important task is to enable exchange of specific best practices based on capacity assessment for the participating countries.

PAP/RAC should also ensure that the Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) principles are applied to the reporting obligations (and reporting formats) applicable to the Contracting Parties regarding the indicators related to Coast and Hydrography. In addition, the inter-linkages of these indicators with other EcAp indicators (e.g. EO1 Biodiversity indicators) are to be taken into consideration. Finally, the sub-regional EcAp expert groups on Coast and Hydrography are to be established, in order to identify sub-regional specificities in relation to monitoring and assessment.

CORMON meeting on Coast and hydrography, 3 March 2017, Madrid

2nd training on Coast and Hydrography Indicators, 24-25 April, Rome




 Evolution of built-up area in coastal zones of Mediterranean countries between 1975 to 2015


EcAp Med II project: Sub-regional Expert Group meeting on Coast and Hydrography indicators

(Download: Zagreb_EcAp_meeting report.pdf / 5.12MB)

PNUE/PAM-PAP: Rapport du premier atelier de formation sur les indicateurs relatifs à la côte et à l’hydrographie, Rabat, Maroc, 26 et 27 octobre 2016


UNEP/MAP/PAP. Guidance document on how to reflect changes in hydrographical conditions in relevant assessment. Priority Actions Programme. Split, 2015.

(Download: SP FINAL Hydro Guidance Doc EO7 17Sep15.pdf / 1.8MB)

Monitoring and Assessment Methodological Guidance on Land Use Change. Candidate common indicator of EO8 Coastal ecosystems and landscapes.

(Download Monitoring_guidance Land use change 30Jul15.pdf / 5.58 MB)


Pilot project in the Adriatic on testing the candidate common indicator “Land use change” in the Mediterranean.

(Download Pilot Adriatic_Final_Sep2015.pdf / 5.58 MB)



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