Ecosystem Approach

Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach in the Mediterranean

The Ecosystem Approach is the guiding principle to MAP Programme of Work and all policy implementation and development undertaken under the auspices of UNEP/MAP Barcelona Convention, with the ultimate objective of achieving the Good Environmental Status (GES) of the Mediterranean Sea and Coast.

Mainstreaming EcAp into the work of UNEP/MAP Barcelona Convention and achieving the GES of the Mediterranean Sea and Coast through the EcAp process have been supported by several European Union funded projects including EcAp -MED I (2012-2015) and EcAp-MED II (2015-2018) projects.

Through Decision IG.17/6: Implementation of the ecosystem approach to the management of human activities that may affect the Mediterranean marine and coastal environment, the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention have committed to progressively apply the Ecosystem Approach to the management of human activities, with the goal of effecting real change in the Mediterranean marine and coastal environment. Decision IG.17/6 outlines a roadmap for the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach, consisting of several subsequent steps, such as the definition of vision and goals, development of ecological objectives, operational objectives and respective indicators, the development of GES descriptors and targets, monitoring programmes, and finally the necessary management measures and programmes to achieve GES.

Following up on the latter, Decision IG.20/4: Implementing MAP ecosystem approach roadmap: Mediterranean Ecological and Operational Objectives, Indicators and Timetable for implementing the ecosystem approach roadmap, validated the work done so far regarding the 11 ecological objectives, operational objectives and indicators for the Mediterranean.

The 11 ecological objectives are:

1. Biodiversity is maintained or enhanced.

2. Non-indigenous species do not adversely alter the ecosystem.

3. Populations of commercially exploited fish and shellfish are within biologically safe limits.

4. Alterations to components of marine food webs do not have long-term adverse effects.

5. Human-induced eutrophication is prevented.

6. Sea-floor integrity is maintained.

7. Alteration of hydrographic conditions does not adversely affect coastal and marine ecosystems.

8. The natural dynamics of coastal areas are maintained and coastal ecosystems and landscapes are preserved.

9. Contaminants cause no significant impact on coastal ad marine ecosystems and human health.

10. Marine and coastal litter does not adversely affect coastal and marine ecosystems.

11. Noise from human activities cause no significant on marine and coastal ecosystems.

The same decision also mandated the Secretariat to prepare an Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme (IMAP), to determine GES and targets and to prepare an in-depth socio-economic analysis of human activities impacting, or benefitting from the quality and ecological health of coastal and marine ecosystems. Finally, it asked to integrate EcAp in the overall work of UNEP/MAP Barcelona Convention and mandated the Secretariat to establish an EcAp governance framework.

Decision IG.21/3 on the Ecosystems Approach including adopting definitions of Good Environmental Status (GES) and targets decision expresses the agreement on regionally common targets, and an integrated list of Mediterranean GES, and indicators.

The same decision has also welcomed the work done on the socio-economic assessment, endorsed the EcAp governance framework with the key governing role of the EcAp Coordination Group, and reiterated the importance of EcAp as the guiding principle for the work of UNEP/MAP Barcelona Convention.

Most recently, the 19th Meeting of Contracting Parties (COP 19) agreed on the Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme (IMAP) in its Decision IG. 22/7 on a specific list of good environmental status common indicators and targets and principles of an integrated Mediterranean Monitoring and Assessment Programme, next to a clear timeline and deliveries for the implementation of this Programme. IMAP, through Decision IG.22/7 lays down the principles for an integrated monitoring, which will, for the first time, monitor biodiversity and non-indigenous species, pollution and marine litter, coast and hydrography in an integrated manner. The IMAP aims at facilitating the implementation of article 12 of the Barcelona Convention and several monitoring related provisions under different protocols with the main objective to assess GES. Its backbone are the 27 common indicators as presented in decision IG 22/7: Integrated Monitoring and Assessment Programme of the Mediterranean Sea and Coast and Related Assessment Criteria.  

IMAP is aiming to deliver its objectives over 2016-2021. However, it is introduced first in an initial phase, during which the existing national monitoring and assessment programmes will be integrated, in line with the IMAP structure and principles and based on the agreed common indicators. This implies in practice that the existing national monitoring and assessment programmes will be reviewed and revised as appropriate.

The main outputs during the initial phase of IMAP will also include further update of GES definitions, refinement of assessment criteria and development of national level integrated monitoring and assessment programmes.

Furthermore, the Quality Status Report in 2017 will build on the structure, objectives and data collected under IMAP.

The IMAP will be reviewed once at the end of every six year cycle, based on lessons learnt of its implementation and on new scientific and policy developments.