The valuable natural capital provided by beaches, wetlands, dune systems and coastal lagoons is being increasingly recognised, offering us many known benefits and supporting many local populations. The coastline, for example, provides us with foods (fish, seafood, algae…), water, energy and it provides us with productive activities (leisure, cultivation, urbanisation infrastructure…) and services such as the enjoyment of very beautiful landscapes.

  • The coastal habitats are part of our natural identity.
  • Andalusia has dunes that are home to flora and fauna that are often unknown by the population. They also play a key role in the sedimentary balance of beaches.
  • The coastal habitats are unique ecosystems (there are no two the same). The degradation and alteration is often irreversible.
  • The coastal habitats have a potential ecological tourism value.

What do the coastal spaces provide if they are well conserved?002 Foto 04 Cocedores

The coastal ecosystems are fragile spaces that support high human pressure. They have an instrumental value for humans, as well as an intrinsic value. Andalusia has many coastal ecosystems that need to be protected and that provide us with many of these services, which are increasingly scarce and where the loss of natural and cultural heritage is accelerating. Experts have grouped these services:

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1) Goods (supply): food (fish, seafood), sources of energy, construction materials and any other natural product consumed by humans.

2) Services: these are the benefits that the human population receives directly or indirectly from the natural processes or properties of living beings. Examples: the algae and plants provide oxygen to the atmosphere and take carbon dioxide (particularly marine phytoplankton); numerous insects, birds and bats pollinate flowers. Microbes decompose dead material and recycle nutrients; marshes are a natural breeding place for species of fishing interest…

3) Information: the coastal habitats host native species that are unique in the world. The genome of each species on Earth is a real information store. The characteristics codified in isolatable genes are transferrable to improve and create edible or medical resources. Biological diversity contains the accumulated knowledge of nature and the key to its future. Approx. 1.75 million species have been described, although 5-10 million species are estimated, which means that only 20-40% of the species are known.

4) Others: those that emerge from the aesthetic beauty and the landscape, or scientific knowledge, among others.

What are the causes of degradation of coastal habitats and spaces?Dos graves problemas costa jgl

There are many pressures and threats that degrade and pressure the coastline. The destruction of the habitat and the changes of soil uses are the main causes of loss of biodiversity in general and also for coastal ecosystems. These factors are added to others that are also serious, such as the invasion of exotic species, the overexploitation of resources and climate change, which unfortunately have a worrying tendency to increase.

Among other causes of more local degradation we can also mention:

1) Agriculture and livestock uses, overgrazing and inadequate forestry and silvicultural management.Basuras jgl

2) Population isolation: Fragmentation of coastal habitats as islands.

3) Inadequate public use (unregulated transit, presence of illegal urban, agricultural or industrial waste).

4) Presence of competing and invasive exotic species.

Carpobrotus sobre dunas primarias Algeciras jgl

5) Effects of climate change. 

6) High risk of fires.

7) Lack of knowledge of the presence of endangered species.

8) Lack of valuation of priority coastal habitats.007 Limpieza agresiva

9) Coastal management: Poor information about the state of conservation, lack of administrative coordination.

By types of habitats, other major risks for conservation are:

In Mediterranean scrublands and woods: there is a risk of fires and the inadequate management of forest areas. This is in addition to the major increase in herbivory pressure, which has an impact by decreasing the rate of survival of the plant communities that characterise these unique ecosystems.Dunas de Cadiz2 Juan

In dry environments: urbanisation and gardening are increasing the risk of invasive exotic species entering. These places are particularly sensitive to the overexploitation of water for agricultural use and residential tourism. And furthermore, some species whose distribution is very restricted are in critical danger when there is an increase in temperature, since there are few options of dispersion to connected favourable habitats.

In lakes and wetlands: although they combat desertification, their situation gets worse when problems of diffuse pollution and eutrophication increase.

In dunes, cliffs and beaches: there is a progressively growing concentration of human activity, with effects on the landscape or the loss of ecological connectivity, and degradation that has an influence beyond the local scale.