Assessing Current Conditions of Coastal Dune Systems of Mediterranean Developed Shores

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Abstract

Pintó, J.; Martí, C., and Fraguell, R.M., 2014. Assessing current conditions of coastal dune systems of Mediterranean developed shores. Journal of Coastal Research, 30(4), 832-842. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.

A method of assessment was developed to evaluate the current condition and function of dunes in developed coastal tourist areas of the Mediterranean. The aim was to identify a procedure for differentiating between more and less valuable dune systems. The method was tested on the Costa Brava (Catalonia, NE Spain) and may prove useful for designing conservation and management strategies for coastal dunes in developed areas. The evaluation method was based on a set of 12 indicators relating to three aspects that we consider fundamental for the management of dune landscapes: dune morphology (dune landforms) associated with the evolution of the dune system, dune vegetation, and human impacts. The assessment was tested on each of the 34 existing dune systems of the Costa Brava. Cluster analysis provided a classification into five groups differentiated by characteristics of morphological development, total number of dune-restricted plant species, and degree of human impact suffered. The best evaluation was achieved by the indicators of morphological development, with 76% of the dune systems rating above average. On the other hand, only 42% of the systems rated above average in the indicator of dune-restricted plant species. The worst results came from the indicators of human impact, with only three beaches rating above average in this respect. The evaluation has shown the Costa Brava dune systems to be in a precarious state of conservation because most systems are located on urban or suburban beaches. The best-conserved areas were the larger dune systems located on seminatural or semiurban beaches, where human pressure is weaker. The procedure described in this article provides a useful tool for coastal managers to assess changes in the state of their dune systems over time and to focus their management policies on the protection of systems under the greatest threat.

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