Collaborative development for rural and coastal regions

Economic development in coastal regions is particularly dependent on water resources. Activities that are dependent on water quality are concentrated on the seaward side of these regions. Rural activities on the landward side also depend on water yet are also sometimes the cause of its deterioration (diffuse pollution from farming activity). Even though their individual development depends on this common issue, these two types of land found in coastal areas often exist in parallel with few interactions.

Common to many European regions, this intra-regional partitioning is central to the COASTAL project: Collaborative land sea integration platform1. With a funding of 5 million euros from the European Horizon 2020 program, the project aims to reinforce collaboration between coastal activities (fishing, aquaculture, tourism, offshore energy, etc.) and rural activities (farming and agricultural industry, tourism, etc.) by developing strategies and development policies that integrate the two areas.

Six coastal sites located in Greece, Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Romania and France, representing various different contexts, will be studied during the project. "The challenge for each site will be to create developmental approaches for economic activities that integrate collaboration between coastal and rural areas with environmental constraints. This is what makes the project so unique. It will involve, for example, creating new, economically viable agricultural processes that are consistent with the development of other activities and that limit sources of pollution," specifies Françoise Vernier, agricultural geography researcher at Irstea's Bordeaux center and joint coordinator for the project in France.

The final aim is to create a multi-stakeholder management tool for regional development.

To this end, the same methodology will be applied to all sites studied. It will be based on consultation workshops that will initially bring together stakeholders by geographical sector (coastal/rural) and activity sector and then for all stakeholders in the region. "During these workshops, tools such as mind maps2 will be used to gain perspective on existing interactions, opportunities and obstacles in the studied region. The next step is to build development approaches collectively for all activities while also taking environmental challenges into account," comments Jean-Marie Lescot, joint project coordinator. The scientific partners will then use adapted simulation models to evaluate and quantify the economic and environmental consequences of the various possible development scenarios.

Bringing together scientists and regional stakeholders will result in the creation of a decision-making support tool that should be directly usable by the community of economic, public and political stakeholders through a multi-actor lab platform. When the project ends in 2020, each site will have its own interactive platform which local stakeholders can use to create road maps to be implemented when developing their region. Pooling experiences for the pilot sites should also make it possible to develop generic and transferable decision-making support tools that can be made available to stakeholders in other coastal regions.

Irstea, French scientific partner for the COASTAL project

Using its prior knowledge of the region and its stakeholders, the Environment, Land Use and Infrastructures team at Irstea's Bordeaux center will coordinate the study of the French site selected as part of this project, the Charente river basin1. This region is typified by significant agricultural activity in its land-based areas and mollusc farming and tourist activities in its estuary areas and is particularly invested in developing its coastal and rural areas collaboratively.

The team from Bordeaux will also contribute to the project generally to create common tools such as mind maps, dynamic systems models to analyze development scenarios and online discussion platforms.

1- A river basin is an area limited by the highest topographical lines, which drains each drop of water it receives towards an outlet, river or the sea.
For further information

1- The COASTAL project (2018-2020) is funded by the H2020 research program entitled "Food security, sustainable farming and forestry, aquatic ecosystems and bioeconomy" as part of the "Coastal and rural interactions: increasing collaboration between land and coastal activities" theme.
2 - A mind map is a visual representation of ideas arising from a key concept; it can be used to visualize interactions between these ideas and to create an overall vision of the subject being studied.