Areas for growing coastal citiesThe availability of areas for particular uses can also be understood in a broader sense as an ecosystem service provided by coastal waters. This includes areas used for military training and for pipelines, residential complexes, port and industrial facilities, hotels and wind farms. Due to the growing population in coastal regions, land use along the coasts will increase, as new projections by a German-English team of researchers show. On the basis of various global population growth scenarios the scientists estimated how large the coastal population will be in the years 2030 and 2060. The study applied to the coastal strip located a maximum of 10 metres above sea level, which is known as the Low Elevation Coastal Zone (LECZ). This is especially under threat from sea-level rise, and is therefore of great interest. In the most extreme scenario assumed by the researchers, the global population will have grown to 11.3 billion people by the year 2060. In that scenario, up to 12 per cent of the global population will be living in the LECZ: around 1.4 billion people. For comparison: in the year 2000 it was inhabited by some 625 million people. The study predicts that megacities close to the coasts will grow proportionately.
According to this study, the most drastic population increases will occur along the coasts of Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia and Nigeria. It is also expected that cities such as the Angolan capital, Luanda, Madras in India and the Chinese city of Tianjin will turn into megacities of far in excess of 8 million inhabitants.
- 2.18 > Global population growth means that low-lying coastal areas, especially in Africa and Asia, will be increasingly densely settled in future.
- Future population growth will not be the only reason for greater land consumption along the coasts. There is demand for new land even today for growing international trade – particularly for the enlargement of container ports such as Rotterdam. A start was made in 2008 with reclaiming an area of around 2000 hectares to form a site for what is now the Maasvlakte 2 container terminal. Surrounded by a foredike 12 kilometres long, it protrudes like a nose into the North Sea, i.e. into deep water. In contrast to many shallower parts of the port, even the largest container ships in current use with a capacity of 19,000 containers and a loaded draft of up to 20 metres can dock here.
The drastic expansion of offshore wind power in Great Britain and Germany is another factor that is changing the character of original marine landscapes. At these construction sites the sea floor of the North Sea normally consists of sandy sediments, and solid structures like rocks are seldom found. Now, to accommodate the hundreds of wind turbines, increasing numbers of solid structures – also referred to as hard substrates – are being created. These can increasingly be colonized by species that require a hard substrate – for example, sea anemones, various snail species and calcareous tubeworms. How this will change the species composition in the North Sea is a current subject of research.
Since shipping and the operation of fishery vehicles are prohibited in the vicinity of windfarms for safety reasons, it is possible that these areas might also contribute to the recovery of sea-floor biotic communities that have been adversely affected by years of fishery
The highways of global tradeThe transportation routes afforded by coastal waters are one of the provisioning ecosystem services that are taken for granted. Land-based transportation entails the great expense of constructing infrastructure in the form of canals, rails or roads. By contrast, coastal waters essentially provide waterways that are almost entirely cost-free. Today around 90 per cent of all goods worldwide are transported by ship – a total of almost 10 billion tonnes of goods per year according to the latest data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The lion’s share is made up of crude oil, containerized goods, and what are known as “minor bulk” cargoes such as steel, cement or sugar.
- 2.22 > Ships are the most important means of cargo transportation. Every year they move almost 10 billion tonnes of goods around the world.
- 2.23 > The most important goods transported by ship are crude oil, containerized goods and minor bulk goods like steel, cement or sugar.
- The most significant shipping routes today are those between South East Asia and Europe and between South East Asia and America. Particularly container freighters operate a regular schedule of crossings between the continents nowadays. Freighters often cover extremely long routes non-stop and in most cases offload their cargoes at large central ports which act as hubs for onward distribution. A share of the containers are transferred to the mainland transport networks and transported by truck or rail into the country’s interior. Another share of the containers are taken to smaller ports by smaller ships known as feeder ships.
From the container terminal in the port of Hamburg, some 40 per cent of containers are transported onward by heavy goods vehicle. 30 per cent are transshipped onto feeder ships and 30 per cent are transported inland on rail freight wagons. A noteworthy aspect is that in many cases, transportation inland remains in the hands of the terminal operators on the coast, meaning that the influence of the coastal hubs reaches far into the hinterland. From the seaport of Hamburg, for example, onward connections extend as far as Eastern and South Eastern Europe. One large terminal operator in Hamburg even maintains its own railway company which transports containers to its own terminals elsewhere, in Slovakia for example, in order to supply goods to the markets there and in neighbouring countries.
- CULTURAL ECOSYSTEM SERVICES –
COASTS OFFER RECREATION AND FORGE IDENTITY
The value of coastal aestheticsIn aesthetic and cutural terms, too, the world’s coasts play a special role. Moreover, they have religious and spiritual value for many people.
By way of an example, the significance of this ecosystem service is reflected in the traditions of the islanders of the Torres Strait, the relatively shallow seaway some 185 kilometres wide between Australia and the island of New Guinea. Within the strait are around 270 islands surrounded by extensive coral reefs, parts of which fall dry during the tidal cycle. Hence the transition from land to open sea is not abrupt but relatively gentle, over an area of many square kilometres. Therefore the language of the indigenous inhabitants does not have distinct concepts for “land” and “sea”; they refer to their environment as “sea country” or “saltwater country”. Traditionally they conceive of the islands, coral reefs and open sea as a kind of continuum without strict boundaries. Their sense of identity is bound up with the coastal habitat in its totality.
- 2.24 > Wyer Island which is fringed with a coral reef is situated in the seaway between Australia and the island of New Guinea, the Torres Strait. The indigenous inhabitants refer to this marine landscape as "saltwater country", a concept encompassing both the dry land of the islands and the ocean with its coral reefs.
- 2.25 > The town of Positano on Italy’s Amalfi Coast illustrates the attraction that the coasts exert on people. They are aesthetic areas which offer cultural and spiritual enrichment and recreation.
- In past centuries the ocean has increasingly become a landscape that people yearn for and a destination for coastal tourists. Tour operators entice customers with images of palm beaches and blue water. Although comprehensive global data on coastal tourism does not exist, its huge economic importance is undeniable in the view of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It sees coastal tourism as based on a unique combination of factors resulting from the conjunction of land and sea. Among these are the intense sunlight that frequently prevails, the recreational value of the water and its numerous opportunities for sporting activities, panoramic views and a vast biological diversity of birds, fish and coral species.
According to data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the global added value of tourism is immense, accounting for a 7-per-cent share of all worldwide exports of goods and services. In 2015 alone, it generated income amounting to 1.26 trillion US dollars. Whereas the number of tourists travelling internationally was put at just 25 million in 1950, by 2015 the figure had reached almost 1.2 billion worldwide.
Measured in terms of numbers of tourists entering the country, the global rankings of the most popular countries for holidays are headed by nations with highly developed coastal tourism. Four of the top ten travel destinations are countries bordering the Mediterranean, led by France with 84.5 million foreign visitors, although it should be borne in mind that the French holiday destinations also include inland locations like Paris or the châteaux of the Loire Valley. In second place is the USA with 77.5 million visitors. Spain is placed third with 68.2 million and China fourth with 56.9 million holidaymakers from abroad. Narrowing the perspective solely to international travel within Europe, Spain actually achieves first place, being the destination for a good 20 per cent of all foreign travel by Europeans within Europe.
- 2.26 > The importance of coastal regions for tourism can be seen from the list of the ten most popular travel destinations. Four of these countries with well-developed tourism sectors are on the Mediterranean alone.
- Highly developed coastal tourism also has its downsides, however. In many locations, the construction of hotel complexes has resulted in the loss of natural areas. Moreover, the wastewater and waste from tourism centres have polluted coastal waters, while coral reefs have been severely degraded by heavy use for tourism. Original, unspoiled coastal landscapes are ever more seldom found; a state of affairs that is criticized by many. Ultimately it can be said that the uniqueness, beauty and special aesthetic quality of the coasts is an ecosystem service in its own right.
Even more of a good thingCoastal areas in their entirety provide numerous other ecosystem services, although it is not always possible to differentiate strictly between coastal waters and the open sea. The ocean absorbs large quantities of carbon dioxide, thus regulating the climate and having a very significant effect on the global climate system. What share of this is attributable to coastal waters alone is impossible to quantify with certainty. Nevertheless, it is evident that they are under particular threat since they are far more severely exposed than more remote ocean regions to human-induced negative impacts.