Local populations in the Mediterranean region depend on wetlands in different aspects of their daily lives. The natural beauty of these ecosystems makes wetlands ideal locations for recreational and educational activities. Most of those recreational activities are organized in or around wetlands, especially in National Parks, such as bird watching, hiking, boating or canoeing, etc.
Wetlands also represent valuable resources for education and scientific research thanks to their high diversity of fauna and flora and their historical links with ancient civilizations established on and around them.
In this context, the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory (MWO), a technical and scientific group established by La Tour de Valat (France) to provide support to the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative (MedWet), has just published the study “Monitoring of recreational and educational services provided by Mediterranean wetlands”, including a Synthesis for decision-makers and managers.
The indicator on recreational and educational services of Mediterranean wetlands (RES-MW), developed by the MWO and the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Montpellier (IAMM) during the period 2011-2016, is intended to measure the human and social impacts that wetlands generate on the visitors to these ecosystems.
The logic behind the indicator is that a natural capital (wetlands), when made accessible through a constructed capital (infrastructures and services provided by managers), generates an impact on human and social capitals (visitors). The study was carried out in 27 Mediterranean wetlands spread in 10 countries in different sub-regions. In each site, 150 visitors were interviewed, or 4050 persons in total, with 3717 validated questionnaires. The large majority of visitors interviewed (61%) were nationals of the countries involved in the study.
Some of the key conclusions of the study are that:
- the recreational and educational impact among visitors is directly linked to the manager’s efforts in each site;
- the landscape aesthetic and educational programs are the two main vectors of human and social impacts; and
- wetland sites are penalized by external pressures (such as urban and public infrastructure development and pollution).
The synthesis for decision-makers and wetland managers includes a number of key messages, such as:
- the efforts of site managers to ensure accessibility and attractiveness have a great impact on the satisfaction of wetland visitors;
- the site should integrate great landscape aesthetics that are appreciated by the general public;
- the visit brings more satisfaction when emotions are generated in the public;
- the site should be equipped with educational services to stimulate more educational impact among school children; and
- the visit should target innovative and emerging society topics to convey more knowledge and awareness (water management, climate change, etc.).
Finally, the synthesis for decision-makers includes a series of recommendations to increase the positive impacts on visitors to wetland sites.
Download the report here.
Project manager at Tour du Valat