Barcelona Convention COP 21: act now to protect Mediterranean coastal wetlands

The 21st Meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean (Barcelona Convention) and its Protocols is taking place on 2-5 December 2019 in Castel dell’Ovo, a seaside historic castle located on the Gulf of Naples, Italy.



Covering more than two million square kilometres, the Mediterranean region is the second largest of the 34 biodiversity hotspots in the world and the largest of the world’s five Mediterranean-climate regions (CEPF, 2011). It is considered to be one of the major reservoirs of marine and coastal biodiversity, with 28% of endemic species, 7.5% of the world’s marine fauna and 18% of its marine flora.

Furthermore, Mediterranean coastal ecosystems provide a variety of benefits to people that contribute significantly to their well-being. When they are well-managed and healthy, they provide many services like food provision, water purification, lifecycle maintenance, recreation, and coastal protection from extreme weather events like floods, erosion and storms.


The coastal wetlands of Oristano (Sardinia, Italy) ensure livelihoods for local population. Photo credit: © Egidio Trainito


Despite their importance, the Mediterranean ecosystems, especially wetlands, today face new challenges due to climate and environmental changes resulting from the accelerating anthropological activities over the past few decades. Besides that, based on global climate scenarios, the Mediterranean Sea has been classified as one of the most responsive and vulnerable regions to climate change (Giorgi 2006). Several threats such as sea level rise, warming waters and changing storm patterns imply numerous risks for ecosystems and for the well-being of some 180 million people living in the region.

According to the report “Mediterranean Wetlands Outlook 2: Solutions for Sustainable Mediterranean Wetlands (MWO-2)”, published by the Mediterranean Wetlands Observatory (MWO), the lights are red :

  • Fully 48% of wetlands in the Mediterranean basin have disappeared since 1970 ;
  • 95% of the wetland sites hosting more than 50,000 waterbirds are coastal and threatened with submersion following sea level rise ;
  • The Iberian Peninsula, the Maghreb, the Balkans and the Near East are the regions that are likely to lose the largest number of wetland species as a result of climate change ;
  • 36% of Mediterranean wetland species are now threatened with extinction. Their decline is accelerating, their populations having been almost halved since 1990 ;
  • The abundance of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish has declined by about 35% since 1990;
  • Most rivers have experienced a very significant reduction in flow (-25 to -75%) ;
  • Agriculture is the main contributor to the increase in water withdrawals in the Mediterranean basin, with 2/3 of the total;
  • The flood control capacity of wetlands has decreased by 20% in some Mediterranean countries.


MedWet participation at the Barcelona Convention COP 21

Concerned about the continuous degradation of Mediterranean coastal areas and wetlands, the Mediterranean Wetlands Initiative of the Ramsar Convention (MedWet) participates at the Barcelona Convention COP 21 as an Observer. MedWet:

  1. Fully supports the Objectives and General Principles of the Common Regional Framework (CRF), among them the importance of addressing natural hazards and the effect of natural disasters, in particular coastal erosion and climate change, … by promoting an ecosystem approach and nature-based solutions to maintain or restore the natural capacity of the coast to adapt to changes (Par. III b) of the CRF°
  2. Urges Contracting Parties and the Secretariat of the Barcelona Convention to address simultaneously coastal wetlands loss and degradation and climate change as urgent and priority objectives in the coming years, to include them in the main decisions and the implementation measures of the Convention,
  3. Urges Contracting Parties to incorporate coastal wetland conservation and management into overall coastal land use planning and management as well as in all their sectorial policies,
  4. Urges Contracting Parties and the Secretariat to promote the role of coastal wetlands as nature-based solutions to mitigating climate change impacts and to providing environmental and socio-economic benefits to people, locally and regionally, and to achieving many of the SDGs set by the United Nations in its 2030 Agenda,
  5. Urges the Contracting Parties and the Secretariat to adopt financial incentives and allocate sufficient funds and efforts to reinforce capacity building and public awareness for local authorities and other relevant stakeholders for a better implementation of the relevant international commitments, and
  6. Strongly recommends that Mediterranean countries support the Mediterranean Wetlands Managers Network (, coordinated by MedWet, to organise exchanges of good practices on integrated management and conservation of coastal wetlands.


Read here our Policy Paper to the attention of the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and Observers

More information

About the Barcelona Convention COP 21

The ‘Off Your Map’ website

The report “Mediterranean Wetlands Outlook 2: Solutions for Sustainable Mediterranean Wetlands (MWO-2)


Contact :

Alessio Satta, MedWet Coordinator