Macarena Tejada Project

Macarena Tejada, PhD candidate
Universidad Pablo de Olavide (SEVILLA)

Ms. Tejada is a doctoral student and associate lecturer in GIS and remote sensing at the University Pablo de Olavide of Seville (Spain). Her research includes using the fuzzy logic capabilities of NetWeaver for coastal zone decision making. A brief outline of her research project follows:

Development of a GIS-based Method for Assessment of Coastal Physical Carrying Capacity for Meso Atlantic-Mediterranean Environments

Given the intense and increasing pressure on the fragile environments of coastal areas in general and meso atlantic-mediterranean environments in particular, for decades now there has been recognition that an integrated, sustainable approach to the planning and management of coastal lands and waters is required to guarantee future use of resources and territory. Both, land and sea use have focussed greatly on a particularly fragile strip in the interface of the land and sea where land use, in particular, has shifted from agricultural practices to mostly urbanised tourism related infrastructure. This turn is frequently seen from both a positive (development) and negative (environmental decay) stand points but no matter what philosophical attitude we take towards the issue, management practice has to take the challenge of combining use with conservation.

The concept of using carrying capacity as a framework to devise current and future planning strategies is common in many ecological approaches and also in relation to calculation of traffic and other infrastructures. Carrying capacity is usually a three fold concept including physical (or ecological), social and economic segments where the latter two are frequently the focus of much research despite the flexibility of the boundaries which clearly depend on man and market induced variables. However, the physical setting of carrying capacity has been approached usually rather simply in coastal research in particular when beach carrying capacity has been reduced to a mere description or calculation of the physical capacity of the sandy portion of the beach. Naturally this calculus is simple and a number is devised for discussion in relation to whether 5 or 15 m2 per towel are sufficient (or comfortable) for tourists.

This view oversimplifies the great importance of a thorough description of the physical environment for calculation of carrying capacity in particular and integrated coastal management (ICZM) in general. A characterisation of beach state and behaviour can contribute greatly to identifying, diagnose and forecast the potential evolution of the entire coastal system where socio economic activities are based and with which all coastal action (as in protection) can be regarded as a cost benefit nightmare.

In terms of methodology Spatial Analysis tools have proved extremely useful in most geographic based problems and are now common practice in a wide variety of fields including engineering, planning, geomorphology, etc. In a narrow strip of land and sea such as the coastal fringe, a GIS based methodology can assist in the analysis and assessment of a wide variety of territorial issues. However, the utilisation of overlaying three dimensional layers of information is troublesome in such a one dimensional environment. Moreover, when data is gathered for most coastal research applications the confluence of interest is reflected in the widely varying nature and registration of data types, scales, resolution and dimensions.

One approach that has been identified to assist in this matter is the synthesising of information into indicators. Indicators include various data fields and reduce to measurable-repeatable expressions groups of parameters and variables. This approach is most appropriate in coastal information systems where wave induced radiation stress (in Newtons per square metres) need to be combined with, for instance, quality of accommodation (in hotel star rating). Another challenging issue here is the amalgamation of information occurring in both the nearshore and the hinterland over the conceptualised shoreline, a very practical linear expression of a three dimensional space that planners need to characterised for proposal and implementation of coherent management scenarios.

A successful integration of the coastal data must also include a detailed interpretation of gradients and heterogeneity. To this end new methods have to be developed to properly characterise issues like lad use in the vicinity of the coastaline. A 1000 m strip of land by the shoreline can exhibit changing land use but it is not only the fact that land use has changed; it is also where and how it has changed that need addressing and thus specific efforts are made in this research to develop new algorithms to map coastal sensitivity to land use change.

In the current PhD thesis a method is developed and implemented in three coastal sites of the meso Atlantic-Mediterranean environments of Sines (Portugal) Ayamonte and Torremolinos (Spain) which have been identified as representative coastal types. The example from Sines corresponds to a highly natural-low development coastal fringe whereas Torremolinos, at the other end of the spectrum, represents the over developed-saturated tourist resort. The main characteristics of the methodology are:

Identification and development of indicators database:

  • Physical indicators (morphodynamics, sedimentology, hydrodynamics, climate, sea level, morphology, geology…)
  • Socioeconomic indicators (urban planning, land use, land use changes, infrastructure, population, economic activities…)

Development of spatial databases:

  • Normalisation of data and indicators sensitivity ranking and integration. Cluster analyses, multivariate analyses and fuzzy logic.
  • Cartographic production and interpretation
  • Development of stand alone software for use as a ICZM tool
  • The anticipated (and imminent) results of the research are the development of the method and a validation onto the variety of representative coastal sites. Potential for further research are envisaged mostly in the implementation of the method in both actual coastal planning practice and further scientific overviews on the study of developed coasts.