Mediterranean Mosaics

24 November 2009 | Project completed

  • Strengthening the resilience of Mediterranean landscapes to climate and socio-economic change
  • Promoting innovative conservation and rural development by building on the identity of local communities
  • Advocating for a new framework of local, national, and international rural development policies beyond the logics of subsidies

The vulnerability of the Mediterranean socio-ecosystems to climate change can be magnified by existing, human-induced processes and practices which contribute to reduce water retention and other regulation functions, and trigger a faster rate of degradation and impoverishment of the landscape. Modern scientists and researchers believe that the overcoming of interacting alterations in the ecological, socio-economic and cultural systems when critical thresholds are crossed may lead in the near future to cascade effects with irreversible changes towards undesired socio-ecological conditions, the impoverishment of the natural and social capital, and the loss of the landscapes’ ability to support its human population, goods and services.

The adaptation to global change implies the adjustment of ecological, social, and economic systems to stop and reverse negative processes and practices, and to increase the ecological and social resilience of the system. Preserving and enhancing diversity at all levels is the best strategy to build resilience, provide a wider range of opportunities and options to cope with any environmental, social and economic change, and secure the viability and sustainability of Mediterranean socio-ecosystems.

Mediterranean mosaic landscapes tend to be relatively stable socio-ecosystems with high biodiversity levels, strong regional identities and culturally rich societies. This variety can reduce the likelihood of abrupt changes leading to irreversible ecological and socio-economic losses. In order to avoid passing the ecological thresholds which lead to undesirable changes, it is important to avoid passing socio-cultural thresholds. Therefore, maintaining and restoring “disturbance-smart” Mediterranean mosaics is the best guarantee to a higher resilience against global change.

Active adaptive management and the governance of resilience will be required to sustain viable socio-ecosystems, and to improve the resilience of degraded landscapes to the combined negative effects of climate and socio-economic change. According to most experts, the main criteria for the conservation and restoration of Mediterranean landscapes are the following:

  • Address the impacts and root-causes of major environmental and cultural alterations, and the causal chains leading to such impacts, at the widest possible level.
  • Introduce new models of landscape multifunctional management through a combination of traditional and innovative approaches and adaptive conservation and management practices.
  • Ensure the enabling conditions - legislation, financing, competent institutions, stakeholder participation, capacity building and awareness raising - needed to support land managers and users in their swift towards resilient uses and management practices.
  • Increase the level of self-sufficiency of rural economies, and decrease their dependence from subsidies.
  • The concept of the project “Mediterranean Mosaics” stemmed from a debate between IUCN Med and experienced organizations from Spain, Italy, and Portugal, seeking to establish a strategic alliance to start innovative work in the field of nature conservation and rural development, at a landscape level.

In order to strengthen North-South cooperation in the Region and share know-how between the referred nodes of excellence and less advanced landscapes areas, the project includes organizations from Algeria and Lebanon. By joining forces and learning from each other, these organizations wish to engage in a new programme which seeks to:

  1. Enhance/restore the ecological, social and cultural resilience of rural and natural areas of southern Europe, whose natural and cultural heritage are threatened by sharp socio-economic changes leading to land-use modifications, and by the disrupting influence of climate change.
  2. Test innovate approaches which can provide feasible solutions to the decline of biological diversity and the socio-economic crisis of marginal rural landscapes in Mediterranean Europe, beyond the “perverse” logics of economic subsidies, and building on their eco-cultural identities.
  3. Create a network of pilot sites where such solutions can be tried out, spread among nature conservation and rural development practitioners, and used to influence the broader legislative framework and key policies at the local, national, and EU levels.


One Programme, Five Landscapes 
A Blueprint for the Resilience of Socio-Ecosystems
The following locations will be showcased in the initiative:

  • Spain - Almonte River Basin
  • Portugal - Lower Guadiana Valley
  • Italy - Terra dei Vestini
  • Lebanon - Shouf Biosphere Reserve
  • Algeria - The El Bayadh Steppes


Mediterranean landscape