Author(s): Ghoneim Hossein
Coastal wetlands are among the most significant, rich, productive, and sensitive ecosystems on Earth. However trends have shown an alarming deterioration during the last decades, as environmental development pressures are aggressively increasing in these areas. This has led to incremental international co~cern and the leads of this international movement, including RAMSAR convention on wetlands, the Convention on Bio-Diversity, and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment are strongly recommending the Ecosystem Approach (EA) for planning and management to achieve sustainable development in these areas. However the EA is still in its evolutionary stage. Its basic principles and guidelines have been developed but the need for an integrated framework which translates these into a clear process of planning and management has been called for. In parallel: the Ecosystem Services Assessment (ESA) is increasingly recommended as an essential technique supporting the EA but this too is at early stage of development. From here, the aim of this research has been formed 'to develop the Ecosystem Approach and the Ecosystem Service Assessment for planning and management of coastal wetlands'. The research has integrated different research methods and data collection techniques in a series of research steps taken to reach this aim. They can be distinguished into three main stages, as follows: a) Constructing the EA Framework: This stage starts by discussing the special features and characteristics of coastal wetland ecosystems and the main development issues and global challenges they are facing; in order to extract the required characteristics of the proposed framework. Then, the Ecosystem Approach is critically discussed to highlight areas of strengths and weakness compared to the other environmental planning approaches. Several more developed features of the other approaches which address areas of weaknesses are identified then integrated in the suggested EA framework. Also, here the potential role of GIS and RS as powerful tools for environmental planning and management supporting the proposed framework are discussed; and more guidelines and lessons learned from international experiences related to applications of the EA in coastal wetlands are extracted. Finally, the results of all these elements are integrated into a suggested EA framework for planning and management of coastal wetlands. b) Designing an integrated Ecosystem Service Assessment (ESA) technique: This stage focuses on developing the recommended ESA as technique supporting the suggested framework. Two research steps are taken to reach this; developing a suitable procedure for the ESA technique, and designing suitable indicators for evaluation, and refining these through an online international expert survey to establish the final set of ESA indicators. c) Testing the applicability of the main outcomes of the research: The Egyptian context was selected as a rich representative case study for this stage. Several analyses of empirical data including interviews, focus groups, and archival data have been accomplished in order to get a reliable image of applicability of both the suggested EA framework and its integrated ESA technique. Promising results have been obtained not only regarding the applicability of these outcomes, but also for wider application; moreover the nomination for the RAMSAR scientific research Prize 2012.