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Definition of homogenous environmental management units for the Catalan Coast

Brenner et al. 2006, Environmental Management
Environ Manage (2006) 38:993–1005
DOI 10.1007/s00267-005-0210-6

Definition of Homogeneous Environmental Management Units
for the Catalan Coast
Jorge Brenner Æ Jose A. Jimenez Æ Rafael Sarda
          ´             ´

Received: 12 July 2005 / Accepted: 29 May 2006
Ó Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Abstract Geographical areas constitute the basic      Keywords Environmental regionalization Æ
implementation locus for integrated coastal zone man-   Homogeneous Environmental Management Units
agement strategies and activities. Because the definition  (HEMUs) Æ Integrated Coastal Zone Management
of territorial planning objectives may be affected by   (ICZM) Æ Geographic Information System (GIS)
socioeconomic and environmental characteristics, one
of the main steps in the process involves dividing the
coast into homogeneous environmental management      Introduction
units (HEMUs). This article presents a general and
simple method for regionalizing the landside of a     Management of coastal areas under the sustainable
coastal zone into HEMUs and illustrates it through     regional development mandate is a complex process.
application to the Catalan coast. Socioeconomic and    Difficulties arise from the need to strike a balance
natural (biophysical) subsystems were selected as the   between socioeconomic development and coastal con-
most appropriate dimensions of the regionalization     servation. This balance may vary due to the high var-
process. Dimensions were described using 11 spatial    iability of the primary components of the coastal
themes, which were managed in a geographic informa-    system, i.e., the natural and socioeconomic subsystems
tion system environment that proved to be an adequate   (Van der Weide 1993). The aim of integrated coastal
tool for the purpose. A final coastal zone map of four   management is to maintain a sustainable relationship
classes of HEMUs connected to local administrative     between the resources of these two subsystems and
units was obtained, and because it reflects the current   their exploitation, preventing (or mitigating) potential
natural and socioeconomic dynamics, it can be consid-   conflicts and reducing the uncertainties associated with
ered as an initial step in the planning process for the  planning and decision making. However, to manage a
Catalan coast. Although the proposed method was      coastal region properly, a clear picture should already
developed based on the characteristics of the Catalan   have been obtained of the expectations of stakeholders
coast, it is general enough to be adapted and applied to  and/or society regarding each specific unit of territory,
most developed or developing coastal areas.        as well as the legal framework into which it fits and the
                              existing property rights (Mee 2005). When this vision is
                              shared and accepted, specific criteria can be developed
J. Brenner (&) Æ J. A. Jimenez               to accommodate uses of coastal areas, to resolve po-
Laboratori d’Enginyeria Marıtima, ETSECCPB,
                              tential conflicts, and to facilitate the decision-making
Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya,
                              process. In Spain, the coastal zone is administratively
C/ Jordi Girona, 1-3, Modul D-1, 08034, Barcelona, Spain
                              defined in the Coastal Law (BOE 1989) in terms of a
                              marine and terrestrial zone that falls within the public
R. Sarda
                              domain. It is a very narrow fringe of territory delimited
Centre d’Estudis Avancats de Blanes, CSIC
                              on the land side by the innermost high-water level.
Carrer d’Acces a la Cala Sant Francesc, 14, 17300
                              Inland there is a conservation easement fringe of
Blanes, Spain

994                                         Environ Manage (2006) 38:993–1005

                               human activity. Several analytical approaches have
variable width with different restrictions. Although this
                               been used, such as multivariate classifications/cluster-
implies some kind of management or regulation of
                               ing, factor analysis, fuzzy logic, multicriteria analysis,
activities, there is an overlap with the responsibilities
                               and spatial overlapping (Fricker and Forbes 1988,
of the regional and local administrations. These factors
                               Gornitz 1990, Bartley and others 2001, Baja and others
generate a relatively poorly defined area in terms of
                               2002, Escofet 2002, Maxwell and Buddemeier 2002,
planning and management.
                               Henocque and Andral 2003, Vafeidis and others 2004,
  Integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) is a
                               Yanez-Arancibia and Day 2004). The most common
tool to help achieve sustainable regional development
                               HEMU definitions have been based on biophysical
in coastal areas. The main purpose of all ICZM ini-
                               characteristics such as geomorphology, climate, vege-
tiatives is to maintain, restore, or improve specific as-
                               tation, and biodiversity. However, in order to develop
pects of coastal zone systems and their associated
                               an integrated vision of the coastal zone, the socioeco-
human societies. An important feature of ICZM ini-
                               nomic dimension needs to be incorporated into the
tiatives is that they address the needs of both socio-
                               process (Sarda and others 2005).
economic development and natural conservation in
                                As a starting point, typologies constitute repeatable
geographically specific planning activities at multiple
                               homogeneous units that are the basis for division or
administrative levels. Thus, geographic areas constitute
                               classification into geographical units. Usually, devel-
the basic implementation locus of ICZM strategies and
                               opment of a typology for geospatial data takes either a
activities. Many authors have emphasized the role of
                               top-down or a bottom-up approach (Maxwell and
appropriate territorial information and organized,
                               Buddemeier 2002). The top-down approach to classi-
coherent databases as essential for decision making in
                               fication is based on a decision tree containing prede-
the coastal zone (e.g., Shupeng 1988, Bartlett 2000).
                               fined environmental characteristics that is specifically
The coastal zone is characterized by a high degree of
                               developed for a given environment (e.g., Finkl 2004).
natural and socioeconomic heterogeneity because of
                               In the bottom-up approach, a clustering method is used
the existence of multiple resources and uses, and its
                               to identify groups with similar environmental charac-
highly dynamic nature (McLaughlin and others 2002).
                               teristics. A variation on bottom-up classification is the
The spatial heterogeneity of the coastal zone can be
                               regionalization approach, which locates spatially con-
rationalized by selecting homogeneous environmental
                               tiguous class members after clustering without atten-
management units (HEMUs), discrete homogeneous
                               tion to spatial location (Harff and Davis 1990).
areas, or units with similar characteristics (for a
                               Regions, which constitute a unique discrete system,
description of similar approaches, see Christian 1958,
                               become planning units and can be identified by a spe-
Amir 1987, UNESCO 1997). These territorial units
                               cific valuable quantifiable phenomenon. A combina-
should then be linked to a strategic territorial plan, and
                               tion of structural and functional typologies can
thus, to active management units (Mee 2005). These
                               determine the specific processes that constitute indi-
units form the basis for research and data collection,
                               vidual management regions. A review of the biophys-
and subsequently become the boundaries defining
                               ical characteristics used for the classification of coastal
areas with similar land attributes selected as decision
                               and marine environments can be found in Finkl (2004).
criteria for planning and evaluation (Baja and others
                               The analytical process leading to regionalization can be
2002). This process of reducing spatial complexity is a
                               divided into two discretization strategies: hierarchical
way of linking management decisions to the biophysi-
                               unit grouping and segmenting (Yanez-Arancibia and
cal and socioeconomic properties of a territory, and
                               Day 2004). These two approaches tend to give rise to
thus, meets the need of policy makers to access quan-
                               regions based on a hierarchical criterion of belonging
titative information on physical areas. To be an effi-
                               to a higher scale unit; thus, units can be identified as
cient management tool, these should also be integrated
                               either belonging to a higher region or forming one
within the existing administrative framework. To
                               (Escofet 2002). The interactions between the individ-
properly define a HEMU, natural and socioeconomic
                               ual regions should determine the territorial planning
properties must represent the coastal system as closely
                               schema that management needs for the process of
as possible (Zonneveld 1994), and if they are imple-
                               reconciling the natural and socioeconomic subsystems.
mented in a geospatial management framework, all the
                               Because of the difficulties associated with this data-
elements of the system (natural, socioeconomic,
                               driven process, most planning instruments, such as
administrative, etc.) must be spatially coherent.
                               assessment and evaluation, lack this framework.
  The definition of HEMUs is a common task
                                As a useful working concept, the ecosystem
when one is dealing with systems with different
                               approach has been defined to help in the process of
environmental properties that support significant

Environ Manage (2006) 38:993–1005                                         995

                              lem (MAUP) being one of the most notable. MAUP
setting environmental management boundaries (CBD
                              appears in spatially averaged studies when units are
1999). Large-scale applications of this approach can be
                              subdivided into smaller nonoverlapping units such that
found in the different global proposals for environ-
                              intrinsic geographical meaning is absent (Openshaw
mental regionalization, such as the large marine eco-
                              1984). It has major implications in two areas: (1) the
systems of the world (Sherman and Alexander 1986)
                              number of aerial divisions of a unit that can be per-
and the environmental land units of the European
                              formed, and (2) the data aggregation at different
ecological regions proposals (EEA 2003). This ap-
                              resolutions (Bian 1997, Cao and Lam 1997). Although
proach recognizes the dynamics and complexity of
                              several solutions have been proposed, the main
ecosystems in order to provide an analytical frame-
                              uncertainty arises when geospatial data are scale
work for the development of managerial strategies
                              dependent (Cao and Lam 1997, Marceau 1999). Its
(Rappaport 1999). An example of regionalization is the
                              importance increases with increasing spatial and tem-
use of river basins to define management units for use
                  ´˜           poral heterogeneity of the coast, and the difficulty of
in a variety of approaches (e.g., Yanez-Arancibia and
                              combining natural and socioeconomic subsystem indi-
Day 2004). This approach is used in the European
                              cators in the assessment process further complicates
Union (EU) to apply the European Directive on Water
                              the final situation. Consequently, methodological dif-
Policy (EC 2000). Although this approach is logical for
                              ficulties are presented for the implementation of
the management of continental waters, its application
                              regional or national strategies at a local level.
to the coastal zone is more limited because it lacks a
                                The main aim of this article is to present a method for
corresponding geographical structure in the marine
                              classification of the coastal zone into regions by defining
domain. For example, in Catalonia the presence of
                              HEMUs. One of the characteristics of the approach is
only two large river basins means that this approach
                              that these units are integrated within the administrative
would not fully reflect the spatial variability of coastal
                              framework and can therefore be used as management
properties. Consequently, it has to be reduced to
                              units for implementing ICZM initiatives. The method is
smaller units to be a viable framework through which
                              applied to the Catalan coast of Spain to identify man-
to develop management plans (DMAH 2004). When
                              agement units in which specific planning strategies such
active administrative management units already exist
                              as the Coastal Zone Management Strategic Plan (PE-
in the coastal zone, an alternative approach is the
                              GICZ; DMAH 2004) and activities can be imple-
inclusion of the environmental values in the existing
                              mented according to the socioeconomic and natural
structure to provide an integrated model (Walpole
       ´       ´                characteristics of the territory.
1998, Barragan 2004, Sarda and others 2005). The need
for a detailed identification of management units on a
larger scale has led to the development of regional
                              Area of Study
initiatives based on detailed analysis and maps. Few
studies have used a combination of the two scales to
                              The Catalan coast is one of the richest and most rapidly
perform a HEMU regionalization, because of the
                              developing regions in Spain. Of the total population of
difficulty of integration in the ecosystem approach
  ´˜                           Catalonia, 44% (2.79 million in 2001) lives in just 7%
(Yanez-Arancibia and Day 2004).
                              (70 municipalities) of the total surface area (IDESCAT
  Indicator-based assessment and evaluation has
                              2005). The coastline is 699 km long and includes a wide
commonly been used to track the performance and
                              variety of temperate coastal systems. This results in
progress of ICZM plans and programs from a local to a
                              considerable geomorphological and biological diver-
national scale (Burbridge 1997, Belfiore 2003, Henoc-
                              sity. Figure 1 shows the administrative regions of the
que 2003, and references therein). Several methods
                              Catalan coastal area. Past and present human settle-
that incorporate multidimensional analysis have been
                              ments reflect the organization of socioeconomic activ-
used in the development of coastal classifications and
                              ities. The Mediterranean climate helped to configure
indices. As an example, Gornitz (1990) used a combi-
                              the current structure based on typical coastal activities
nation of methods ranging from geometric means to
                              such as tourism, commerce, agriculture, and more
factor analysis for classification of vulnerability and
                              recently, residential developments. Industrial and
generation of indices. For coastal indicators to be
                              commercial activities are strongly associated with the
effective in ICZM, it is necessary to demonstrate pro-
                              metropolitan areas of Barcelona (Central) and
gress and results in a comparable manner across spatial
                              Tarragona (South) but are less significant along the rest
scales and management levels (Belfiore 2003). Several
                              of the coast, where other economic activities (mainly
issues related to the scale problem have been identified
                              tourism) dominate (Sarda and others 2005).
in previous research, the modifiable aerial unit prob-

996                                         Environ Manage (2006) 38:993–1005

Fig. 1 Catalan coastal zone. Comarcas
and municipalities administrative

  The Spanish coast is not only a complex area from a   rational management of the coast. However, because of
physical, demographic, and economic point of view, but   the diversity of the biophysical and socioeconomic
also because of the way it is regulated. There are three  dimensions of the Catalan coast, it is difficult to
administrative levels in terms of institutions and legis-  implement without a HEMU schema. Although the
lation: the central government of Spain, the regional    importance of discrete planning units was stated in the
government of Catalonia, and the municipalities.      objectives of the Catalan Agenda 21, the existing divi-
Within those levels, the Catalan coast is governed     sion of legal and administrative responsibilities may
through two main legal instruments. First, the Spanish   account for the lack of an effective HEMU framework.
National Coastal Law constitutes the jurisdictional      There is a mismatch between the administrative
framework through which coastal zones are organized,    units in the terrestrial and marine domains of the
specifically in terms of coastal public property (BOE    coastal zone. In the terrestrial part there is a clear
1989). Despite the fact that this does not define man-    spatial structure based on municipalities, whereas no
agement attributions to the Catalan coastal zone, it    equivalent division exists in the marine domain. Fur-
does offer a general coastal zoning schema, as men-     thermore, data with which to characterize the status of
tioned previously. The second instrument, the Statute    the marine portion are scarce and heterogeneously
of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, sets out     distributed in comparison with a well-monitored ter-
the limited competencies of the Generalitat (regional    restrial system. Moreover, most of the environmental
government) with respect to the Catalan coast and its    status of the coastal zone is affected and/or controlled
marine environment (BOE 1979). Although in general     by activities that take place in the terrestrial domain,
the Spanish government manages most activities re-     such as urban development and tourism (Nunneri and
lated to the marine domain (as set out in the Coastal    others 2005). Consequently, the scope of the present
Law), some of the activities (mainly seasonal services   study is to identify inland territorial units with homo-
such as upkeep and cleaning of beaches) that influence    geneous characteristics in which coastal managers have
the structure and dynamics of the shoreline (plus inte-   responsibilities and in which they can develop a plan-
rior waters from base line) are managed by the local    ning schema of priorities and implement strategies.
municipalities, which constitute the minimum admin-      Specific typologies developed by scientific and
istrative and management implementation unit. Fol-     management communities have been used in previous
lowing the EU recommendation on the implementation     planning efforts. Such classifications are commonly
of integrated coastal zone management in Europe       based on a single characteristic and have linear fea-
(COM/00/545), the Generalitat has already launched     tures. The Master Ports Plan of the Generalitat is the
PEGIZC (DMAH 2004). This strategic plan constitutes     most comprehensive coastal study undertaken in
a first step in a long-term move toward a much more     Catalonia. It proposed a division of the coast into 21

Environ Manage (2006) 38:993–1005                                        997

                              data models for studies of coastal zones. However, GIS
continuous sectors based on homogeneous coastline
                              also face problems in effectively representing the coast
typologies, later classified into six geomorphological
                              (Mueller and others 2002), and data model and struc-
coastal types (DPTOP 1983). A more recent initiative
                              ture have been identified by Bartlett (2000) as the two
is the Oil Spill Prevention Plan, which assessed the
                              major concerns in the development of a coastal infor-
vulnerability of the previous 21 coastal sectors based
                              mation system.
on the composition of their benthic communities. The
                               Most existing studies of coastal area classification
criteria of the plan are (1) exposure to marine hydro-
                              use the shoreline as the basic representation unit. In
dynamics, (2) functional value per se for the ecosystem,
                              this shoreline-oriented approach, the explicit spatial
(3) rarity, and (4) ecological resilience (CAMCAT;
                              structure of system properties and dynamics is lost, and
DMAH 2003). Other landscape units have been iden-
                              only the resulting classification is retained. This is
tified through a region-specific analysis, e.g., the envi-
                              equivalent to assigning the entire properties of the
ronmental transformation of the northern Catalan
                              coastal area to a given length of shoreline without
coast or Costa Brava. Although units were defined
                              maintaining the original spatial reference (DPTOP
using an aggregation criterion of the geomorphology
                              1983, Fricker and Forbes 1988, Maxwell and Bud-
matrix based on current human perception of such
          ´                    demeier 2002, DMAH 2003, Vafeidis and others 2004).
landscapes (Nogue 2004), classifications were restricted
                              However, linear-feature models are commonly used in
to one dimension (e.g., the natural environment) and
                              coastal mapping and analysis (Shupeng 1988), based on
lacked aspects of integration with socioeconomic
                              the common perception of the coast as a linear entity,
activities. In the neighboring French Mediterranean,
                              which assumes that its two horizontal dimensions are
the coast has been divided into 50 homogeneous zones
                              essentially equivalent (Goodchild 2000). This repre-
within the context of the Master Plan for the Devel-
                              sents one of the main limitations of the data model,
opment and Management of Water (SDAGE; RCM-
                              which fails to address problems of variable spatial
Comite de Bassin 1995, Henocque and Andral 2003).
                              resolution of coastal data (Vafeidis and others 2004).
Although the divisions are based on coastal geomor-
                               The aim of the present study is to develop a
phology, they have been used by the regional water
                              framework of geospatial coastal units that can be used
agency for more than 10 years to monitor water
                              in integrated management and that extends beyond the
                              shoreline level. Because of the spatial scale of the
                              relevant elements and the management model that will
                              be implemented in Catalonia, the management units
Methodological Approach
                              are based on a polygon data model in which discrete
The Geographic Information System             units represent subsystems whose processes and func-
                              tions (including morphometric capabilities) can be
In order to develop a HEMU-based regionalization,     subject to assessment, modeling, and monitoring
the terrestrial coastal subsystem was divided into nat-  (Bartlett 2000). Few thematic mapping efforts have
ural (biophysical) and socioeconomic dimensions      been undertaken in Catalonia. Although the descrip-
according to the generally accepted ICZM framework.    tors were created from the available data (published
Because of the heterogeneity of this area and the need   mainly by the local government), some of the spatial
to incorporate the environmental structure and func-    representations were developed by the Coastal Man-
tion effectively, a regional, subnational cartographic   agement Area of the LIM-UPC. To incorporate them
scale between 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 was chosen for the   into the Catalan Coastal GIS (which began to be
                              developed in 2003 using ArcViewTM v3.x software
purpose of the study according to UNEP (1995)
recommendations.                      from ESRI), spatial data layers obeyed quality stan-
  The complex nature of the coast presents a chal-    dardization processes for format, scale, and metadata.
lenge for the determination of appropriate structures
for use when analytical and information frameworks     Environmental Descriptors
are needed. This multidimensional spatial complexity
can be addressed more efficiently with the aid of geo-   It was assumed that variations in the environmental
graphic information systems (GIS; Shupeng 1988,      state (or health) of the coastal zone are controlled by
Bartlett 2000, among others). Because the representa-   spatial and temporal variations in the characteristics
tion of a system’s elements is an important factor for   and processes of the system. Such changes are the re-
the organization of databases, GIS have been widely    sult of interactions between human and biophysical
used to integrate topological terrestrial and marine    subsystems (UNESCO 1997, DMAH 2004, Vafeidis

998                                           Environ Manage (2006) 38:993–1005

Table 1 Theme by dimension used for the Catalan coastal zone HEMU definition
Dimension      Theme              Cartographic scale   Year    Descriptor (s)

                                           Inhabitants count1
Socioeconomic    Population size         50,000         2004
                                           Mean anual rate1
          Population growth        50,000         2001
                                           Euros at market price1
          Gross National Product     50,000         1996
                                           Hotel beds by population1
          Accommodation coefficient    50,000         2002
                                           Urban area and Infrastructure1,2
          Impervious surface       50,000         2003
                                           Protected areas & wetlands surface3
Natural       Natural protected area     25,000         2004
                                           Areas surface3
          Geomorphologic relevance    50,000         2002
                                           Naturalness, diversity, and rarity4
          Vegetation condition      25,000         2004
                                           Environmental degradation3
          Landscape transformation    50,000         2004
                                           River flow and quality3,5
          Running water condition     50,000         2003
                                           Coastal geomorphology and dynamics6
          Coastal geomorphology      50,000         1983
Source: (1) Catalan Statistics Institute (IDESCAT-GenCat); (2) Blanes Advance Studies Center (CEAB-CSIC); (3) Department of
Environment and Housing of the Catalan Government (DMAH-GenCat); (4) Plant Biology Department of the University of Bar-
celona (UB); (5) Water Catalan Agency (ACA-GenCat); (6) Department of Land Policy and Public Works (DPTOP-GenCat)

and others 2004). These interactions are considered      environmental concerns in Catalonia (loss of biodi-
within the Catalan PEGIZC by focusing on five of the      versity, fresh and marine water quality, and habitat
seven specific objectives: consolidation of undeveloped     condition and transformation).
land, sustainable land use, land-derived marine pollu-      The natural dimension themes were incorporated at
tion, erosion mitigation, and biodiversity conservation    the municipality level. However, the natural protected
(DMAH 2004). Themes were chosen on the basis of        area and the geomorphological relevance themes were
their independent capacity to represent the coastal      incorporated at the landward 200-m fringe. This ap-
issues and were used to build up a data-driven classi-     proach tried to capture the functional processes that
fication process (bottom-up). As in the case of indica-     comprise the strip 200-m inland from the shoreline in
tors, a reduced number of variables is desirable for      order to capture the coastal dynamics; this character-
prediction of the environmental state (Meentemeyer       istic guards against overestimation of real conservation
and Box 1987). The idea is to reproduce most of the      and the condition of coastal resources. The 200-m strip
system dynamics with a minimum number of descriptor      constitutes the coastal conservation easement zone
criteria. Thus, selected themes represent the demo-      indicated in the Spanish Coastal Law (BOE 1989). The
graphics, economy, geographic and biological diversity,    natural geospatial features were incorporated into the
water resources, and coastal geomorphology of the       GIS using the original minimal mapping unit (as pro-
Catalan coast. A total of 11 geospatial themes were      vided by the source, e.g., raw polygons), be they
selected according to their conceptual, environment-      polygons, lines, or points, and were later aggregated at
specific contributions as quantifiable phenomena of the     the municipality level. Municipalities are the smallest
dynamic coastal subsystem and the quality of the        official geographical management unit, and they con-
available data. The quality-control schema was based      stitute the highest administrative implementation level,
on the following criteria: (1) 1:50,000 subnational car-    and therefore, the most effective planning unit for
tographic scale or larger, (2) whether the source was     ICZM (Sarda and others 2005). In contrast, the themes
official or not, and (3) data update criteria. Table 1     corresponding to the socioeconomic dimension were
shows the themes used and their descriptors, the spatial    georeferenced to the comarca (a territorial unit com-
scale and the year the data were gathered.           parable to a county), because this constitutes the
  Within the socioeconomic dimension, the gross na-      highest administrative level for which there is complete
tional product (GNP) was the most robust indicator,      and official statistical data, and because comarcas are
because of its capacity to integrate several elements of    recognized as a real and practical administrative ter-
economic development, even though it was the least       ritorial unit in Catalonia, as well as in the rest of Spain,
up-to-date dataset. The tourist industry is considered     thereby providing an accepted spatial framework.
the most significant environmental influence on the       Comarcas are groups of municipalities (cluster), and
Catalan coast (Sarda and others 2005); thus, the        they were selected because a large part of the socio-
accommodation coefficient was included as a relevant      economic data available is only complete for 68.5% of
socioeconomic factor. The group of themes corre-        municipalities (those with more than 5000 residents).
sponding to the environmental dimension coincided         Themes were spatially combined using the GIS to
with the main institutional and governmental          produce an ordinal pseudo-indicator of a specific

Environ Manage (2006) 38:993–1005                                        999

                                tion of integrated coastal zone management in
desirable condition of each theme. The resulting con-
                                Europe (EC 2002).
tinuous real number scale for each theme was numeri-
                              •  They should constitute local administrative (man-
cally aggregated into an arbitrary four-way
                                agement) units.
classification, whether or not it was originally on an
                              •  They should be based on real, natural, biophysical
ordinal scale. Gornitz (1990) and Gornitz and others
(1994) used a similar approach to develop indices of
                              •  They should integrate and reflect the principal
several coastal characteristics that were aggregated into
                                existing structure and functional processes of the
a vulnerability index using a linear model. The classifi-
                                coastal environment.
cation method used the Jenks optimization, which
                              •  They should be derived from a combination of
identifies break points between classes by minimizing
                                independent characteristics that remain constant
the sum of the variance within each of the classes (Jenks
                                over time (wherever possible).
1967). This method identifies groupings and patterns
inherent in the data and produces a more objective
                                The natural and socioeconomic rationalizations
aggregate representation of spatial variability, thus
                              were aggregated to form the final HEMU map. The
providing a valuable tool with which to explore and
                              aggregation process obeyed certain algebraic combi-
represent data by minimizing its natural variation (Smith
                              nation rules. The final regional HEMU map was pro-
                              duced using four category units for the 12 comarcas of
                              the Catalan coast. An additional analytical phase de-
Data Aggregation Method                   fined spatial modeling rules to determine criteria for a
                              proposed natural coastal resources conservation
The natural themes considered in the analysis        scenario.
(Table 1) were aggregated at the level of the comarca
to be spatially coherent and consistent with the socio-
economic data scale. An aggregation method based on
a weighted average was used to represent the contri-
bution of the surface area of coastal municipalities to
                              The implementation of the Catalan ICZM strategic
the comarca level for the natural dimension themes
                              plan requires a territory-based spatial framework,
(see Gornitz 1990 for a discussion of data aggregation
                              which in this case is based on the definition of HEMUs.
methods). This met the requirement to establish a
                              Although the coastal system consists of several differ-
common spatial framework and prevented inferences
                              ent dimensions that determine its stability and health,
from higher to lower levels of analysis that are asso-
                              only two are used in this study: the socioeconomic and
ciated with the ecological fallacy (Alker 1969, Cao and
                              natural dimensions. It was assumed that the Catalan
Lam 1997). Comarcas constitute true physical man-
                              coastal zone could be defined for management pur-
agement units, because they are based on the common
                              poses in terms of these two dimensions, consisting of
historical, cultural, and administrative characteristics
                              five and six themes respectively that were incorporated
of their constituent municipalities. They are therefore
                              in the GIS at cartographic scales of 1:25,000 to 1:50,000
important in ICZM planning and monitoring of the
                              (Table 1).
Spanish coast (Barragan 2004).
                                Table 2 shows the values generated by classifying
                              Catalan coastal comarcas using the Jenks method for
Regionalization Process
                              each theme and dimension. This classification is based
                              on results given in terms of ordinal classes, where the
Theme typologies were used to develop a specific
                              maximum value (four) indicates the highest relevance
regionalization map for each dimension. The algebraic
                              of the characteristic and the minimum (one) indicates
sum of individual themes represented the contribution
                              the lowest relevance. Table 2 also shows the surface
of the individual natural and socioeconomic regional-
                              area (in hectares) of the comarcas and provinces to
ization of the Catalan coast. The thematic map of each
                              indicate the relative geographical contribution of the
dimension represents an independent view of the ter-
                              themes in the regionalization process.
ritory, and together they constitute the main input for
                                Figure 2 shows the results of the socioeconomic and
the integrated regionalization process. The following
                              the natural thematic rationalizations. There is a clear
criteria form the basis of the HEMU definitions:
                              relationship between the two: in general, higher values
•  They should follow the principles proposed in the    for the socioeconomic component are accompanied by
  EU recommendation concerning the implementa-      lower values for the natural component. This pattern

1000                                            Environ Manage (2006) 38:993–1005

Table 2 Theme classification values by comarca of the Catalan coastal zone
                         Socioeconomic            Natural
Comarca       Province      Has    A   B    C   D   E    F     G  H   I   J   K

Alt Emporda     Girona       135,697  1   2    1   3   1    3     3  4   4   2   1
Baix Emporda     Girona       70,016  1   2    1   3   2    2     2  3   3   2   1
Selva        Girona       99,5374  1   3    1   4   1    2     1  3   3   2   1
Maresme       Barcelona     40,049  2   3    2   2   2    1     2  3   3   2   3
Barcelones      Barcelona     14,463  4   1    4   I   4    1     2  2   1   2   2
Baix Llobregat    Barcelona     48,664  3   2    3   1   3    2     2  3   2   2   4
Garraf        Barcelona     18,503  1   4    1   2   2    2     2  3   3   2   3
Baix Penedes     Tarragona     29,618  1   4    1   2   2    1     1  3   2   1   3
Tarragones      Tarragona     31,931  1   2    2   3   3    2     2  3   2   2   2
Baix Camp      Tarragona     69,633  1   2    1   2   1    2     1  4   3   1   3
Baix Ebre      Tarragona     100,212  1   2    1   1   1    3     2  4   4   3   4
Montsia       Tarragona     73,741  1   2    1   1       3     3  3   4   3   4
Themes: (A) Population size; (B) Population growth; (C) Gross National Product; (D) Accommodation coefficient; (E) Impervious
surface; (F) Natural protected area; (G) Geomorphologic relevance; (H) Vegetation condition; (I) Landscape transformation;
(J) Running water condition; (K) Coastal geomorphology

Fig. 2 Socio-economic and natural
regionalizations of the Catalan coast

clearly reflects the central role of the metropolitan       integrated measurement of the two dimensions. How-
areas of Barcelona (Barcelones) and Tarragona (Tar-        ever, this method of aggregation can introduce inter-
ragones) in the socioeconomic development of Cata-        pretation errors, because zones with very different
lonia. The least developed areas in socioeconomic         characteristics can have similar numerical values. Thus,
                                      `            `
terms correspond to those with the highest environ-        Barcelones and Alt Emporda have an equal total
mental values and are located in the northern (Alt        wealth value which in the first case is due to a high
     `           `
Emporda) and southern (Montsia) ends of the region,        socioeconomic value and in the second is due to a
where the most important protected natural coastal        high natural one.
areas are located (Cap de Creus and the Ebre delta,         To prevent this, we used an integrative model in
respectively; see Figure 1).                   which the natural component was combined with the
  Once these two independent rationalizations were        socioeconomic component, but in which they were
performed, they were combined to define the map of         inverse scaled (i.e., an original value of four is substi-
the HEMUs. Figure 3 shows the HEMUs obtained by          tuted by a value of one) and averaged. The resulting
applying a method designed to retain the attribute        values were obtained from the algebraic mean of both
homogeneity of units after aggregation. By applying a       the regionalization of the dimensions and re-aggre-
direct averaging of the two dimensions, the numerical       gating them to their class type (i.e., values ranging from
values attached to each comarca in Figure 3 should be       2.000 to 2.999 indicate class 2). Reclassified values were
obtained. This value, which we will refer to as ‘‘total      assigned to a nonordinal nominal four-class scheme to
wealth,’’ is obtained by averaging natural and socio-       avoid misinterpretation of results. The final results
economic values, and it can be considered an           indicate units (comarcas) with similar socioeconomic

Environ Manage (2006) 38:993–1005                                        1001

Fig. 3 Homogeneous Environmental Management Units of the  Fig. 4 Conservation HEMU regionalization scenario of the
Catalan coast. Numbers indicate total socio-economic and  Catalan coast
natural total richness by unit

                              for management purposes. As in previous cases, the
and natural properties but without showing any prior-   maximum value for the criteria selected is four; in this
                              case, the highest environmental values. Management
ity indication.
  The four-class comarca map obtained represents a    plans for these units should be properly considered.
reliable management regionalization of the Catalan
coast, while being a data-based and user-oriented
product. Based on the spatial aggregation method      Discussion and Conclusions
developed, it was possible to account for the functional
homogeneity of the coastal zone. The HEMUs classify    The GIS provided an appropriate geospatial structure
the comarcas into highly natural areas (A), seminatural  through which to develop an efficient classification of
areas (B), semiurban areas (C), and areas with high    coastal management units (Shupeng 1988). As sug-
socioeconomic development (D). Geographically, each    gested by Bartlett (2000), GIS also played a key role in
of these classes (units) should be managed under a     database construction, theme modeling, and visualiza-
desired ‘‘vision’’ that fulfills the expectations of the  tion of results. Although the selected polygon data
population living in the area and obeys the established  model does not account for the dimensional problems
legal framework.                      implicit in the line representation of the coast (Vafeidis
  Finally, the need to incorporate a stronger plan for  and others 2004), we also found that there is no
the conservation of natural resources in current and    straightforward system to define an aerial model that
future coastal zone management strategies has been     efficiently manages the dynamics of the two coastal
stressed previously by several authors (Sherman and    dimensions studied (Mueller and others 2002). How-
Alexander 1986, Van der Weide 1993, EC 2002,        ever, in this study we used the mean-based aggregation
DMAH 2004). A management scenario involving        model proposed by Gornitz (1990), because it has been
environmental conservation was defined to conserve     demonstrated to be less sensitive to data errors, omis-
the natural role of the coast and provide a tool for    sions, and misclassifications.
managers that could contribute to the target set for     In order to use a method that is general enough to
2010 by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD    be applicable to most coastal zones, themes describing
1999). The scenario was defined by applying an arbi-    each component were selected on the basis that they
trary relative weighting of 80% to the natural dimen-   were relevant, georeferenced, and could be either
sion values and 20% to the socioeconomic values.      easily measured or obtained from existing official data.
  Figure 4 shows the resulting map of HEMUs in terms   Although it might be desirable to integrate data at a
of ordinal values. In this case, the map represents con-  larger cartographic scale, positive results were ob-
servation priorities for the Catalan coast. The regions  served in the spatial patterns obtained at the Catalan
are clearly similar to those obtained from the equally   coast geographic scale. This is clearly the result of the
weighted averaging map, with the differences between    multisource database appropriate integration at a
them arising from the existence of priority indications  subnational cartographic scale (1:25,000–1:50,000), as

1002                                         Environ Manage (2006) 38:993–1005

                                The integrated description of themes selected for
recommended by UNEP (1995) (Table 1). The themes
                               the Catalan coastal zone can be considered represen-
are relevant to most developed and developing coastal
                               tative of developed coastal areas, where high values for
zones, and only a few were specific to the coast ana-
                               the socioeconomic components are frequently accom-
lyzed. This approach differs from data-intensive studies
                               panied by low values for the natural components
requiring a large number of descriptors for each theme
                               (Figure 2) This also seems to confirm a global tendency
that in many cases prevent its practical application (see
                               in coastal areas for socioeconomic activities to gener-
an example in Cendrero and Fischer 1997). An exam-
                               ate significant pressures on coastal systems, leading to
ple of an area-specific variable is the accommodation
                               an inherent reduction in or degradation of natural re-
coefficient (number of hotel beds per inhabitant),
                               sources. A similar pattern was found in comarcas with
which is only relevant to areas in which tourism is an
                               high values for natural resources (the northern and
important economic activity. This is clearly the case for
                               southernmost comarcas); although these are the least
the Catalan coast, where tourism accounted for about
                               developed in socioeconomic terms, they were the
10.8% of GNP in 2002 (DCTC 2002). If this analysis
                               greatest contributors to the geographic and biological
were to be performed for a coastal zone with different
                               diversity of the Catalan coast. If a river subbasin
major economic sectors, the corresponding represen-
                               schema existed for this area, the present results could
tative indicator would need to be properly selected to
                               be complemented in the future with similar approaches
reflect the most important socioeconomic component.
                               to those used by Escofet (2002) and Yanez-Arancibia
  In this study, two parameters in the natural dimension
                               and Day (2004).
were calculated for the 200-m-wide fringe along the
                                Whenever the natural and socioeconomic dimen-
coast using the GIS, instead of using municipalities as
                               sions have to be integrated in order to characterize the
spatial units. This was done to accurately reflect coastal
                               properties of discrete planning units, results can be
environmental resources and not environmental re-
                               unclear or susceptible to misinterpretation by manag-
sources in coastal administrative units (municipalities)
                               ers. This is due to the inverse relationship between the
in a specifically adapted ecosystem approach (Rappa-
                               socioeconomic and natural values of developed coastal
port 1999). This width corresponds to the official con-
                               areas mentioned above. Thus, two units with different
servation easement zone based on the administrative
                               characteristics (one with high socioeconomic and low
regulations for the Spanish coast (Spanish Coastal Law,
                               natural values, and the other with the reverse situation)
BOE 1989) and must therefore be adjusted to the spe-
                               could give the same overall integrated value if they
cific regulations of the coast to be analyzed.
                               were directly combined. Although the value obtained
  The natural data layers at the level of the munici-
                               in this way could be interpreted as a measure of the
pality were aggregated at a higher administrative
                               total wealth (considering both themes) of the territo-
level—the comarca—by considering values corre-
                               rial unit, it is clear that the two units could not be
sponding to the number of coastal municipalities in-
                               managed in the same way. This problem was overcome
cluded in it. Thus, the use of comarcas, made up of
                               by reclassifying one of the components before adding
municipalities with similar characteristics, leads to a
                               them together and prevented the socioeconomic data
degree of uniformity that is most likely to be due to the
                               interval ranking problems experienced by McLaughlin
common natural and socioeconomic environment that
                               and others (2002). The implicit result of this operation
is implicit inside the boundaries, reflected in a unifica-
                               should be equivalent to only considering one of the two
tion effect within the comarca. This final geographic
                               components, and it can only be used for coasts that
scale was found to be useful for reducing the high var-
                               display the inverse relationship between socioeco-
iability found at the level of municipalities, which would
                               nomic and natural values mentioned above.
have complicated the design of an effective ICZM
                                The bottom-up approach used here provided a data-
strategic plan for Catalonia (or probably anywhere
                               driven environmental regionalization of the coast that
else). This scale still retained the major sources of var-
                               could not have been obtained with a predetermined
iability along the coast, and because data were upscaled
                               planning structure (Harff and Davis 1990). Thus, the
and no aerial subdivisions were made, it did not show
                               results obtained are not intended to provide a priori
significant MAUP symptoms (Marceau 1999). Like-
                               management priorities, but rather to identify classes of
wise, no scale-dependent problems were addressed in
                               truly homogeneous units that managers can use for
the classification process because several themes were
                               future planning, policy implementations, and moni-
compiled from the beginning at the comarca level and
                               toring initiatives. This can be seen clearly in Figure 3
not aggregated at a different resolution. Similar results
                               by comparing the difference in HEMU class (four
concerning the use of comarcas as aggregation planning
                     ´         classes) with the total wealth values obtained (almost
units in Spain can be found in Barragan (2004).

Environ Manage (2006) 38:993–1005                                          1003

constant throughout the entire territory). However,
HEMUs with the lowest total wealth values (La Selva,
Maresme, Baix Penedes, and Baix Camp) should be
identified as critical hot spots in the ICZM strategic
plan. Compared with the rest of the territory, these hot
spots do not seem to have a dominant value or re-
source. As suggested by Burbridge (1997), a special
plan would have to be designed to improve their situ-
ation and to reach the average value throughout the
  Following the recommendations of the Sixth Envi-
ronmental Action Programme of the European Com-
munity (EC), the conservation of natural resources has
been defined as a central objective of the Catalonia
ICZM strategic plan to maintain and/or improve the
environmental quality of the system and its associated    Fig. 5 Touristic regionalization of the Catalan coast (DCTC
human societies (DMAH 2004). The specific conser-
vation regionalization developed here (Figure 4) pro-
vides a spatial vision based on the natural quality of the  fails to reflect the actual socioeconomic and natural
coastal zone and at the same time serves to identify     variability and complexity of the coastal zone. This
priority conservation areas, a process that has been     generates five regions (Figure 5) that, despite being
proposed as relevant to coastal management by EC       currently managed and exploited as homogeneous
(2002). According to the pattern observed, the areas     units, are composed of comarcas with dissimilar
with the highest environmental values are the north-     socioeconomic and natural values (Figures 2 and 3).
ernmost and southernmost comarcas, and conse-         The method proposed here to define a multidimen-
quently, under the present management scenario, those     sional HEMU-based regionalization of the coastal
are the areas with the lowest priority. For the comarcas   zone using GIS overcomes these problems and can be
with the lowest natural values, two different manage-     used to define a more integrated management plan.
ment options could be selected: defining immediate       However, the present proposal represents the result of
actions for the improvement of environmental values      a data-driven analysis, and the process should be
(condition) or abandoning them and converting them      complemented by a more social vision that considers
into sacrificed areas in terms of natural wealth. The final   the goals and interests of managers, stakeholders, and
choice will depend on the level of transformation shown    end users.
by these areas, as well as local institutional capacity. In   In summary, the regionalization process performed
any case, to build a management-oriented scenario, the    here for the Catalan coastal zone generated four dif-
selection of weights for the socioeconomic and natural    ferent classes of HEMUs, for which socioeconomic and
components should be based on real policy objectives     natural characteristics were combined in a GIS to give
as part of a more systemic view (Van der Weide 1993).     an overall integrated value. The GIS proved to be an
Thus, this study only represents a proposal for manag-    efficient tool for data management, analysis, and visu-
ers to consider in relation to such issues.          alization in the overall process of defining coastal
  Although based on the comarca administrative        management units. This HEMU-based regionalization
units, the regionalization of the Catalonia coastal zone   of the territory is a way to rationalize the definition of
based on HEMUs performed here does not correspond       the Catalan ICZM strategic plan. This geospatial ap-
to any other existing comarca-based regionalization of    proach could also be adapted and applied to other
the area. Most existing regionalizations are based on a    coastal regions. Finally, the relevance of the process
single theme (typology) and consequently fail to cap-     will ultimately depend on specific management goals
ture the integrated structure and functioning of the     and objectives, and must be considered in the context
coastal system. As an example, the Catalan coastal      of the need for a multicomponent spatial vision of the
tourism regionalization (DCTC 2002) is based on the      coastal system. The proposed HEMU regionalization,
major economic driving force for the coastal zone, e.g.,   based on the comarca as the administrative/manage-
the tourist industry. In spite of the relative weight of   ment unit, is expected to be an important tool for the
this factor in the socioeconomic structure, using it as    future implementation of the recent ICZM strategic
the only regionalization parameter for the territory     plan for Catalonia.

1004                                               Environ Manage (2006) 38:993–1005

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