A Procedure for Assessing the Environmental Quality of Coastal Areas for Planning and Management
Keywords:Coastal zone, environmental assessment, environmental indicators, coastal planning and management
A methodological framework for the determination of environmental quality in coastal areas is presented. The method is based on the identification of a series of characteristics (e.g. water quality, hazard level, potential for use) which can be used to describe different environmental components (e.g. coastal waters, natural hazards, human features) using certain indicators (e.g. ppm of selected pollutants, number of storms per year, number and quality of historical sites). Numerical indices which can be used to assess different qualities on the basis of the indicators are proposed. These indices can be applied to both "natural" environmental units and coastal jurisdictions and they can be used for mapping environmental quality and monitoring its change with time. A conservation/development diagram is proposed as a tool to help identify and assess planning conflicts in coastal areas.
The method proposed should facilitate the integration of scientific assessments into the process of coastal planning and management, through the application of indices which summarize environmental characteristics in terms significant for planners. It can also help to determine whether existing management and policy trends move away or towards sustainability, as the indices provide a means to determine whether environmental quality in a coastal area is decreasing or increasing.