Action A1. Coastal territorial systems in the Mediterranean : Between opportunities and constraints


Coastal territorial systems in the Mediterranean: Between opportunities and constraints [COASTLINE]

The objective of this action is to study the environmental sustainability and the ability to adapt coasts to their specific challenges, starting from the concept of territorial system and mobilizing the opportunity/constraint dialectic.


Like any portion of the land surface, the coastline presents opportunities and constraints for societies. But more than in many other spaces, these are particularly strong and varied. The maritimisation of the global economy and lifestyles has produced coastline, increasing pressures on coastal systems while providing new economic and social opportunities. At the same time, climate change, geopolitical upheavals and economic and social inequalities at the international level are introducing or accelerating certain dynamics, creating or reinforcing the potential impact of natural hazards or even the phenomena of competition for access to resources.

The complexity of the social and ecological interactions that make the specificity of coastlines legitimises a territorial approach to their structuring and functioning. It is a question of understanding the various social, economic, ecological and spatial aspects that make up these territories in order to better understand the socio-environmental issues that are specific to them. Because the attraction of coastlines should not weaken in the future, because the world is facing strong political, social and economic tensions, because climate change is at work and the principles of sustainable development remain a cardinal reference point, the project of this research action is to question the opportunities and constraints of coastal territorial systems.


S. Robert


G. Boulay, B. Cabioch, E. Carroll, S. Christofle, L. Casanova-Enault, C. Fournier, S. Guignard, F. Masse, N. Parès, I. Pistone, I. Poitou, S. Robert, A. Schleyer-Lindenmann, M.-L. Trémélo, A. Tricot

Objectives of the action

The main objective is to study how phenomena appear and/or how they are managed, acting both as opportunities and as constraints on specific coastal areas. This involves analysing the dynamics of coastal territorial systems in specific locations, functional areas seen as systems whose physical, ecological, social, economic and political dimensions are addressed in an integrated approach.

From a general point of view, the objectives of the action are to produce knowledge concerning :

  • what constitutes an opportunity or a constraint in a given coastal context ;
  • how opportunities and constraints are negotiated socially and influence adaptation strategies in a given situation ;
  • developing methodologies for an integrated approach to opportunities and constraints that can be used to assist regional decision-making ;
  • modelling and simulating the response of a territory, a place or an area to certain opportunities or constraints.

More specifically, the work focuses on four subjects that are major issues for Mediterranean coastal areas, in terms of both opportunities and constraints :

  • coastal risks (marine submersion, coastline erosion, flash flooding) ;
  • the residential economy and land pressure ;
  • environmental amenities and landscape management ;
  • recreational activities.

Combining spatial and social approaches, theoretical reflections and empirical work, the planned research is also based on close connections with non-academic players.

Theses related to the action

• Federico Fabbri

Planning the maritime space off the coast of a major city: how can the social and ecological dimensions be integrated to serve a genuine sustainability objective?
AIX-Marseille Université, Dir. S. Robert / S. Ruitton. Thesis underway

Theses defended

• Large coastal towns and their beaches. Comparative approach in the north-western Mediterranean (Barcelona, Valencia, Marseille).

AIX-Marseille Université, Dir. S. Robert. Defended on 29 March 2023 in Aix-en-Provence

• Florian Masse

Drivers and action levers for sustainable leisure mobility on the coasts of Marseille and Nice. AIX-Marseille Université, Dir. S. Carpentier-Postel. Defended on 26 March 2023 in Aix-en-Provence

• Ivan Pistone

Urban coastlines in socio-ecological transition. A framework for reinterpreting the city-sea interface. Co-tutelle Aix-Marseille Université / Università di Napoli Federico II (Italy), Dir. S. Robert / A. Acierno. Defended on 10 May 2023 in Naples

RSS Action A1. Systèmes territoriaux littoraux en Méditerranée : entre opportunités et contraintes – Carnet de recherche de l'UMR ESPACE

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