Stanzi Litjens, Harm Schoten | 12.07. 2022

W e travelled by train from The Netherlands to the South of France for the Coastal Adaptation to Climate Changeworkshop organised by the French Eurosite member Conservatoire Du Littoral on June 15-17, 2022, in Marseille, France. From our window, we saw landscapes passing by, experiencing a testament to Europe’s astonishing diversity.

With 60 participants from 13 different countries, we met a large group of people working with and on the sea. We shook hands with high-level governors, scientists, and day-to-day practitioners—a meeting in the Eurosite style: from suits to muddy boots.

Regarding nature conservation, these people oversee everything happening in Mediterranean coastal waters, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Sea-level rise, but people still move to the coasts

The audience watched the professionals presenting their stories with one mutual goal: to raise the Voices of the CoastClimate change’s impact on coasts is rapidly increasing the sea-level rise, coastal erosion, heat waves, and biodiversity losses. At the same time, the demographic development of people moving to the European coasts is still ongoing. How to deal with this increasing conflict?

How to leverage nature’s power?

Projects were presented by delegates from Europe and beyond: Denmark, Croatia, Spain, England, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and the US. Their presentations included topics such as:


• adaptation in coastal territory planning

• preservation of coastal natural and non-developed areas, and their services

• tools and financial means for coastal adaptation

• development of scientific knowledge

• involvement of civil society, appropriation, and social acceptability

• capitalisation and cooperation between coastal stakeholders at a European and International scale


Marseille harbour and view on typical city houses, Photography Stanzi Litjens


Firstly, there is an incredible variety of coastal adaptation projects across Europe. Yet, there is no clear overview, communication, or network. All participants (small field practitioners organisations or high-level policy institutions) spoke about the benefits of knowing and learning from each other’s successes and failures and discussed working together more holistically. Truth be told, if we share anything with the European member states, it is our waters.

Secondly, we need systems that monitor the impacts of climate adaptation solutions. Effects, recorded over a longer-term, have the potential to give insight into what works and what does not and could attract financial means to boost working on coastal adaptation projects. After all, working with nature is cheaper and more sustainable than working against nature.

Thirdly, we need rigorous political decision-making on European and individual Member State levels that matches the risk schemes we currently face as a society. With political will and support, Linking this to the argument about the need for private funding, investors will feel more comfortable investing in technologies we urgently need.

How do we prepare society for something as big as a nearing sea?

After days of talking about coastal policies, dike constructions, working with nature, sea-level rise insurances, and risk-free city design, the climate warnings seemed far away at some point. Almost unreal. But then, as we leave the auditorium of the Mairie in the heart of the city Marseille, we meet reality again: a coastal city home to about 800,000 people. Culturally colourful, lively, moving everywhere life can go. How do we prepare society for something as big as a nearing sea? The urge is here.


Marseille harbour and view on typical city houses, Photography Stanzi Litjens


A field trip to Hyeres offers solutions

We close the workshop with a visit to the Vieux Salins d’Hyeres, a site of 350 hectares owned and managed by Conservatoire du Littoral.

View on Vieux Salins d’Hyeres, Photography Stanzi Litjens


On the salt planes, we see how coastal adaptation to climate change works in practice. The salt flats get their name from several small sea marshes and are a wetland with exceptional ecological values. We wander through a beautiful mosaic of basins that, before the conservational intervention, were different independent salt-production units dating from the Middle Ages.

Next to ecological work done at this site, the French guides talked about coastal erosion projects and managing visitors on the adjacent nudist beach and campsite. The removal of artificial coastal constructions resulted in a natural coastline protected by large zones of underwater seagrass.

Building with nature in the salt planes of Hyeres is inspiring!

The importance of collaboration

The coasts and seas, daunting but fragile, are everchanging with tides flowing in and out. After this event, we realised that we are the Voices of the Coast by working with the coast: from below sea level (scientists), above sea level (coastal managers), and high-level European officials. Collaborating with different organisations in different countries is essential to leverage the power of the sea for nature conservation.

Frank Clusener-Godt, Délégation Europe & International, Conservatoire du Littoral; Miquel Rafa, Eurosite Board member, Photography Harm Schoten