Resource constraints in the Mediterranean region: exploring the links between ecological and economic crises

Posted on 01 October 2012  | 
Venice, Italy – Growing demands on the Mediterranean region’s ecosystems threaten the foundation of its social and economic well-being, the international think tank Global Footprint Network reports in a two-year study. Global Footprint Network and UNESCO, with the support of the MAVA Foundation and the collaboration of WWF Mediterranean will release the study’s findings today at a conference in Venice.

Global Footprint Network’s report, Mediterranean Ecological Footprint Trends, show an ever widening ecological deficit. Between 1961 and 2008, the most recent year data were available, growing population and consumption trends tripled the region’s demand for renewable resources and ecological services. By 2008, the region’s Ecological Footprint – the demand on Earth’s bioproductive land and sea areas –exceeded local available ecological assets by more than 150 percent.

“It is vital that our societies recognise that investing now in tackling environmental issues and safeguarding natural capital in the Mediterranean will sow the seeds for sustainable economies in the future. Sustainable economies, security and cultural dialogue won’t be achieved without a healthy Mediterranean environment,” said Paolo Lombardi, WWF Mediterranean Director.

With possibly one exception (Montenegro), every country in the Mediterranean region has now moved from ecological creditor to debtor status, and demand more of Earth’s renewable resources than are locally available. Countries meet their ecological deficits through trade and overexploiting their own ecosystems.

Among Global Footprint Network’s findings:

• Demand outstrips supply: In less the 50 years, the Mediterranean region nearly tripled its demands for ecological resources and services, and increased its ecological deficit by 230 percent.
• Wealth and Footprint size: The higher the income of a country, the greater was its demand for ecological resources and services (and the higher its per capita consumption). Three countries alone contributed more than 50 percent of the region’s total Footprint in 2008: France (21 percent), Italy (18 percent) and Spain (14 percent).
• Individual country trends: Algeria experienced the largest change in national ecological assets balance, moving from a large reserve in 1961 to a large ecological deficit in 2008. Syria, Tunisia and Turkey also shifted from ecological creditor to debtor status during this period, while the other Mediterranean countries saw a worsening of their ecological deficits. Cyprus experienced the largest deficit increase, and Jordan the smallest. Montenegro possibly remains the only ecological creditor in the region (Montenegro’s country data is incomplete), but its reserve is narrowing.
• Region’s biggest ecological debtors: In 2008, the five Mediterranean countries with the highest total ecological deficits were Italy, Spain, France, Turkey and Egypt.
• One exception to regional trends: Portugal was the sole country to have significantly narrowed its ecological deficit in recent years (an 18 percent per capita decrease between 1998 and 2008). But the country’s per capita deficit is still higher than the regional average.

For key findings of the report, please see Global Footprint Network’s policy brief, Why Are Resource Limits Undermining Economic Performance? (The brief is also available in French and Arabic translations.)

Today’s conference is expected to draw government finance, planning and environment representatives, NGOs and academics who wish to better understand the link between economic and environmental crises and debate potential solutions.

For more information about the initiative and Venice conference, see or contact:

Anne Rémy, WWF Mediterranean Programme,
Tel.: + 39 06 844 97 424

Irrigation of a strawberry field in Spain - an example of the subsidy programme undermining southern markets, and negatively impacting the environment
Irrigation of a strawberry field in Spain - an example of the subsidy programme undermining southern markets, and negatively impacting the environment
© WWF-Canon / Michel GUNTHER Enlarge

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