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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Life Sciences - Resource Economics

Dissertation of Majdi Gouja

Sustainable Resource Use in Wetlands of the Mediterranean: The Case of the Tunisian Island Djerba

Start: April 08
End: December 13

Due to the small size, limited resource endowment and steadily increasing anthropological pressure, and not at least the arid climate, the Tunisian island Djerba suffers from enormous ecological problems. The main driving force behind this dramatic change of the native insular system is the development of mass tourism and related economical activities as well as the establishment of infrastructures associated with this development. For finding solutions to these problems the Tunisian government has listed three vulnerable marine and coastal areas as humid zones on the RAMSAR List of Wetlands of International Importance.Despite this apparently positive development towards sustainable use of wetland resources, and the declared willingness to implement the normative of the Ramsar Convention, many conflict bounded and illegitimate nature-related Transactions in and, surrounding the insular Ramsar-Sites are still taking place, causing a strong interdependency between different user groups. For instance, physical transactions such as using destructive fishing methods by trawlers impacts small scale fishing activities, and therefor reduce their income opportunities. Sand removal from beaches will reduce the erosion control capacity of sand dunes and accelerate consequently see-level rise. Institutional transactions such as the non-implementing of environmental laws (interdiction of constructions on the Maritime Public Domain or interdiction of sand extraction) will enhance free-riding behavior of powerful actors like tourism entrepreneurs to annex parts of the public domain and so exclude local communities from getting benefits from recreation activities. Sand extraction will impact terrestrial biodiversity due to the impoverishment of the soil structure, which leads to yield reduction in farming systems. The overall objective of the research project is to explore how international policies, as a result of institutional change, can be implemented at local level, considering the social and institutional processes going on in the case study areas. Taking transaction as a unit of analysis and investigating their properties, will help understanding the interdependencies between different transactions and involved actors, and will contribute for setting up suitable institutional arrangements and coordination mechanisms for governing sustainably those transactions. The core analytical elements that should be considered in order to understand institutions are embedded in the Institutions of Sustainability (IoS) Framework, which focuses on “how to regularize human action that leads to transactions affecting the relationship between natural and social systems”. On the one hand this approach addresses nature-related transactions and the actors involved, on the other hand it includes the institutions and governance structures that emerge in social- ecological systems, and focuses on the interaction of these four variables in real action situations. Methods from empirical social science and comparative case study analysis are applied. The results will also be used for communication with Tunisian actors, especially decision makers.


Researcher: Gouja, Majdi

Advisors: Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Konrad Hagedorn / Dr. Christian Schleyer

Funding: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


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