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Monitoring and modelling coastal lagoons: making management tools for aquatic resources in north africa


A major dissemination activity of the project was the ECOLLAW (Environmental Change in Lakes, Lagoons and Wetlands of the Southern Mediterranean Region) conference ( held in Cairo in January 2006. The conference was designed to provide an important forum for presenting project results to a wide international audience and promoting discussion of the science, management and conservation of aquatic ecosystems in the Mediterranean region. The conference was attended by 120 persons from more than 12 countries and was opened by a Minister of State. During the conference Melmarina representatives visited the Port Said Governorate Headquarters to discuss management of Lake Manzala.
The project�s web site ( served a number of functions throughout the project and continues to act as a source of information for the general public. During the project if facilitated communication between project partners. This included the exchange and review of both primary and secondary data using password protected internal pages. Access to these primary data sets to a wider audience will be provided in the second half of 2006 when scientific paper writing will be completed. The web site also provided a mechanism for publicising the project and associated activities such as the close of project conference. The proceedings of the latter are now online.
Historical data for each primary site were complied from a number of sources in each country. The secondary historical data comprised cartographic maps, aerial photographs, relevant scientific publications, hydroclimatological data (including precipitation, temperature, wind speed and direction, inflowing river flow and pumping station records, tidal elevation), historical water chemistry, vegetation and fish surveys. All data collected in this way were incorporated within a GIS (within ArcView 3.2) and time series data base developed for each primary site. These data bases formed the basis for storing additional primary data collected as part Melmarina field activities and were used for visualising spatial data and preparing data for inclusion within the modelling and remote sensing work.
In Cairo in April 2004 approximately 50 mainly Egyptian scientists attended a one day conference convened at the British Council Offices in Agouza, Cairo. Considerable interest was expressed in the EU Water Framework Directive and its applicability in part to water quality problem in Egypt. The Melmarina project and its activities were summarized by project partners. Themes presented included hydro-ecological monitoring, GIS, remote sensing, modelling and aquatic ecology. The proceedings of this workshop are available on-line, through the Melmarina web site.
Three primary sites were designated, one in each North African country. They were Ghar el Melh (Tunisia), Merja Zerga (Morocco) and Lake Manzala (Egypt. Two secondary sites were originally designated in each country to provide context for the primary sites (Tunisia: Lac de Korba and Halk el Mijil; Morocco: Sidi Bou Rhaba and Lagoon Nador; Egypt: Bardawil and Qarun, the latter lake replaced Burullus, see Problems Encountered below). Site selection was achieved through extensive discussions of all project partners. For each primary lagoon, base-line environmental site surveys were undertaken in order to establish existing monitoring activites (if present) and to facilitate the design of project monitoring and sampling activities. North African partners led this work for their respective sites. A methods protocol was established within the first three months of the project and adjusted where necessary during following project workshops. Water chemistry analysis performance between North African laboratories was regulated by distributing test samples for independent analysis with known concentrations of dissolved ions.
Review of the available remote sensing data for the three primary sites was undertaken and Landsat TM imagery for each of the sites acquired. Imagery was subjected to geometric correction using ground control points (GCPs) and polynomial transformations. At the complex Lake Manzala the many vegetated islands were identified using spectral-radiometric differences visible on the images. Unsupervised classification of imagery was undertaken in order to establish major ecological zones that were compared to field surveys. This permitted the partial identification of the vegetation communities represented by each zone. Techniques developed to classify contemporary remote sensing imagery were subsequently applied to a number of historical images (for example seven Landsat images in the case of Lake Manzala). In the case of Ghar el Melh, Landsat TM imagery was supplemented by Aster and SPOT images as well as older aerial photographs. Aerial photographs were also available for Merja Zerga. Imagery was employed to distinguish changes in the distribution of aquatic vegetation and open water within the sites. It was also employed to investigate changes in the large-scale configurations of the sites such as modifications to outlets with the sea and reclamation activities. The specialist software, SHYLOC(System for HYdrology using Land Observation for model Calibration) designed to evaluate channel water levels from remote sensing data was evaluated on the channel network of the floodplain (the Utique Plain) west of Ghar el Melh in Tunisia. Observations of channel width at a number of locations were compared with satellite derived indices of channel width for the corresponding locations using an ASTER image from the summer of 2003.