Algarve Region





Conflict case


Barrier islands - Ria Formosa Natural Park


The Algarve, with 499,474.06 ha, is the southernmost region of Portugal. This case study will be focused mainly on the Algarve´s coastal municipalities of Albufeira, Loulé, Faro and Olhão. These municipalities were chosen because of their touristic importance - the Algarve is a most popular touristic “sun and sea” holiday destination and encompasses circa 35% of overnights in accommodation facilities in all of mainland Portugal - and relationship with the protected area of Ria Formosa. Due to its dimension and structural complexity, Ria Formosa is the most important wetland in the South of Portugal, and is protected by Portuguese law. It has a large diversity of biotopes - lagoon and terrestrial habitats- holding an exceptional natural and ecological value: priority Site of Community Importance - (SCI) Ria Formosa/Castro Marim (PTCON0013); Special Protected Area- SPA Ria Formosa (PTZPE0017); Ramsar Convention; Berna Convention; Corine Biotope (CORINE/85/338/CEE).

The main pressures on the environment are driven by the touristic activities that are mainly located on the coastline. The critical issues related with tourism are linked with its seasonality, urban pressure triggered by the need to provide accommodation facilities, accessibilities and recreational activities, which are often located on risk areas due to coastal erosion. The conflicts depicted by tourism in the Algarve coastline are well known are derive from an intense and continuous human pressure over some coastal areas: i) over-carried capacity of the Infrastructures in tourist resorts and urban areas; ii) overuse of natural resources to meet the touristic demand; iii) overuse of territory for human activities; iv) unsatisfactory solutions to the requalification and renovation of consolidated urban areas in harmony with natural resources.

However, a critical change in the modus operandi that has, so far, driven tourism in this region, and that could contribute to solve some of those issues, has not yet emerged. Based on this rationale, the analysis underlying this case study will explore issues such as the touristic land use and coastline sustainability, the environmental sustainability of the Ria Formosa Natural Park and the human and natural risks which menace the barrier islands.

In a tourist region such as the Algarve, the future relies in the ability to keep the destination competitive at a global scale, by providing environmental friendly and sustainable solutions.

Algarve_urban_sprawl Algarve_coastal_erosion