INTERFASE, a research group of the Geography Department at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), was started in 1992 by Dr. Françoise Breton. The group has a long established reputation for delivering excellent research, particularly with regard to studies on coastal management and environmental issues. The group has closely collaborated with institutions such as the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the UNEP/MAP. One of its main achievements has been the coordination of the FP7 PEGASO project (http://www.pegasoproject.eu/), which designed integrated policies for the coastal, marine and maritime realms of the Mediterranean and Black Sea Basins. INTERFASE has also been the coordinator of several European Topic Centers (ETC) that have supported the work of the European Environment Agency: ETC on Terrestrial Environment, the ETC on Land Use and Spatial Information, the ETC on Spatial Information and Analysis, and the ETC on Urban Land and Soil Systems. As a consequence, today, INTERFASE researchers are present in relevant international networks and consultation bodies on international environmental management (EU Expert Group on ICZM or the Steering Committee of the International Geographic Union- Commission on Coastal Systems (IGU-CCS) or United Nations Environment Program – Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP).
In the last decade, and linked to the research developed by the group, together with the awareness of new developments in science and society internationally, the group has identified new challenges, which demand better integration of research and policy, in true interdisciplinary groups to produce salient, credible and legitimate knowledge. The shifting global economy has witnessed recurrent crisis, increasing social and economic inequality and poverty, growing environmental crisis despite dominant narratives on sustainability, and growing disposition of vulnerable groups (with special emphasis on the Mediterranean – in which the group has a long and consolidated research experience), together with a lack of real integration of research in the natural and social sciences, inform the scientific challenges of the INTERFASE group.
The group develops and expands its scope in order to elaborate a more holistic understanding of the interface between: 1) coastal areas and the socio-economic dynamics of their hinterlands; 2) governance decision-making processes and economic development strategies; 3) epistemic and methodological approaches of the natural and social sciencesINVESTIGADORA PRINCIPAL
The main tasks developed collaboratively by the team members within the research lines are:
1- Climate Change (CC) governance and spatial analysis: At different scales, the group a) develops and measures spatial indicators of vulnerability to climate change; b) analyzes the effects of CC on the stakeholders of coastal areas; and c) assesses the institutional capacity, including legislative capacity, to cope with the effects of CC in coastal areas.
2-Coastal and Marine Socioecological system dynamics: The focus of the research is to explore the internal (coast-sea) and external (hinterland-coast-sea) socio-ecological connectivity (impacts of human activities, use of resources and governance alternatives) of coastal-marine areas by: a) integrating analysis of coastal ecosystems which includes Cross-Border Cooperation (CBC) contexts. This task considers the sustainability of natural resources in different geographical locations as well as the study of differing political, economic and social agreements and norms which help manage coastal resources; b) analyzing coastal-marine ecosystem services, with particular emphasis on the complex processes from ecological functions to value production; and c) exploring socio-ecological connectivity of land-coast-sea territories, considering sustainable Blue growth. This task examines the existing environmental, social economic and political connections and the need to establish new multi-actor governance models that optimize sustainable use of resources.
3-Territorial sustainability and spatial restructuring: Our research includes two tasks: a) analysis of European land use trends and definitions of realistic actions to manage them in a sustainable way; and b) advancing the study of sustainable public policy and planning of the territorial system, and identifying facilitators and barriers for human development. This last task considers the governance system in place for the public institutions and policies proposed, alongside environmental thresholds, welfare and social justice as objectives of economic development. Such indicators may also be employed in cross-border contexts.
4-Urban processes and civil society: Linked to the previous tasks, is an orientation toward understanding and exploring the potential of new models of economic viability and urban governance. This activity assesses a) critical analysis of urban planning as a regulatory tool; b) advantages and shortcomings of new technologies to improve the management of cities; c) grassroots movements, community economies, bottom-up organizations and participatory methodologies in the co-production of policy; and d) cross-border partnerships and transboundary governance in urban processes.
5-Socioeconomic and environmental dimensions of tourism: The focus is on contributing to the understanding of the environmental, social and territorial impacts of tourism at different scales (European, national and local) by: a) spatially defining and characterizing the tourist activities and relating them to the documented impacts; b) analyzing agents and policies in decision making. This line of research defines measures to establish more sustainable tourism strategies/programs.
6-Epistemological and methodological advances in territorial sustainability: The aim is to conceptually develop new tools and approaches to integrate the different socio-ecological perspectives for the improvement of territorial analysis and governance of the land-coast-sea continuum. Drawing from Complexity Theory, Ecological Economics, Political Ecology and Political Geography, the group develops procedures to generate indicators, explore the different dimensions of uncertainty and value, and analyze the main narratives (and their interaction) in the context of territorial sustainability