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PARTNERSHIPS FOR ENHANCED ENGAGEMENT IN RESEARCH (PEER)
Cycle 8 (2019 Deadline)


An integrated modeling approach for sustainable development for the Ichkeul Lake (eco-tourism and aquaculture): IMAS-Ichkeul

PI: Béchir Béjaoui (bejaoui.bechir@gmail.com), National Institute of Marine Sciences and Technologies
U.S. Partner: Hamidreza Norouzi, The City University of New York, New York City College of Technology (funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
Project dates: December 2019 - November 2020

Project Overview:

In northern Tunisia, near the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, Ichkeul Lake and its wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in Tunisia. It is an important stopping point for migratory birds (Ramsar, 2012), and it is also an ecologically sensitive environment exhibiting enormous diversity due to its geographical location, hydrology, biodiversity, and soil characteristics (Chakroun et al., 2014). Several dams have been built on rivers flowing into the lake, and the resulting decrease of freshwater supply into the lake has allowed for a greater backflow of water from the sea, thus impacting the main fishing activity in the lake by decreasing the eel stock. During the dry season, the water level falls to 30 cm depth while the salinity increases significantly. Fish production has decreased from 110 tons in 2007 to 43 tons in 2011 (Derouiche et al., 2015; DGPA, 2017). In addition, the decrease of the water level has affected the food supply for migratory birds in the area (Hamdi et al., 2012). These problematic issues clearly call for careful investigation and the development of decision tools. Thus, this IMAS-Ichkeul project is focused on water management in the Ichkeul region. Dr. Béjaoui and his colleagues will investigate interrelationships among constraints on water and the supporting ecosystems under conditions of global climate and socioeconomic change in order to provide socially and environmentally sustainable growth. They will try to establish a new methodological framework for the quantitative and participatory exploration and assessment of integrated water resources management strategies. In addition, they will develop an advanced class of integrated models and support tools for decision makers, taking into account biophysical and socioeconomic drivers and governance integration for the management of Ichkeul.

Stakeholder engagement will be a key priority. Moreover, the project is embedded in an active and engaged network of Tunisian scientists at three public institutions with a long history of research and development and regular cooperation with private stakeholders, governmental agencies, local NGOs. The project focuses both on human benefits and on the potential side effects on the ecosystem. Stakeholders have an important role in implementing and monitoring actions to be undertaken. Their commitment and involvement in an integrated management plan for the site should help to guarantee the efficiency and the sustainability of the project. Throughout the project, a participatory approach will be used in order to implement feasible scenarios such as fresh water input, fishing control, infrastructures to be set up, etc. The various stakeholders are keen to obtain a dashboard of the integrated consequences of the site management that takes into account as much as possible the full complexity of the interaction among the different components affecting the site. The toolkit to be implemented will permit simulations of different scenarios for the site’s management involving all the stakeholders and all the dimensions. The results will be a set of ready-to-implement feasible policies for the stakeholders to accept or adopt.


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