Maltese Islands: human pressure and induced changes
The high human pressures on the Maltese islands - 380 000 people, 1.4 million tourists yr-1 - have led directly and indirectly to the degradation of the littoral environment in several senses. It appears that sea-turtles have not nested on the island of Gozo island (Ramla Bay) for the last 80 years due to human disturbance; infrastructure development has altered sediment flows along the coast, dune systems have been destabilised and are greatly reduced in extent.
Since 1957, when the islands were identified as a potential tourist destination, various activities relating to recreation and tourist development have been undertaken in many areas on the littoral. The planting of alien species has often led to direct competition with indigenous species. With regard to the dunes, at least one species (Ammophila arenaria) has been subsequently extirpated. It is hoped that regeneration of the dunes and restoration of the indigenous binding dune vegetation will be possible.
Ramla beach in Gozo, in the mouth of a fluvially eroded valley, has been subject to heavy and increasing pressure from agricultural activities throughout the local watershed, and much damming upstream has occurred. Much of the dune area (70 - 80%) has been reclaimed for agriculture, and damming has reduced sediment flow in the area. Intense mechanical beach cleaning has caused the extirpation of Ammophila (not recorded for some decades).