As a consequence of their location between land and open sea, Southern European coastal lagoons are characterized by large fluctuations in meteorological, physical and chemical conditions, including highly variable freshwater inputs rich in organic and mineral nutrients derived from urban, agricultural and/or industrial effluents and domestic sewage. Furthermore, Southern European lagoons are particularly vulnerable to strong anthropogenic pressures due to mass tourism, often poorly conceived urbanization, industrial and intensive agricultural pressures, and large fluctuations in precipitation. Moreover, they can suffer from multiple and uncoordinated land-use modifications undertaken with only limited sectorial objectives in mind. Structural changes in lagoon topography, artificial increase of the number of sea connections, changes in bathymetry, and construction of marinas etc. often contribute to important ecosystem changes over the long-term.

Special emphasis will be devoted to the discussion of different aspects of integrated watershed-lagoon-coastal functioning: lagoon fluid dynamics, river runoff influence, ecology, nutrient and other contaminant cycles, shellfish farming, macro-algal blooms, as well as the economical implications. Practical aspects such as the appropriate time and space scale to monitor the relevant river basin-coastal lagoon processes and the need for tools to help regional or national authorities in developing optimised and cost effective monitoring programmes should be examined.

A further important consideration is how best to develop techniques for assessing the effectiveness of measures designed to achieve a good quality status of waters, as described in the WFD. Is it possible to apply regional or global bioindicators to address the issue of a rigorous definition of "good ecological status" which has been introduced in the Directive?