A European project studies the adaptation of coastal areas to climatic change
José Pichel Andrés/DICYT The ADAPT-MED European project is analysing the adaptation of coastal areas to climatic change by concentrating on three study areas: the Baixo Vouga Lagunar of the Ría de Aveiro in Portugal; the Provence-Alps-Côte d'Azur region in France; and the island of Crete in Greece. The initiative concentrates on studying the perceptions of key players for the development of policies and strategies to allow the incorporation of measures and to help coastal areas to be better prepared for the consequences of climatic change.
The Centre of Environmental and Marine Studies (Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do Mar, CESAM) of the University of Aveiro and the ISCTE-Instituto Universitario of Lisbon are studying the case of Portugal in the Baixo Vouga Lagunar area of the Ría de Aveiro. “Coastal areas are especially vulnerable to extreme climatic phenomena”, the researcher Ana Isabel Lillebø declared to DiCYT.
The following occurrences can be particularly serious: erosion, the retreat of the coastline owing to a rise in sea level, salt water entering estuaries and surrounding land, and all the implications of these phenomena for the human activities taking place along the coast.
The conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are worrying for society in general and “in Europe there are already signs” that the alterations anticipated are being fulfilled such as changes in temperature and precipitation and also the rise in sea level.
The fifth report of the IPCC indicates that in the south of Portugal the air temperature increased by between 0.4 and 1.5 degrees centigrade from 1901 to 2012. The average temperature of the oceans also increased by between 0.21º and 0.30º between 1979 and 2006. “It is anticipated that these trends will influence the risks associated with climate”, the CESAM expert points out: "in the Mediterranean area we expect drought, heat waves, a scarcity of freshwater, a rise in the average sea level, and extreme climatic phenomena such as intense precipitation, the flooding of rivers, major storms, and coastal erosion”.
In order to minimise the consequences of these effects of climatic change, adaptation processes have been set in motion which must be taken into account in any activity related to territorial management. The ADAPT-MED project is collaborating with the social agents in order to analyse the measures that are already being implemented and above all to study what should be done so that the different areas can increase their capacity to face the new circumstances and be less vulnerable to the changes.
For example, the measures proposed as territorial management instruments for the Aveiro area include a storm alert system, interventions in the river drainage network and irrigation, and the construction of coastal protection structures. The three areas included in the European project will be affected by the rise in sea level to varying degrees, and the possible impacts and the measures that can be applied also vary.
The directors of ADAPT-MED hold interviews, surveys, and workshops with various social agents. In these activities problems are brought up and debates are held on the climatic alterations, their effects, and the adaptations that are needed to face them. The objective is to identify the major steps, mechanisms, and strategies that can be applied. For this purpose changes in management policies and tools are proposed. All this will be included in a document that is already being drawn up.
The project is led by the consultancy ACTeon from France and as well as the University of Aveiro also includes the Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (BRGM) of France, the ISCTE-Instituto Universitário of Lisbon, Portugal, and the University of Athens in Greece.