Integrated study of sandy coasts in the Atlantic coast of the northwest Iberian Peninsula. Geomorphic vulnerability and climate change scenarios.

The coastal zone is a complex environment, influenced by the interaction of atmospheric, hydrodynamic and sedimentary processes. In particular, sandy littoral sectors or beaches, constitute areas with a particularly critical dynamic equilibrium and sensitive to any alteration, being continuously subjected to the variations of the forcings. The presence of dunes and beaches is of crucial importance, because they constitute very dynamic morphosedimentary units where erosion and seasonal sedimentation alternate, and actively protect the coast from different impacts.

Main objective

The main objective of the ENCLAVE proposal is the implementation of a coastal vulnerability model, which allows the forecast of morphodynamic alterations in response to wave forcing, in order to protect the coastline and/or alert the population.

Project Outputs

The results will support the decision makers and authorities in making strategic decisions and in sustainable coastal management. In addition, the project will strengthen the collaboration between research centres of the North Region of Portugal and Galicia. Finally, it will promote the basis for future Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS).

The development of specific adaptation strategies in response to storm events requires a precise understanding of the physical processes involved on the coast.

In this perspective, the postdoctoral project started and carried out between 2016 and 2019 allowed the observation, analysis and description of the morphological processes of the coast. The collection of an extensive field database (more than 50 surveys between bathymetry and beach-dune profiles) enabled the understanding of the interaction between hydrodynamics and morphology on the coast. The project was developed in two beaches of Galicia and Portugal combining several oceanographic technologies and equipment belonging to the groups GEOMA – University of Vigo and CESAM – University of Aveiro.

In the context of climate change, the increase in the number of storms, associated with the rise in mean sea level, can have a devastating impact, causing extensive erosion, flooding and damage to beaches, in addition to endangering human occupation and causing economic losses. For this reason, additionally to field observations, an important component is the development of specific tools capable of predicting the impacts of storms.

The reduction of hazards in coastal areas is a priority recognized worldwide and in particular for the European management, as it is included in the global reports for climate change (IPCC, 2021) and in the regional and community strategies of the social challenges exposed in Horizon 2020 assumed by the Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy.