Scientists from Spain, Ireland, France and Portugal presented a set of tools at the Vigo campus on Thursday, with a view to reinforcing capacities of authorities in the Atlantic regions, when managing coastal risks and to raise citizens awareness on this problem. The tools are a part of the fruits of the work carried out by nearly 100 scientists belonging to the Atlantic Network for Coastal Risk Management who chose Vigo to hold their national conference.
The meeting, organised by the University of Vigo with collaboration from CETMAR, and under the auspices of the Campus do Mar, served as a framework for presenting three deliverables: a good practices manual for decision making when faced with a coastal risk, a document outlining alternative solutions for coastal protection, and an educational guide directed towards raising citizens awareness of this problem.
“The type of economic use we are subjecting the coast to, and the overpopulation present exert a constant pressure on the ecosystems there”, highlighted the Vigo coordinator and scientist Ms. Ana Bernabeu who was present at the inauguration ceremony together with Ms. Raquel Diez, from CETMAR. Both persons insisted on working towards achieving greater social awareness, especially among managers, since “they are the ones responsible for decision making on issues such as sustainable development that is so badly needed”. The Deputy Vice-chancellor of UVigo, Ms. Asunción Longo and the Director of the Campus do Mar, Mr. Emilio Fernández who were also present at the event, stressed on the need to protect the coastal zone which is rich and varied but fragile and coveted.
Mr. Emilio Fernández emphasised that one of the four research clusters of the Campus do Mar is centred precisely on comprehensive management of the coastal zone, which is “the fundamental pillar on which this project rests”. Within this context, the Campus do Mar Director informed those attending that there are about 500 PhD researchers involved with this Campus of Excellence research cluster, who produced about 2500 papers in the last 5 years in JCR journals, and defended about 200 theses. They accounted for more than 140 Million Euros in public and private funds. The Director added: “We will now make good use of your work within this line of action by incorporating your conclusions and the general outlines arrived at”.
Advice on decision making to help authorities
These experts said that erosion, wind damage, coastal flooding, water quality, climate change, sea level rise, and natural disasters including tsunamis, are the principal coastal risks of the Atlantic region and that these are “not always taken into account during the territorial planning process “. In the document entitled Decision making and coastal risks: a guide to best practices we can find current references to management of coastal risks at both the European and international level. Also included are mechanisms used at state level in Spain, France, Italy and Portugal. “The book also contains practical advice to help managers to make effective decisions on coastal risks during territorial planning”, highlights Ms. Ana Bernabeu, who is a member of GEOMA at the University of Vigo.
The participants in this meeting stressed that multiple “hard” defences were applied during the past years to mitigate coastal erosion and marine flooding. However, we can also foresee “soft” solutions being used in places such as dunes, beaches, cliffs and salt marshes. The document Alternative solutions for protecting the coastline, which was presented today, exhaustively covers the “soft” alternatives that managers can use to manage the coastal zone to overcome the present day coastal risks.
Also presented during the morning was the Educational guide to raising awareness on coastal risks. This document provides clear explanations to a non-expert public on the coastal risks present in the European Atlantic Space regions. The document includes a general guide, and another more specific one on “coastal risks in my area”, which is directed towards local authorities. It also contains a glossary and a guide for school children aged 14 to 17, aimed at promoting a better understanding and awareness about coastal risks.