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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 17, issue 3 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 449-466, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-17-449-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 21 Mar 2017

Research article | 21 Mar 2017

Assessment of island beach erosion due to sea level rise: the case of the Aegean archipelago (Eastern Mediterranean)

Isavela N. Monioudi1, Adonis F. Velegrakis1, Antonis E. Chatzipavlis1, Anastasios Rigos1,2, Theophanis Karambas3, Michalis I. Vousdoukas4,1, Thomas Hasiotis1, Nikoletta Koukourouvli5, Pascal Peduzzi6, Eva Manoutsoglou1, Serafim E. Poulos7, and Michael B. Collins8 Isavela N. Monioudi et al.
  • 1Department of Marine Sciences, University of the Aegean, University Hill, 81100 Mytilene, Greece
  • 2Department of Cultural Technology and Communication, University of the Aegean, University Hill, Mytilene 81100, Greece
  • 3School of Civil Engineering, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, University Campus, 54124 Thessaloniki, Greece
  • 4European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC), Directorate for Space, Security and Migration Disaster Risk Management Unit, Via E. Fermi 2749, 21027 Ispra (VA), Italy
  • 5Department of Geography, University of the Aegean, University Hill, 81100 Mytilene, Greece
  • 6UNEP/DEWA/GRID-Geneva, International Environment House, 11 Chemin des Anémones, 1219 Châtelaine, Switzerland
  • 7Faculty of Geology and Geoenvironment, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Panepistimioupoli Zografou, 15784 Athens, Greece
  • 8Plentziako Itsas Estazioa, University of the Basque Country, Areatza z/g, 48620 Plentzia-Bizkaia, Spain

Abstract. The present contribution constitutes the first comprehensive attempt to (a) record the spatial characteristics of the beaches of the Aegean archipelago (Greece), a critical resource for both the local and national economy, and (b) provide a rapid assessment of the impacts of the long-term and episodic sea level rise (SLR) under different scenarios. Spatial information and other attributes (e.g., presence of coastal protection works and backshore development) of the beaches of the 58 largest islands of the archipelago were obtained on the basis of remote-sensed images available on the web. Ranges of SLR-induced beach retreats under different morphological, sedimentological and hydrodynamic forcing, and SLR scenarios were estimated using suitable ensembles of cross-shore (1-D) morphodynamic models. These ranges, combined with empirically derived estimations of wave run-up induced flooding, were then compared with the recorded maximum beach widths to provide ranges of retreat/erosion and flooding at the archipelago scale. The spatial information shows that the Aegean pocket beaches may be particularly vulnerable to mean sea level rise (MSLR) and episodic SLRs due to (i) their narrow widths (about 59% of the beaches have maximum widths <20m), (ii) their limited terrestrial sediment supply, (iii) the substantial coastal development and (iv) the limited existing coastal protection. Modeling results indeed project severe impacts under mean and episodic SLRs, which by 2100 could be devastating. For example, under MSLR of 0.5m – representative concentration pathway (RCP) 4.5 of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) – a storm-induced sea level rise of 0.6m is projected to result in a complete erosion of between 31 and 88% of all beaches (29–87% of beaches are currently fronting coastal infrastructure and assets), at least temporarily. Our results suggest a very considerable risk which will require significant effort, financial resources and policies/regulation in order to protect/maintain the critical economic resource of the Aegean archipelago.

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This work constitutes the first comprehensive attempt to record the spatial characteristics of the Aegean island beaches (Greece) and assess the long-term and episodic sea level rise (SLR) impacts under different scenarios. Results suggest that Aegean beaches may be particularly vulnerable to SLRs, where severe impacts which could be devastating are projected by 2100. Appropriate coastal "setback zone" policies should be adopted, as they form a significant environmental and economic resource.
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