Assessment of coastal vulnerability to climate change hazards at the regional scale: the case study of the North Adriatic Sea
Sea level rise, changes in storms and wave climate as a consequence of global climate change are expected to increase the size and magnitude of flooded and eroding coastal areas, thus having profound impacts on coastal communities and ecosystems. River deltas, beaches, estuaries and lagoons are considered particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, which should be studied at the regional/local scale. This paper presents a regional vulnerability assessment (RVA) methodology developed to analyse site-specific spatial information on coastal vulnerability to the envisaged effects of global climate change, and assist coastal communities in operational coastal management and conservation. The main aim of the RVA is to identify key vulnerable receptors (i.e. natural and human ecosystems) in the considered region and localize vulnerable hot spot areas, which could be considered as homogeneous geographic sites for the definition of adaptation strategies. The application of the RVA methodology is based on a heterogeneous subset of bio-geophysical and socio-economic vulnerability indicators (e.g. coastal topography, geomorphology, presence and distribution of vegetation cover, location of artificial protection), which are a measure of the potential harm from a range of climate-related impacts (e.g. sea level rise inundation, storm surge flooding, coastal erosion). Based on a system of numerical weights and scores, the RVA provides relative vulnerability maps that allow to prioritize more vulnerable areas and targets of different climate-related impacts in the examined region and to support the identification of suitable areas for human settlements, infrastructures and economic activities, providing a basis for coastal zoning and land use planning. The implementation, performance and results of the methodology for the coastal area of the North Adriatic Sea (Italy) are fully described in the paper.