African heritage sites threatened as sea-level rise accelerates

Michalis I. Vousdoukas, Joanne Clarke, Roshanka Ranasinghe, Lena Reimann, Nadia Khalaf, Trang Minh Duong, Birgitt Ouweneel, Salma Sabour, Carley E. Iles, Christopher H. Trisos, Luc Feyen, Lorenzo Mentaschi, Nicholas P. Simpson

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Abstract

The African coast contains heritage sites of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ that face increasing risk from anthropogenic climate change. Here, we generated a database of 213 natural and 71 cultural African heritage sites to assess exposure to coastal flooding and erosion under moderate (RCP 4.5) and high (RCP 8.5) greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Currently, 56 sites (20%) are at risk from a 1-in-100-year coastal extreme event, including the iconic ruins of Tipasa (Algeria) and the North Sinai Archaeological Sites Zone (Egypt). By 2050, the number of exposed sites is projected to more than triple, reaching almost 200 sites under high emissions. Emissions mitigation from RCP 8.5 to RCP 4.5 reduces the number of very highly exposed sites by 25%. These findings highlight the urgent need for increased climate change adaptation for heritage sites in Africa, including governance and management approaches, site-specific vulnerability assessments, exposure monitoring, and protection strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256–262
Number of pages7
JournalNature Climate Change
Volume12
Issue number3
Early online date10 Feb 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

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