Total vulnerability of the littoral zone to climate change-driven natural hazards in north Brittany, France

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Mar 1:706:135963. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.135963. Epub 2019 Dec 7.


Current worldwide projections of sea-level rise show a staggering increase in water level of up to 2 m by 2100 owing to global warming exacerbated by anthropogenically induced climate change. While amplified rates of sea-level rise is an immense hazard to coastal communities, storm surges are expected to increase in intensity and frequency making it an equally significant threat to coastal populations. In France, these hazards are not uncommon with records of extreme tempests every thousand years in the Holocene. Despite these recurring devastating events, in the Bay of Saint-Brieuc, Brittany, legislated laws for coastal management do not entirely focus on protecting littoral zones from such calamities. 130,739 people are concentrated in 21 municipalities with major cities located at close proximity to the shoreline with numerous socio-economic activities, which increases the vulnerability of the coastal population and infrastructures; thus, affirming the indispensable need of a thorough vulnerability assessment. Here, we conduct a mechanistic appraisal of the vulnerability of the bay considering thirteen parameters within three governing sub-systems that demonstrate the multidimensional dynamics in these municipalities. In the occasion of an extreme climatic event, our results of total vulnerability show risks in the sub-systems highlighting erosional processes due to augmented hydrodynamics, socio-economic and administrative vulnerabilities associated with anthropogenic development. Eight municipalities of the bay portray moderate to very high vulnerability and the remaining exhibits a lower risk; however, not devoid of high vulnerabilities for certain sub-systems. We posit that a more accurate fit for predicting the total vulnerability of the region can be achieved by exclusively integrating physical-natural and administrative sub-system vulnerabilities. We propose generic but requisite recommendations for Integrated Coastal Zone Management such as surveillance of urban development along the coast, implementation of coastal defense systems and appropriate industrial corridors to attenuate and dispose hazardous refuse.

Keywords: Climate change; Coastal erosion; France; Natural hazards; Sea-level rise; Vulnerability index.