Ecosystem services at risk in Italy from coastal inundation under extreme sea level scenarios up to 2050: A spatially resolved approach supporting climate change adaptation

Integr Environ Assess Manag. 2022 Apr 16. doi: 10.1002/ieam.4620. Online ahead of print.


According to the latest projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, at the end of the century, coastal zones and low-lying ecosystems will be increasingly threatened by rising global mean sea levels. In order to support integrated coastal zone management and advance the basic "source-pathway-receptor-consequence" approach focused on traditional receptors (e.g., population, infrastructure, and economy), a novel risk framework is proposed able to evaluate potential risks of loss or degradation of ecosystem services (ESs) due to projected extreme sea level scenarios in the Italian coast. Three risk scenarios for the reference period (1969-2010) and future time frame up to 2050 under RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 are developed by integrating extreme water-level projections related to changing climate conditions, with vulnerability information about the topography, distance from coastlines, and presence of artificial protections. A risk assessment is then performed considering the potential effects of the spatial-temporal variability of inundations and land use on the supply level and spatial distribution of ESs. The results of the analysis are summarized into a spatially explicit risk index, useful to rank coastal areas more prone to ESs losses or degradation due to coastal inundation at the national scale. Overall, the Northern Adriatic coast is scored at high risk of ESs loss or degradation in the future scenario. Other small coastal strips with medium risk scores are the Eastern Puglia coast, Western Sardinia, and Tuscany's coast. The ESs Coastal Risk Index provides an easy-to-understand screening assessment that could support the prioritization of areas for coastal adaptation at the national scale. Moreover, this index allows the direct evaluation of the public value of ecosystems and supports more effective territorial planning and environmental management decisions. In particular, it could support the mainstreaming of ecosystem-based approaches (e.g., ecological engineering and green infrastructures) to mitigate the risks of climate change and extreme events while protecting ecosystems and biodiversity. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2022;00:1-14. © 2021 SETAC.

Keywords: Climate change; Coastal flooding; Ecosystem services; Risk assessment; Sea level rise.