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Global change and regional and local implications

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Climate change is a global phenomenon, with differing local and regional manifestations throughout Europe. The watersheds, coasts and marine areas of Europe, more specifically the Mediterranean Sea, and South Atlantic Ocean are focused upon here, but all regions of the world are being impacted. The polar and equatorial regions are experiencing the earliest and greatest impacts. Small island states and less developed continents such as Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America are also vulnerable to change and will experience difficulties in adapting. Depending on the region, watershed and sea, the local vulnerabilities and resilience, coastal and marine ecosystems will respond in different ways to the combination of human uses and developments, and climatic change.

Coral reefs, marine fisheries and marine resources will be affected by climate change and variability. Small islands with a large Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) already have a limited capacity to manage that zone, and these management issues will be compounded by climate change. Subsistence and commercial agriculture on small islands will be impacted by sea level rise due to flooding, salt water intrusion into fresh water, salination of the soils, and declines in water quality and quantity. Infrastructure and developments in all regions will be affected by sea level rise and extreme events, which affects tourism, agriculture, transportation and the delivery of health, fresh water, food and other essential services.

In common with many parts of the equatorial and tropical world, human health is also impacted by climate change. For example, diarrhoea will increase with increases in temperature and deterioration of water in the Pacific. Vector-bourne diseases like dengue fever and malaria will increase, with the Caribbean islands being at greater risk. Shortages of water and drought, as well as contamination of water quality during floods and storms, will increase disease risk, including cholera, diarrhoea and dengue fever.

Climate change is one factor but not the only factor or, in most cases the primary factor affecting coastal and marine management. Human uses and developments have the biggest impacts on coasts and marine resources. However, climate change has and will cause additional and unforeseeable impacts for coasts and marine resources. Along with other factors, climate change needs to be considered by businesses, local authorities and NGOs when planning sustainable tourist developments.

There is considerable research and practical projects currently underway examining impacts on climate change at a global and European level. For example, there is the European climate change and sustainable tourism initiative under the European Network of Coastal Practitioners, the UN-affiliated World Tourism Association, and the Djerba Declaration on Tourism and Climate Change.

Considering vulnerable European regions, the Mediterranean Sea is a largely enclosed sea, with high temperature and salinity, and decreasing fresh water due to dams and river diversions. Under the changing climate regime, sea surface temperatures and salinity will increase. Biodiversity, conservation, water quality, water quantity and seasonal flows will be significantly affected. The negative impacts of pollution and nutrient into waters may increase. Depending on the local characteristics, erosion, sediment deposition, drought, desertification and flooding may intensify or shift.

Coastal and beach tourism is an important source of income in the Mediterranean and south Atlantic regions. The ongoing economic viability of many regions and local communities will depend on an acceptable balance being tourist development and the maintenance of the coastal and marine ecosystems that tourism activity depends upon.

References

Case Study: Climate Change and European Coast and Beach Management, 2006, Completed by M.A.K.Muir for EU-funded Coastal Practise Network (CoPraNet)
The main author of this article is Magdalena Muir
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.