Welcome to PAP/RAC Mediterranean Coastal Alert! This newsletter is regularly updated monthly. It contains abstracts of selected current articles and archives on various environmental themes, in particular those dealing with all aspects of coastal issues. The selection is made from the articles published in the leading international scientific journals. This newsletter is an excellent way of keeping you updated with coastal studies and processes.

In this issue Issue No. 12, 2010-10-01

An assessment of coastal land-use and land-cover change from 1974–2008 in the vicinity of Mobile Bay, Alabama
(Abstract...)

Coastal construction trends in response to coastal erosion: an opportunity for adaptation
(Abstract...)

Assessing vulnerability to sea-level rise using a coastal sensitivity index: a case study from southeast Australia
(Abstract...)

Spatial indeterminacy and the construction of environmental knowledge
(Abstract...)

Abstract

An assessment of coastal land-use and land-cover change from 1974–2008 in the vicinity of Mobile Bay, Alabama

The purpose of this research is to quantify and assess geospatial land-use and land-cover (LULC) changes in the coastal counties of Mobile and Baldwin, Alabama using nine Landsat images from 1974–2008. A study-specific classification scheme was devised comprising upland herbaceous, upland forest, non-woody and woody wetlands, open water, and urban categories. Upland forest was the most dominant terrestrial cover type. Wetlands averaged 17% and urban averaged 7%. A majority of the urban expansion occurred between 1974 and 1979 (26%). Thirty-four percent of the 2008 urban areas were upland forest in 1974. Watershed-scale analysis of Three Mile Creek and D’Olive Bay highlights the temporal and spatial differences of urbanization for watersheds found within the same region. This study is a Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) Application Pilot project that uses NASA data products to benefit coastal environmental managers and community members. Results have led to increased effectiveness of coastal conservation decision-making, increased understanding of post-hurricane LULC change, continued research on habitat change impacts, and contributed to timely conservation planning efforts. This study has benefited the development of watershed management plans by the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, which is especially important given projected climate change.

Keywords: Urbanization; Climate change; Coastal management; Land-use planning.

Source: J. T. Ellis, J. P. Spruce, R. A. Swann, J. C. Smoot and K. W. Hilbert (2010), “An assessment of coastal land-use and land-cover change from 1974–2008 in the vicinity of Mobile Bay, Alabama”, Journal of Coastal Conservation; Online First: 14 September 2010.

Contact: jtellis@mailbox.sc.edu

Link: SpringerLink

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Coastal construction trends in response to coastal erosion: an opportunity for adaptation

In Florida, more than half of the state’s sandy beach coastlines are designated as critical erosion areas by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP 2008). At the same time, the economic contribution of coastal construction is being confounded by the fiscal peril facing Florida (Bird in Ann Geomorph 57:1–9, 1985, Pew Center on the States 2009, U.S BEA 2009). It is therefore an opportune time for an evaluation of coastal erosion policy response which specifically addresses coastal construction. Furthermore in Florida, an increasing coastal population requiring the provision of structural development necessitates an improved understanding of how legislative intent which avoids the cumulative impacts of development is translated through quantified policy response. This study characterizes how coastal development trends in Florida have responded to critical erosion designation. Using spatial and temporal analysis of coastal construction permitting data from 1987 to 2007, three coastal counties in northwest Florida were selected for this study. This selection was based on proximity to the designated ecologically sensitive Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR). This study has indicated that clusters of development have not been reduced or redirected by critical erosion designation in certain areas of the study counties. Therefore this study has implications for the regulatory framework governing coastal development permitting in Florida, which is of timely relevance for sea-level rise adaptation.

Keywords: Coastal erosion; Coastal development; Climate change adaptation; Florida; National Estuarine Research Reserves.

Source: A. Marshall, L. Robinson and M. A. Owens (2010), “Coastal construction trends in response to coastal erosion: an opportunity for adaptation”, Journal of Coastal Conservation; Received: 28 April 2010; Revised: 9 August 2010; Accepted: 12 August 2010; Online First: 14 September 2010.

Contact: Ariana1.marshall@famu.edu

Link: SpringerLink

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Assessing vulnerability to sea-level rise using a coastal sensitivity index: a case study from southeast Australia

Many of the world’s coasts appear vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. This paper assesses the application of a coastal sensitivity index (CSI) to the Illawarra coast, a relatively well-studied shoreline in southeast Australia. Nine variables, namely (a) rock type, (b) coastal slope, (c) geomorphology, (d) barrier type, (e) shoreline exposure, (f) shoreline change, (g) relative sea-level rise, (h) mean wave height and (j) mean tide range, were adopted in calculation of the CSI (the square root of the product of the ranked variables divided by the number of variables). Two new variables, shoreline exposure and barrier type, were trialled in this analysis and the extent to which these increased the discriminatory power of the index was assessed. Four iterations of the CSI were undertaken using different combinations of ranked variables for each of 105 cells in a grid template, and the index values derived were displayed based on quartiles, indicating sections of coast with very high, high, moderate and low sensitivity. Increasing the number of variables increased the discriminatory power of the index, but the broad pattern and the rank order were very similar for each of the iterations. Rocky and cliffed sections of coast are least sensitive whereas sandy beaches backed by low plains or dunes record the highest sensitivity. It is difficult to determine shoreline change on this coast, because individual storms result in substantial erosion of beaches, but there are prolonged subsequent periods of accretion and foredune rebuilding. Consequently this variable is not a good indicator of shoreline sensitivity and the index is unlikely to provide a clear basis for forecasting future recession of beaches. The results of this study provide a framework for coastal managers and planners to prioritize efforts to enhance the resilience or consider adaptation measures in the coastal zone within a study region. Sensitivity of the coast if considered in conjunction with other social factors may be an input into broader assessments of the overall vulnerability of coasts and their communities.

Keywords: Sea-level rise; Coastal sensitivity index; Coastal vulnerability assessment; Southeast Australia; Illawarra coast.

Source: P. A. O. Abuodha and C. D. Woodroffe (2010), “Assessing vulnerability to sea-level rise using a coastal sensitivity index: a case study from southeast Australia”, Journal of Coastal Conservation, Volume 14, Number 3, 189-205; Received: 13 July 2009; Accepted: 26 March 2010; Published Online: 23 April 2010.

Contact: colin@uow.edu.au

Link: SpringerLink

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Spatial indeterminacy and the construction of environmental knowledge

As concern about the sustainability of industrialised economies has increased, analysts have developed various indicator-based methodologies to explore environmental policy implications of human consumption and production activities. Critical and social constructivist theorists have challenged the presumption of objectivity underlying such research, however, by highlighting the role that social process and tacit assumptions play in accounts of human–environment interactions. While the “science wars” hostility between realists and constructivists has abated and many in both camps agree that environmental analysts should be more open and reflexive about the empirical limitations of their work and its potential to encode social, political and cultural bias, practical guidance and clear examples for doing so remain rare. This paper is situated within this gap: it is at once an attempt by an environmental analyst to show what a ‘self-reflexive’ approach to environmental assessment might look like and a rumination on the opportunities and challenges that such an undertaking entails. At the same time, the paper makes traditional scientific claims to creating new knowledge and advancing methodological sophistication by identifying a general problem of spatial indeterminacy that limits the empirical basis of all manner of place-based environmental assessment. The paper uses a climate change-related case study regarding the attribution of carbon emissions from electricity use to various US states to show the strong, though generally unrecognised, representational and political implications that can be introduced through the common methodological responses to spatial indeterminacy. I argue that in such cases both positivist and constructivist approaches to understanding human–environmental relations are needed to thoughtfully navigate options for constructing indicators and analysing policy options.

Keywords: United States; Environmental assessment; Constructivism; Positivism; Carbon emissions; Scientific uncertainty.

Source: S. Jiusto (2010), “Spatial indeterminacy and the construction of environmental knowledge”, The Geographical Journal, Volume 176, issue 3, pages 214–226, September 2010; First Published Online: 11 March 2010.

Contact: sjiusto@wpi.edu

Link: Wiley Online Library

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