There is no doubt that climate change is happening worldwide as ice caps shrink, sea and river levels rise. Coastal flooding damages not only buildings and engineering structures, but also the environment and the ecological balance in Europe.
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The European Union (EU)-funded THESEUS project has addressed these problems by providing a new approach to combat the effects of flooding, coastal erosion and climate change throughout Europe. In the words of THESEUS project coordinator, Barbara Zanuttigh, Assistant Professor at University of Bologna, Italy, “it is important to involve all strands of society and address the issues at various levels (European, regional and local) and at different time scales (one year to 100 years).”
Each region in Europe faces a different set of challenges on account of their individual geographical and physical parameters, which makes coastal flooding problems diverse and multifaceted.
THESEUS team looked at a wide range of individual issues and solutions, taking into account scientific, social, economic, environmental and cultural aspects which broadened the research spectrum. The research and information produced by the THESEUS project does not claim to solve all these problems. What it has done is create a one-stop-shop of comprehensive data gathered over the period of research.
The new THESEUS Decision Support System (DSS) is a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based tool. “This tool will help decision makers input all the conditions they are dealing with so the short, medium and long-term effects of building or developing within coastal communities could be identified,” says Zanuttigh.
The tool enables developers, builders and local authorities to minimise coastal risks and take into account physical and non-physical drivers such as climate change, subsidence (undermining and sinking of land due to flooding), population and economic growth. “The THESEUS DSS is intended as a vehicle for communication, training, forecasting and experimentation,” adds Zanuttigh.
In addition to the DSS tool, a guidelines book, compiled by the project team, will assist coastal managers in the application of THESEUS methodology for coastal risk assessment and in the selection and design of mitigation options. The policy briefs developed are expected to support decision makers by identifying weaknesses and strengths of the existing policies and the key challenges to be addressed.
Last, but not least, the information booklets, also produced by the THESEUS team, “aim to raise the general public’s awareness regarding the scale of the risks involved and help towards a more sustainable future,” concludes Zanuttigh.