Friday 10. February 2012

Applying Coastal Vulnerability Index (CVI) to the Westfjords

On Monday, February 13 at 16:00, William Davies will present his master's thesis entitled Applying a Coastal Vulnerability Index (CVI) to the Westfjords, Iceland: a preliminary assessment. The presentation will be in English and is open to all.

The advisor of the project is Dr. Mike Philips, professor at Swansea Metropolitan University in Wales and instructor at the University Centre. The external reader is Dr. Patricia Manuel, Associate Professor at the School of Planning at Dalhousie University, Canada and instructor at the University Centre.

Coastal environments are of significant economic, ecological and social importance to the global population. However, they are under increasing pressure from both rapid anthropogenic development and predicted consequences of climate change, such as sea-level rise, coastal erosion and extreme weather events. In light of this, effective coastal management is necessary to ensure the conservation and prosperity of these important environments. Coastal vulnerability assessments are a useful means of identifying areas of coastline that are vulnerable to impacts of climate change and coastal processes, highlighting potential problem areas. These assessments often take the form of an ‘index' that quantifies the relative vulnerability along a coastline. This preliminary assessment adapted a coastal vulnerability index (CVI) methodology applied in the KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa to the fjordic environment of the Westfjords, Iceland. By measuring prescribed physical parameters along the coastline, the study evaluated the relative coastal vulnerability of the Westfjords coastline to impacts of sea-level rise, erosion and extreme weather events and subsequently assessed social, economic and ecological features located in particularly vulnerable areas. As little to no coastal vulnerability mapping had been undertaken in Iceland since 1992 and 1995, despite recognition of its necessity, this work was also timely. Furthermore, the methodology was adapted to incorporate Westfjord specific hazards e.g. avalanche risk. Much of the coastline recorded a ‘moderate' vulnerability ranking of between 15-18, with considerably more areas ranking ‘high' or ‘very high' than those ranked ‘low' and ‘very low' (58 cells compared to 22 cells). Areas that were ranked as higher vulnerability were scattered across the study area with no real geographical correlation, although two of the three highest scoring cells were located in Dýrafjörður. Seven of the eight highest scoring areas were situated in an estuary environment. Other common higher score determinants were short beach width, high avalanche risk and minimal vegetation behind the back-beach. Transport infrastructure was present in all higher vulnerability cells ranging from major to minor roads. Other socio-economic and ecological features located in these areas were residential and agricultural. Whilst data and methodological limitations exist, this CVI method still proved a useful tool in mapping Westfjords coastal vulnerability and provides a foundation for future work, especially if relevant wind and wave data are incorporated.

William Davies will present his thesis on Monday at 16:00.
William Davies will present his thesis on Monday at 16:00.