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Coastal Zones. Policy alternatives impacts on European Coastal Zones. 2000 – 2050 (2011)


This report presents the results obtained from the application the EUClueScanner* land‐use model for the simulation of two policy alternatives relevant to Integrated Coastal Zones Management in Europe. The “Uncontrolled” and the “Sustainable” options have been compared against a third neutral development deduced from the SRES Scenario B1. The model has been run implementing the 1‐km spatial resolution, 10 land use classes configuration, for the period 2000‐2050. A set of indicators has been then computed on the basis of the projected European land use maps. In particular the growth of built‐up areas is taken as the main metric to evaluate the pressure on coastal zones. Indeed, the share of built up areas in the costal zones is almost double than in the overall EU continental surface. According to the results of the simulations, this trend seems to hold in the future. The difference between the two policy alternatives can be observed both for the entire Europe and the Coastal Zones only, but in the latter case the difference is more evident. For the entire territory of the EU27, the increase in built‐up areas for the Uncontrolled policy alternative between 2000 and 2050 is 7.49 percentage points higher than the increase under the Sustainable policy alternative. Taking into account just the Coastal Zones – as defined in the context of this report – the increase in built‐up is 7.85 percentage points higher under the Uncontrolled than in the Sustainable policy alternative. Coastal Zones are thus more prone to suffer from environmental impacts brought about by the increasing shares of built‐up land in Europe. This is even more relevant if we consider the intrinsic vulnerability of Coastal Zones. The difference between the two policy alternatives entails contrasting environmental impacts. Therefore, under the Uncontrolled policy alternative a higher proportion of built‐up areas is exposed to coastal erosion and coastal flooding, having as a consequence more potential assets at risk (i.e. social and economic losses). The increase in built‐up land implies the growth of impervious surfaces. This has impacts in many fields: regarding the water cycle, the water retention tends to decrease and the risk of coastal flooding is potentially higher. A higher built‐up pressure may also lead to an overexploitation of natural resources (e.g. water scarcity, loss of high value soils) and an increase in pollution. The difference between the two policy alternatives is not only quantitative, but it regards also the resulting spatial pattern: this is considerably more scattered in the Uncontrolled, thus potentially increasing landscape fragmentation and habitat loss, contributing to a decrease in biodiversity. In conclusion, the report provides useful information on the future potential evolution of land-use in European coastal areas and the related consequences in terms of coastal vulnerability. This information can be integrated in the assessment of coastal vulnerability to climate change, to properly take in consideration the variation of other significant drivers.

Reference information

EC, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability


EUClueScanner, Land-use, coastal vulnerability, land-use maps, land-use scenario

Climate impacts

Water Scarcity, Flooding, Sea Level Rise


Vulnerability Assessment


Coastal areas, Urban

Geographic characterisation


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