Future sea-level rise will increase potential flood risks along the Ayrshire coast
Sea levels will rise by up to 0.47m by 2080, a new report published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has highlighted.
Sea-level rise will present a challenge in terms of managing potential effects on certain low-lying coastal areas of the Clyde. The report identifies more than 100 developed areas, designated sites, and roads and railways where action should be taken to avoid potential impacts. And planning is already underway in many areas to identify ways in which the risk can be managed. This includes making use of the natural coastline where possible. Coastal communities which could be affected are areas within Greenock, Gourock, Campbeltown, Lochgilphead, Dunoon, Faslane, Inverkip, Largs, Stevenson, Irvine, Troon, Prestwick, Ayr, Girvan, Rothesay and Kelburn. Major elements of coastal infrastructure could be at risk in the long term. These include parts of the Faslane naval base, home to the Trident nuclear weapons system, and pressure on Prestwick International Airport railway station, and potentially, the airport car park. There are potential impacts at protected areas important for nature including the Inner Clyde Special Protection Area (SPA). Birds use the mudflats and saltmarsh in this area for feeding and nesting and the risk of losing these important habitats is higher because of climate change. The report also considers opportunities for managed realignment at four sites in the Firth of Clyde. Three of these were considered to have potential for phased realignment: Erskine South, Newshot Island, and Holy Loch. Managed realignment is a technique in which river, estuary and or coastal water is deliberately allowed to extend beyond current flood defences. This procedure has been followed in Scotland at Nigg in the Cromarty Firth. And it involves moving existing defences or assets landwards to create a coastal frontage more able to cope with rising sea levels. More detailed work is required to assess if managed realignment is the most appropriate action to reduce future risks from sea-level rise in these locations. Mike Cantlay, Chair of SNH, said: “As part of our role protecting all of nature for all of Scotland, we conduct regular research into the long term future of Scotland’s natural environment. We have identified more than 100 locations in the west of Scotland that may be at greater flood risk due to rising tides over the next fifty years. Having this advance notice allows partners to work together to address potential issues and plan ahead for ways to mitigate these risks.” Professor Des Thompson of SNH said: “There are risks, for sure, but there are opportunities to allow nature to help us cope with climate change. One such solution is through managed realignment of the coast. This allows natural features such as saltmarsh to act as coastal defence. “This research sits alongside other collaborative work with the Scottish Government, SEPA, Historic Environment Scotland, and local councils which appraises changing risks and opportunities in the light of climate change. “We know that rising sea levels and changing rainfall patterns and intensities are likely to increasingly affect nature and society. This work forewarns us and helps us plan for these possible changes. Clearly sea-level rise and its potential impacts represent a widespread issue which will affect low-lying land around the Firth of Clyde. “These types of investigations allow us to plan together and ensure the planning system supports the right development in the right place.” Production of the report was managed by the Clyde Marine Planning Partnership which has a membership of more than 20 organisations. Isabel Glasgow, Chair of the Clyde Marine Planning Partnership, said: “Regional Marine Plans must consider potential climate change impacts and seek to adapt. In some cases natural coastal protection can provide a solution. “It is important that land and marine planners work together on these issues to ensure that coastal and marine development is in the right place.” James Curran, Chair for Climate Ready Clyde, the City Region initiative to prepare for a changing climate said: “The report is a significant step forward in understanding the impacts of sea-level rise. It makes it clear that we must urgently increase efforts to reduce carbon emissions, whilst also making the challenging choices needed to adapt. “It is crucial that Clydeplan, local councils, developers, infrastructure operators and communities continue to work together to identify ways forward for potential areas affected. Climate Ready Clyde is keen to facilitate this process, to provide confidence to the market to invest and help protect and increase the quality of life for those who live and work along the Clyde. We will also be using this report as part of our approach to assessing, prioritising and taking action on the climate change risks the City Region faces.”