Landscape-scale socio-economics of sea-level rise
Flooding due to sea-level rise resulting from climate may have serious socio-economic consequences. Socio-economic impacts of an accelerated sea-level rise are often described at an aggregated spatial level that is useful for inter-regional or international comparisons, but this is of limited value for determining local effects. Local effects need to be based on the local attributes of coastal vulnerability at the landscape level, especially if effects on the natural environment are of particular interest. In analysing the socio-economics of sea-level rise at the landscape scale, it is also important to consider how humans might adapt to any risks. This paper gives an overview of the methodologies used for socio-economic studies carried out at a regional level and places the results of the studies in the context of waterbirds and the environment. A German study made at the landscape level, using a multidisciplinary approach to deal with the various possible effects of sea-level rise, is discussed. The economic impacts of sea-level rise may be lowered by our ability to adapt to the changes. The options of whether to protect, retreat or accommodate, however, may affect the effects of sea-level rise on coastal habitats and the bird populations that they support. Strengthening of embankments and the creation of storm surge barriers and dams, for example, might lead to the reduction of intertidal and saltmarsh habitats and their associated bird populations. Managed retreat, by contrast, may prevent the loss of these habitats. The decision as to which option is chosen, however, is likely to be largely influenced by local economic considerations.
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