A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science has found that up to 65 percent of beaches in the Balearic Islands may be permanently lost by the end of the 21st century due to climate change. This archipelago in Spain includes famous tourist destinations such as the beaches of Ibiza and Palma de Mallorca.
A research team from the Balearic Islands Oceanography Center has created a highly complex computer model to estimate sea level changes and flooding scenarios under moderate and severe climate change projections.
Earlier studies have predicted that sea levels will increase by up to 26 inches around the Balearic Islands, under the most pessimistic global warming scenario. However, the quality of beaches for tourism will be affected by more factors than sea level rises. According to the researchers, flood levels, which depend upon fluctuations in tides and waves, are a more important indicator of the future fate of these beaches.
By taking into account the shape and slope of 868 beaches across the Balearic Islands, the extent of seagrass meadows, and the granularity of the sand, the scientists estimated that, under a moderate climate change scenario, 66 percent of the beaches will be flooded, and 37 beaches will completely disappear by the end of the century. However, in the case of the most pessimistic global warming scenario, up to 86 percent of the beaches could be flooded, and 72 beaches would permanently disappear.
“In both cases, the average permanent loss of beach surface at the end of the century would be larger than 50 percent, rising over 80 percent during storm conditions,” the study authors wrote.
“The results obtained for the Balearic Islands can be extrapolated to the rest of the Mediterranean as the beaches in all the regions have similar characteristics and will be affected by similar changes in sea level and wave climate. These projections indicate that adaptation plans for beach areas should be put in place as soon as possible,” they concluded.
By Andrei Ionescu, Earth.com Staff Writer