EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The coastal vulnerability of the north-eastern sector of Gozo Island (Malta, Mediterranean Sea)

Mauro Soldati1, George Buhagiar2, Anton S. Micallef3,4, Angela Rizzo5, and Vittoria Vandelli1
Mauro Soldati et al.
  • 1Department of Chemical and Geological Sciences, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena (Italy) (
  • 2Research and Planning, Marine and Storm Water Unit, Works and Infrastructure Department, Floriana (Malta)
  • 3Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Insular Coastal Dynamics, Msida (Malta)
  • 4Institute of Earth Systems, University of Malta, Msida (Malta)
  • 5Regional Models and geo-Hydrological Impacts (REMHI Division), Fondazione CMCC (Italy)

Coastal hazards, including marine-related and gravity-induced processes such as landslides, coastal erosion, storm water runoff and coastal flooding, may have different impacts mainly due to local geomorphological characteristics and natural and anthropogenic settings. The sustainable conservation of coastal areas represents a worldwide issue and therefore, coastal vulnerability and risk assessments are of paramount importance for ensuring appropriate coastal management.

This study is focused on the assessment of coastal vulnerability along the NE sector of the Island of Gozo (Malta, Mediterranean Sea), which is characterized by diverse landforms, including plunging cliffs, sloping coasts, pocket beaches, shore platforms and a large sandy beach partly backed by dunes. Results of detailed geomorphological investigation, integrated with the analysis of marine geophysical data, show that the study area is particularly susceptible to mass movements, coastal flooding and erosion processes.

From the economic point of view, Gozo Island is considered an attractive geotourist destination due to its high environmental, cultural and geological heritage. In particular, the study area hosts Roman remains and two important natural protected areas included in the Natura 2000 network. Moreover, the presence of quarrying areas contributes to increase the economic value of the study area.

The evaluation of coastal vulnerability refers to the methodological approach proposed in the framework of the EU-funded RISC-KIT project, partially modified to adapt the method to the context of the study area and to the available information. Specifically, the method is based on the evaluation of the exposed elements in the investigated area by applying a set of indicators related to the local land use, anthropogenic and natural assets, and economic activities. Furthermore, a social vulnerability indicator is applied to evaluate the socio-economic characteristics of the population potentially exposed to coastal hazards. Available data is overlaid and reclassified by means of specific GIS tools in order to obtain the overall vulnerability level of the investigated area, represented on a coastal vulnerability map.

Results highlight that 18.3% of the study area is characterized by high to very high vulnerability: including Marsalforn Bay, which hosts an extensive urban centre, and the area nearby Dahlet Qorrot Bay, where a natural protected site is located. Ramla Bay, a very important tourist attraction hosting the largest sandy beach in Gozo, is characterized by very high vulnerability. Most of the investigated area (61.3%), is however characterized by a medium level of vulnerability, while areas characterized by low vulnerability (20.4%) mainly correspond to abandoned agricultural fields and bare rocks outcrops.

This research represents a first attempt at the assessment of coastal vulnerability in the Maltese archipelago, and shows that the method used can be easily applied to other Mediterranean coastal areas providing policy makers with comprehensive coastal vulnerability information. The latter is crucial to approaching sustainability, through integrated coastal management.

How to cite: Soldati, M., Buhagiar, G., Micallef, A. S., Rizzo, A., and Vandelli, V.: The coastal vulnerability of the north-eastern sector of Gozo Island (Malta, Mediterranean Sea), EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-10272,, 2020


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