10th International Conference on Geomorphology
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Degradation Risk Assessment: Understanding the Impacts of Climate Change on Geoheritage

Lidia Selmi1, Thais Siqueira Canesin2, Ritienne Gauci3, Paulo Pereira2, and Paola Coratza1
Lidia Selmi et al.
  • 1University of Modena and Reggio Emilia , Department of Chemical and Geological Sciences, Italy (lidselmi@unimore.it, paola.coratza@unimore.it)
  • 2Institute of Earth Sciences, Pole of the University of Minho, Campus de Gualtar, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal (thaissiqueirac@yahoo.com.br, paolo@dct.uminho.pt)
  • 3Department of Geography, Faculty of Arts, University of Malta, MSD 2080 Msida, Malta (ritienne.gauci@um.edu.mt)

Natural and anthropogenic factors and processes can threaten the integrity of geosites, leading to their degradation or even loss. For this reason, geoheritage degradation risk should be considered in any geoconservation strategy and should be assessed in the first stages of geoheritage studies, all the more when the aim is to tackle the tangible effects of climate change. The present research proposes a quantitative methodology for the degradation risk assessment of geosites by considering the extrinsic factors that can damage or destroy the geological heritage. The proposed methodology has been tested on the Maltese Islands (central Mediterranean Sea), where considerable previous research has been undertaken in order to highlight the international geomorphological significance of the Maltese landscapes. The methodology considers three criteria to assess the degradation risk: natural vulnerability, anthropogenic vulnerability and public use. For each criterion several parameters have been identified in order to propose a detailed numerical evaluation. The results show that the degradation risk of geosites in the study area is mainly related to negligence and lack of knowledge of its inherent geoheritage, which leads to their public misuse and mismanagement. In fact, most of these areas are intensively used by locals and tourists alike for recreational activities, some of which may damage the sites. With respect to natural vulnerability, sites in proximity to the coast are more threatened by natural processes, making the complex environment of coastal areas more sensitive to natural hazards and deeply impacted by the effects of climate change (e.g. sea level rise, intensity changes in coastal deposition and erosion processes, increase of violent meteo-marine storms and tsunamis). Moreover, the pressure of tourism and infrastructures are concentrated in these areas. The results obtained give an overview of the condition of the geosites and provide useful information for the design and management of suitable protection measures in a geoconservation context, especially in the light of future threats related to climate change.

How to cite: Selmi, L., Canesin, T. S., Gauci, R., Pereira, P., and Coratza, P.: Degradation Risk Assessment: Understanding the Impacts of Climate Change on Geoheritage, 10th International Conference on Geomorphology, Coimbra, Portugal, 12–16 Sep 2022, ICG2022-419, https://doi.org/10.5194/icg2022-419, 2022.