A study spearheaded by AZTI warns of the vulnerability of the Basque Country’s beaches to climate change


The vulnerability of the Basque coastline to climate change is one of the concerns of the LIFE Integrated Urban Klima 2050 project, one of the objectives of which is to protect the Basque coastline.

The study, which was carried out with the support of the Basque Government’s public environmental management company, Ihobe, and the Urban Klima 2050 project, analysed the impact of climate change on 28 beaches in the Basque Country. The results show that the coastline is vulnerable and highlight the need for local management strategies.

The work was published in the journal Coastal Engineering, and estimates that the average expected erosion by 2100 due to combined wave and tidal effects (short-term effects) and rising sea levels (long-term effects) will range from 10 to 45 m and from 14 to 66 m, depending on the beach and the rate of mean sea level rise considered.

The behaviour of beaches, as measured using the KostaSystem video monitoring system operated by AZTI, was simulated using a coastline evolution model that considered both longshore drift (along the beach) and lateral drift (between the part above the water and the submerged part) caused by waves, the tide and the rise in sea level, taking into account the presence of rigid structures such as seafront promenades. A historical analysis of the evolution of the coastline was carried out by forcing the model with waves and storm surges, from reanalysis data and with forecasts obtained from measurements.

This study was carried out for Ihobe as part of the LIFE Integrated Urban Klima 2050 project, with the collaboration of the Basque Government, Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa Provincial Councils, other administrations, research centres and other organisations along the Basque coastline.