The ecological structures as components of flood and erosion vulnerability analysis in costal landscapes
Abstract:The direct and the indirect changes of natural habitats for coastal development can affect the level of exposure to erosion and flooding (inundation). Although engineered structures are still preferred for coastal safety there is an increasing number of applications of ecosystem-based solutions worldwide as the building with nature approaches and the arising natural capital evaluation.
A question to which we should respond, is the possibility of using the wide range of satellite data and the already available Earth Observation based products to make a synoptic structural and environmental vulnerability assessment. By answering to this, we could also understand, if and how many markers/signals can be identified in the landscape components, to define transitions to and from nonlinear processes - to and from scale invariant spatial distributions- characterizing the evolution of the environmental patch size mosaic, the landscape.
The Wadden Sea, in example, is a productive estuarine area in the south-eastern coastal zone of the North Sea. It is characterized by extensive tidal mud flats, saltmarshes and by the tidal channel network between the mainland and the chain of islands along the North Sea side. The area has a UNESCO World Heritage Status and a Natura 2000 status.
Here, we identified thresholds to distinguish spatial and temporal patterns controlled by changes in environmental variables. These patterns are represented by the cover percent and by the structural level of vegetation and sediment/soil in each identified patch. The environmental variables are those able to act on the patch size distribution as the forcing factors from the sea (wind and waves fields) or from the climate and the hydrology drivers.
The Bayesian approach defines the dependencies of the spatial patch size distribution from the major flooding and erosion environmental variables. When the analysis is scaled up from the ecosystem units to the landscape level thanks to the satellite-based observations, new spatial and temporal distributions are highlighted and new Bayes models can be implemented.
Results are useful to better understand the relative contributions of different components to coastal vulnerability and highlight the protective services offered by Earth Observation based products to coastal populations.