Articles | Volume 16, issue 7
Research article
07 Jul 2016
Research article |  | 07 Jul 2016

GIS analysis of effects of future Baltic sea level rise on the island of Gotland, Sweden

Karin Ebert, Karin Ekstedt, and Jerker Jarsjö

Abstract. Future sea level rise as a consequence of global warming will affect the world's coastal regions. Even though the pace of sea level rise is not clear, the consequences will be severe and global. Commonly the effects of future sea level rise are investigated for relatively vulnerable development countries; however, a whole range of varying regions needs to be considered in order to improve the understanding of global consequences. In this paper we investigate consequences of future sea level rise along the coast of the Baltic Sea island of Gotland, Sweden, with the aim to fill knowledge gaps regarding comparatively well-suited areas in developed countries. We study both the quantity of the loss of features of infrastructure, cultural, and natural value in the case of a 2 m sea level rise of the Baltic Sea and the effects of climate change on seawater intrusion in coastal aquifers, which indirectly cause saltwater intrusion in wells. We conduct a multi-criteria risk analysis by using lidar data on land elevation and GIS-vulnerability mapping, which gives the application of distance and elevation parameters formerly unimaginable precision. We find that in case of a 2 m sea level rise, 3 % of the land area of Gotland, corresponding to 99 km2, will be inundated. The features most strongly affected are items of touristic or nature value, including camping places, shore meadows, sea stack areas, and endangered plants and species habitats. In total, 231 out of 7354 wells will be directly inundated, and the number of wells in the high-risk zone for saltwater intrusion in wells will increase considerably. Some valuable features will be irreversibly lost due to, for example, inundation of sea stacks and the passing of tipping points for seawater intrusion into coastal aquifers; others might simply be moved further inland, but this requires considerable economic means and prioritization. With nature tourism being one of the main income sources of Gotland, monitoring and planning are required to meet the changes. Seeing Gotland in a global perspective, this island shows that holistic multi-feature studies of future consequences of sea level rise are required to identify overall consequences for individual regions.

Short summary
Future sea level rise is inevitable. We investigate the effects of 2 m sea level rise on the island of Gotland, Sweden. In a multi-criteria analysis we analyze the quantity of infrastructure that will be inundated, and the effect of saltwater intrusion in wells. Almost 100 km2 (3 %) of Gotland's land area will be inundated. Important touristic and nature values will be strongest affected. Well salinization will greatly increase. Administrative planning is needed to prepare for changes.
Final-revised paper