Articles | Volume 17, issue 3
Research article
21 Mar 2017
Research article |  | 21 Mar 2017

Assessment of island beach erosion due to sea level rise: the case of the Aegean archipelago (Eastern Mediterranean)

Isavela N. Monioudi, Adonis F. Velegrakis, Antonis E. Chatzipavlis, Anastasios Rigos, Theophanis Karambas, Michalis I. Vousdoukas, Thomas Hasiotis, Nikoletta Koukourouvli, Pascal Peduzzi, Eva Manoutsoglou, Serafim E. Poulos, and Michael B. Collins

Abstract. The present contribution constitutes the first comprehensive attempt to (a) record the spatial characteristics of the beaches of the Aegean archipelago (Greece), a critical resource for both the local and national economy, and (b) provide a rapid assessment of the impacts of the long-term and episodic sea level rise (SLR) under different scenarios. Spatial information and other attributes (e.g., presence of coastal protection works and backshore development) of the beaches of the 58 largest islands of the archipelago were obtained on the basis of remote-sensed images available on the web. Ranges of SLR-induced beach retreats under different morphological, sedimentological and hydrodynamic forcing, and SLR scenarios were estimated using suitable ensembles of cross-shore (1-D) morphodynamic models. These ranges, combined with empirically derived estimations of wave run-up induced flooding, were then compared with the recorded maximum beach widths to provide ranges of retreat/erosion and flooding at the archipelago scale. The spatial information shows that the Aegean pocket beaches may be particularly vulnerable to mean sea level rise (MSLR) and episodic SLRs due to (i) their narrow widths (about 59 % of the beaches have maximum widths < 20 m), (ii) their limited terrestrial sediment supply, (iii) the substantial coastal development and (iv) the limited existing coastal protection. Modeling results indeed project severe impacts under mean and episodic SLRs, which by 2100 could be devastating. For example, under MSLR of 0.5 m – representative concentration pathway (RCP) 4.5 of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC) – a storm-induced sea level rise of 0.6 m is projected to result in a complete erosion of between 31 and 88 % of all beaches (29–87 % of beaches are currently fronting coastal infrastructure and assets), at least temporarily. Our results suggest a very considerable risk which will require significant effort, financial resources and policies/regulation in order to protect/maintain the critical economic resource of the Aegean archipelago.

Short summary
This work constitutes the first comprehensive attempt to record the spatial characteristics of the Aegean island beaches (Greece) and assess the long-term and episodic sea level rise (SLR) impacts under different scenarios. Results suggest that Aegean beaches may be particularly vulnerable to SLRs, where severe impacts which could be devastating are projected by 2100. Appropriate coastal "setback zone" policies should be adopted, as they form a significant environmental and economic resource.
Final-revised paper