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New mapping tool highlights threat to Scottish coastline

Words: Laura Edgar
Scottish coast | iStock-817398076

Nearly a fifth of Scotland’s coastline is at risk of erosion, threatening some of the country’s most prized land and infrastructure within the next 30 years, according to a new mapping tool.

The potentially devastating effects of climate change and coastal erosion have come to light after experts from the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the University of Glasgow studied coastlines dating back to the 1890s, to plan for the future of Scotland’s coastal landscape.

The ‘Dynamic Coast: Scotland’s National Coastal Change Assessment’ (NCCA) uses more than 2,000 maps and one million data points to make its predictions. It identifies past erosion and growth rates, and projects the data forward to show the potential change to Scotland’s coastline.

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Since the 1970s the rate of coastal erosion has doubled, and that pace will not slow down anytime soon. In fact, it will probably get worse and faster.

“More than 9,000 buildings, 500 kilometres of road, 60 kilometres of rail track, 300 kilometres of water supply lines and vital airports runways, such as Islay, are protected by natural defences. However, some of these already face serious damage and it’s vital that local authorities, transport agencies and other planning bodies investigate how they can work together to manage coastal change before it’s too late.”

Professor Jim Hansom, principal researcher from the University of Glasgow, added: “Since the 1970s the extent of erosion is up 39 per cent, the erosion rate has doubled and accretion extent (growth of sediment deposition) is down 22 per cent. This is what we’d expect with climate change.  That means we are seeing a net loss of our coastline.”

Image credit | iStock