Territorial impacts of sea-level rise in marsh environments. The case of the Bay of Cádiz, Spain

F.J. Vázquez Pinillos, M.J. Marchena Gómez


How can sea-level rise affect territory? Has territorial planning adjusted to this new situation? This paper analyses the possible ramifications of changes in tidal recurrence over the course of this century in a potentially vulnerable marsh environment, such as the Bay of Cádiz, in southern Spain, where sea-level rise is already a fact. For that purpose, the regionalisation criterion is used as a basis for adjusting the magnitude of global problems to subregional scale. Geographic information systems are applied to portray the forecasted territorial changes according to the RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 scenarios presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the years 2050 and 2100. Projections of sea-level rise show that the tide is travelling farther inland, not just invading unoccupied areas of marshes and beaches but also reaching urban and productive areas. Estimates indicate that the floodable area could expand by more than 20% in 2050, with a further 2,000 ha of flooded areas added in 2100 for either of the two scenarios used. The occurrence of these changes, regardless of the model used, would therefore entail an alteration of the environmental, social, cultural and economic values and elements of the Bay of Cádiz, with the Natural Park being the most affected area. In response to these consequences, the need to apply the resulting projections to other variables is insisted on, with a view to introducing territorial management tailored to this new and already present reality. Application of the regionalisation criterion to study repercussions of the climate crisis in the Bay of Cádiz could serve as a precedent for the development of adaptation strategies in other marsh environments at subregional or local level.


Climate change; sea-level rise; RCP; IPCC; territory

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18172/cig.4531

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