A preliminary estimate of the implications of climatic change on the Ebro delta coast (Spanish Mediterranean) is presented based on an understanding of how climate and other changes will influence the different driving factors that control the interacting formation and reduction processes acting on this low-lying coast. The formation processes are primarily of riverine origin and concern the supply of sediment and freshwater. The reduction processes considered are primarily of marine origin and include increases in inundation/flooding, decreases in storm return periods, coastal erosion, salinity intrusion, and changes in wave climate (wave height, direction, and storminess). For the most part, climatologically induced changes affecting deltaic behaviour, i.e., those of marine origin, are most important for the Ebro delta because those of riverine origin will be significantly damped by river regulation works. Hence, formation processes are suppressed whereas reduction processes will be unaffected by management policies, unless they are related to the coastal zone. Because of its morphology, relative sea-level rise (RSLR) will become the most important climate-induced potential hazard for the Ebro delta. When considering RSLR-induced inundation of deltaic areas below a given level (e.g., 0.5 m), although the deltaic surface below the projected level could be relatively large, impacts will be modulated by the “protection” offered by an active coastal zone that is able to react to the RSLR. Another direct result of sea-level rise will be a decrease in the return periods of maximum water levels, which due to the surge climate of the area will be very significant. Finally, the estimated shoreline retreat due to the RSLR was small when compared to present evolution rates. However, they must be also considered because they will act as an additional background erosion rate along the entire coast.
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Vol. 2008 • No. 242