Santos, M., Del Río, L., Benavente, J., 2013. GIS-based approach to the assessment of coastal vulnerability to storms. Case study in the Bay of Cádiz (Andalusia, Spain)
Storminess is considered one of the most significant natural threats to coastal areas, especially on sandy environments. When storm-related processes occur in developed areas, changes in coastal morphology are often accompanied by socioeconomic losses due to damage to infrastructure caused by erosion and flooding. The aim of this study is to assess coastal vulnerability related to storm events along a mesotidal, low-energy sandy coast in SW Spain, by analysing the main factors responsible for storm impact. This impact is considered in terms of vulnerability and coastal exposure, by the integration of physical variables (e.g. dune height or recent shoreline changes) and socioeconomic variables (e.g. land use type or population density) into a GIS. These variables are weighted and combined into two different indexes, a Physical Vulnerability Index (PhVI) and a Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI), which are then merged into a single normalized Coastal Vulnerability to Storm Index (CVSI). Results show significant spatial differences in vulnerability to storms along the study area, with the highest vulnerability level being found in the northernmost sector of the study area (Santa María del Mar urban beach), and the lowest level corresponding to the southernmost sector (El Castillo natural beach). Through the generation of colour-coded vulnerability maps, the index can be used as a guideline contributing to the determination of causes, processes and consequences of vulnerability related to storm events. Overall, the CSVI provides a rapid identification of potential risk areas, where specific intervention strategies should be adopted to prevent storm impacts.