Research items

Cliffs need our help

Littoral areas are constantly changing for the marine factors, as the wave height or the storms, and continental factors, as the rainfall or the lithology. Analyzing the relation between these elements is key to know the future of these areas, but why do we want to know?

Historically, coastal areas have attracted many persons. These areas have important advantages for transports, the industries installation and job positions. A perfect example of this importance appears in the European case, where more than 40% of inhabitants lives in coastal areas. This makes it vital to analyze possible changes in these zones. The variations here can affect many people. In this context, the analysis about the possible coastal evolution, appears our latest study published in Environmental Earth Sciences. This project analyzes the evolution of a cliff sector in the Galician north coast (Ponzos) over the last decades. The work was done using different techniques, as the aerial images interpretation, or UAVs survey data.

Have you ever thought that the cliff behind you on the beach could come down? We should not be alarmist, these events do not occur every day, but analyze the factors that trigger them are very relevant. Especially in regions as Galicia, where the mass movements have a great frequency, in particular during the winters.

This research demonstrate as the cliff areas are gaining space on the mainland. This process follows a cyclical behavior. Firstly, in the cliff toe the materials accumulated in successive landslides/mass movements. This accumulation protects the cliff from the marine erosion, but when the sea removes all this materials erosion processes are activated again.

Between 2016 and 2018 in the six analyzed sectors the material losses exceeded 4000 m3. The destination of this material is very diversified, from the redistribution in the Ponzos beach to their sea departure due to the effect of waves and currents.

Are the cliff erosion rates always the same? No, this project showed how rates have increased in recent decades, exceed 2 m in the period 2016-2018. Analyze and understand these dynamics is essential to improve the coastal management and avoid risk for the persons in these areas. In the Galician case, there are not a database or similar study to analyze in detail this type of events. Instead, in other regions/countries have been analyzing for years how coastal dynamics can affect in the future. A great example about these practices is the Scottish case, where through the project Dynamic Coasts they are analyzing in detail the coastal changes and generate tools to the coastal managers. These elements intend avoid risks and improve the future of these areas.

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