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Coastal protection assessment: a tradeoff between ecological, social, and economic issues

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Marine coastal ecosystems are crucial to human populations in reducing disaster risk. Least Developed Countries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise and storm surges. The Mauritanian coast, West Africa, ranks among the most vulnerable worldwide to sea-level rise, and coastal communities in the National Park of Banc d’Arguin (PNBA) are particularly at risk. Here, we assessed the service of coastal protection in PNBA by (1) mapping the coastal marine ecosystems with Sentinel-2 imagery and determining their spatial wave height attenuation rates; (2) assessing the vulnerability of villages and natural habitats to coastal hazard risk; and (3) assessing the applicability of coastal protection measures in the PNBA. We found that a total of 83 % of the populated coastline presents a moderate to high risk of flooding and erosion, with Iwik and R’Gueiba being the most threatened villages in the PNBA. As for the ecological risk, two low-elevated islands, which support breeding colonies of birds, are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise. However, in other areas, the rupture in the dune cord created new lagoons that present valuable ecological and economic interests like the Lagoon of Bellaat. Improving the comprehension of wave attenuation provided by coastal habitats, combined with identifying the vulnerability and applicability of coastal protection measures, is essential for achieving the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction goals. In the PNBA, relocation of identified villages at risk is probably the best cost-effective solution with the least disturbance to both breeding and wintering birds. Protection of coastal ecosystems will also ensure a continued provision of other ecosystem services, including food supply for sea dependent populations, and contribute to achieving the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberee03364
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 9 Feb 2021


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