Climate change threatens African heritage sites

As the effects of climate change continue to cause significant damage across the world, recent research by the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) at the University of Cape Town (UCT) has revealed that sites properties of “outstanding and universal value” located along the African coast are threatened by rising sea levels.

The global team of climate risk and heritage experts – led by CIDA postdoctoral researcher Dr. Nicholas Simpson – has presented its first comprehensive assessment which details how African cultural and heritage sites are exposed to sea levels. extremely high, as well as erosion. associated with sea level acceleration. Their research has been published in a leading peer-reviewed scientific journal Natural climate change this week.

The team spent a full year methodically identifying and mapping the boundaries of 284 African coastal heritage sites. Next, Dr Simpson explained, the team modeled each site’s exposure using future scenarios of global warming.

search results

According to Simpson, the researchers found several groundbreaking findings.

Fifty-six surveyed sites, including the iconic Tipasa Ruins in Algeria and the North Sinai Archaeological Sites Area in Egypt, are at risk of being affected by once-a-century-like extreme sea levels. By 2050, the number of exposed sites is expected to triple. About 191 sites are likely to be affected by moderate emissions and 198 by high emissions.

“Several countries are expected to have all of their coastal heritage sites exposed to the extreme 100-year coastal event by the end of the century.”

In addition, he said at least 151 other natural sites and 40 cultural sites were also at risk of sea level rise from 2050.

“Several countries are expected to have all of their coastal heritage sites exposed to the extreme 100-year coastal event by the end of the century,” Simpson said.

The countries and territories affected are Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Western Sahara, Libya, Mozambique, Mauritania and Namibia. According to him, in the worst case, Côte d’Ivoire, Cabo Verde, Sudan and Tanzania could also be affected.

Climate change adaptation measures

CIDA’s Dr. Christopher Trisos, co-author of the paper, said that if climate change mitigation is successful in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from a high-emissions pathway to a low-emissions pathway moderate, by 2050, the number of highly exposed sites could be reduced by 25% . This, said Dr Trisos, would reduce significant loss and damage to Africa’s unique heritage sites.

Simpson stressed that these results highlight an urgent need for climate change adaptation measures to mitigate these effects, and to protect and reduce exposure to these iconic heritage sites. The team suggested that the following measures be put in place: improving governance and management approaches; conduct site-specific vulnerability assessments and exposure monitoring; and implement protective strategies such as ecosystem-based adaptation by integrating local and indigenous knowledge systems.

“These findings are very important. They help prioritize sites at risk and highlight the need for immediate protective action for African heritage sites,” he said.

Teresa H. Sadler