Alarming coastal vulnerability of the deltaic and sandy beaches of North Africa

In this study, the authors quantify the physical and socioeconomic coastal vulnerability of arid areas of North Africa. This is crucial knowledge in helping facilitating the implementation of flood risk management and protection for highly populated urban areas, A main result of this study shows that the high coastal vulnerability of both the Gulf of Tunis and the Nile Delta are found to be primarily the result of anthropogenic drivers of damming and urbanization growth over the last decades rather than the effects of global warming.


The arid coasts of North Africa, extending over 4633 km from the Gulf of Tunis to the Nile Delta, are undergoing pronounced shoreline retreats and coastal floodings that are reported as a consequence of the ongoing sea level rise resulting from global warming. Of particular interest are the abnormal shoreline dynamics for deltaic and sandy beaches, which are severely impacted by abrupt decadal variabilities in both climatic and anthropogenic drivers resulting in their increased vulnerability to disturbances from coastal hazards. Unfortunately, the evolution, distribution and impacts of these drivers remain largely unquantified, let alone understood, for these extensive arid coasts that harbor the major portion of North Africa’s population as well as unique and fragile marine ecosystems. To address this deficiency, we use GIS-based multi-criteria approaches combined with analytic hierarchy process to map the Coastal Vulnerability Index and the Socioeconomic Vulnerability Index along these coasts to investigate the amplitude and extent of shoreline deterioration resulting from sudden fluctuations in sediment transport to the coastline. We use the western bay of the Gulf of Tunis, the coasts of Tripoli and the Nile Delta as three validation sites for our vulnerability assessment. The statistical Integrated Coastal Vulnerability Index map reveals that 47% of arid North African coasts are characterized by high to very high vulnerability. In particular, we observe that the densely populated deltaic coasts in both Tunisia and Egypt are 70% more vulnerable than any others coast in the eastern Mediterranean Basin. These abnormally high-vulnerability extensive areas are also correlated with significant deterioration of coastal aquifers and hence in crop production, compromising local food security and resulting in increasing outflow migration trends. Both Tunisia and Egypt observed dramatic increases in the net population outflow migration by respectively 62% and 248% between 2000 and 2016, mostly from coastal areas. Our source analysis of the amplitude and extent of these high coastal vulnerabilities suggests that they result from the anthropogenic drivers of damming and rapid urban growth over the last few decades rather than the effects of global warming.

Vulnerability scale for the Coastal Vulnerability Index (CVI) characterizing the risk to immersion in the North African coasts.

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Hzami, A., Heggy, E., Amrouni, O., Mahé, G., Maanan, M., & Abdeljaouad, S. (2021). Alarming coastal vulnerability of the deltaic and sandy beaches of North Africa. Scientific reports11(1), 1-15.

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