Utrecht University: Bar code visualises effects of sea level rise and adaptation strategies on coastal ecology

Researcher Anouk Timmerman external linkand colleagues at Utrecht University have for the first time developed a new method that can visualise the influence of sea level rise in combination with adaptation strategies on the ecology of coastal areas. Consequences of measures such as closing off the Wadden area from the North Sea have been visualised using this method. But this approach can also be used on an international scale. The paper describing this method was published on 23 May in the journal Ocean & Coastal Management.

Applied to the Wadden Sea region
The effects on ecology are often not yet included in studies of sea level rise and possible measures. We have developed a method to visualise these effects in a spatial way. As an example, this method has been applied to different scenarios for the Wadden Sea region,’ says Timmerman. The visualisation consists of a bar code, similar to the previously published warming stripes developed by climatologist Ed Hawkins. One of the scenarios that was visualised is the construction of barriers between the Wadden Sea and the North Sea. The image shows that there is now a great variety in habitats in the Wadden Sea region. After the Wadden Sea is closed off, however, this variety will rapidly decline, causing the Wadden Region as we know it today to disappear. Even in the scenario with an open Wadden Sea in combination with the breach in the Frisian dikes, there will be major changes in the distribution of habitats if we do nothing,’ explains Timmerman.


Visualisation of the consequences for habitats in the Wadden Sea region for two different adaptation strategies, taking into account an average sea level rise. The present, the year 2100 and 2200 are mapped.
Broadly applicable
This way of visualising can serve as a communication tool to policy makers and society. It provides an initial exploration of the consequences of measures for a certain area. Timmerman says: ‘Because this method is based on data that is relatively easy to obtain, it is a very widely applicable tool, which can also offer clarification to society. Marjolijn Haasnoot external link, associate professor of Deltas & Global Change and Anouk Timmerman’s supervisor, adds: ‘My dream is that in the future this method will be used to create visualisations for coastal areas all over the world.’

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