Cyprus' beaches could disappear

Researchers from the University of the Aegean, Greece, have issued a dire warning that up to 72% of Cyprus' beaches are at risk of disappearing by 2100 due to climate change. Increased sea levels and wave action are causing erosion of the sandy shores, posing a significant threat to the island's coastline. Moreover, dams built upstream are trapping sediment in rivers, leading to a reduced flow of sand downstream to the coast, so there is less sand available to replenish the shores after erosive events. The narrow beaches, which are less than 50 meters in width, are most vulnerable to erosion.

Under different IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scenarios, as emissions increase, sea levels also rise. Under the worst-case scenario (RCP8.5), with carbon dioxide emissions reaching 1,500 ppm (parts per million), researchers found an increase in extreme sea level rise to 2.04 meters.

In addition to sea level rise, the severity and frequency of coastal storms are expected to increase, especially on the northern coastlines of Cyprus. This could result in significant damage to natural ecosystems and human-made infrastructure. Under RCP4.5 conditions, extreme storm events are predicted to occur every 9 to 27 years from 2050. However, under the more severe RCP8.5 conditions, storm frequency could increase to every 2.5 to 13 years, and beyond 2100, these extreme events might occur multiple times a year.

The retreat of beaches due to erosion is problematic, especially because tourist infrastructure is often built along coastlines. Without beach replenishment schemes to bring in sand from other areas, the tourist infrastructure could be permanently eroded, posing significant challenges for the tourism industry and local economies. The researchers propose that hard engineering measures, such as seawalls, groins, and offshore breakwaters, may need to be considered to mitigate storm wave erosion and protect against rising sea levels.

The damage caused by beach erosion and coastal habitat loss extends beyond human environments. It also results in the loss of key habitats for various shoreline organisms, including nesting sites for birds. Protecting these habitats is crucial for preserving biodiversity and the ecological balance of Cyprus' coastal ecosystems.