Future urban development exacerbates coastal exposure in the Mediterranean

Changes in the spatial patterns and rate of urban development will be one of the main determinants of future coastal flood risk. Existing spatial projections of urban extent are, however, often available at coarse spatial resolutions, local geographical scales or for short time horizons, which limits their suitability for broad-scale coastal flood impact assessments. Here, we present a new set of spatially explicit projections of urban extent for ten countries in the Mediterranean, consistent with the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs). To model plausible future urban development, we develop an Urban Change Model, which uses input variables such as elevation, population density or road network and an artificial neural network to project urban development on a regional scale. The developed future projections for the five SSPs indicate that accounting for the spatial patterns of urban development can lead to significant differences in the assessment of future coastal urban exposure. The increase in exposure in the Extended Low Elevation Coastal Zone (E-LECZ = area below 20 m of elevation) until 2100 can vary, by up to 104%, depending on the urban development scenario chosen. This finding highlights that accounting for urban development in long-term adaptation planning, e.g. in the form of land-use planning, can be an effective measure for reducing future coastal flood risk on a regional scale.


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