Two years ago, hydrobiologist Adriano Bordalo e Sá said that if Portugal was a
Two years ago, hydrobiologist Adriano Bordalo e Sá said that if Portugal was a "serious country", these three towers would have been demolished years ago. Instead "public money is used to protect private interests" Image: Estela Silva/ Lusa

Climate analysis forecasts continuing coastline retreat, worsening wildfires, reduction of water resources

Report compiled in bid to ensure “resilient tourism” in northern Portugal

New climate analysis, presented today, points to an average coastline retreat of 28 metres in Portugal’s “most vulnerable area”, the north coastal park strip in Esposende, (in)famous for its three Torres de Ofir perched perilously close to the seashore.

Following the potential horrors unveiled by the coastal climate central study in 2019, showing vast areas of the Algarve underwater by 2050, this national analysis of climate trends by the CLICTOUR project has been presented today at the School of Economics and Management, University of Minho, Braga.

It “allowed (researchers) to identify some predictable impacts (of climate change), especially the worsening of forest fires, the reduction of water resources available and the continued retreat of the coastline”, says Lusa.

CLICTOUR had the collaboration of the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF), and focused on three protected natural areas – the Peneda-Gerês National Park (PNPG), the Alvão Natural Park (PNA) and the North Coast Natural Park (PNLN) – with the aim of supporting “resilient tourism” in the north in spite of climate change.

Work involved the use of drones, creation of digital maps and coastal topographic models that allowed the projection of an average retreat of the coastline of 28 metres by 2043, particularly along the north coast natural park.

In general terms, the coastline has already retreated in the area by around 19 metres since 2006 – the most ‘critical area’ identified being the northern end of Restinga de Ofir (mouth of Cávado river) and Praia da Bonança.

This segment, says the study, besides having much higher erosion rates than other areas of the PNLN, suffers enormous tourist pressure, with Ofir Beach being one of the busiest in the region during the summer months.

The existence of buildings and infrastructures for tourism and housing near the coastline makes Ofir “one of the most vulnerable to rising sea levels, both regionally and nationally”, and several coastal defence projects have been implemented in the area over recent years.

Today’s results also show that “in some places, there has been an advance of the sea of more than 70 metres since 2006.

“In the scope of the Coastal Zone Programme Caminha-Espinho (POC-CE), and due to the advance of the sea in the municipality of Esposende, more than a hundred demolitions are planned, among houses, annexes and restaurants, in critical areas of Cedovém, Pedrinhas and Ofir Sul”, Lusa continues.

Last month, questioned about the three Torres de Ofir, mayor of Esposende, Benjamim Pereira, stressed they are not a problem “at the moment” – underlining that it would take about €50 million just to pay for their demolition.

As to the likelihood of rising temperatures/ dwindling water resources, the study gives main impacts as “changes in ecosystems, reduction of biodiversity, consequences for agriculture and impoverishment of soils.

All these phenomena also produce direct and indirect impacts on the tourism sector, namely in terms of safety in the practice of tourist activities and associated health risks, or even in the reduction of landscape quality, says Lusa.

The study also addresses the significant impact of disasters such as those of 2017 wildfires on the Portuguese economy, revealing that the primary sectors, excluding fisheries, are the ones with the greatest production losses.

The knock-on effects affect, however, most economic sectors, including those linked to tourism.

According to the researchers, the results suggest that reconstruction and adaptation policies are fundamental to minimize the adverse impacts of disasters, advocating the need to improve existing tourism infrastructures and implement strategies to make tourism in forest areas more attractive.

Looking into the application of tourism taxes in these protected areas, the CLICTOUR project concluded that tourism should not be perceived as a source of economic growth without costs – arguing that the introduction of such taxes should be considered.

Source material: LUSA