Port wine and cave paintings “at risk” in river valleys

Port wine and cave paintings “at risk” in river valleys

Changes in climate are putting the ‘existing heritage’ of two Portuguese river valleys at risk, say scientists.

In danger are the vines that produce one of the oldest protected wines in the world – Port wine – and the survival of prehistoric cave paintings.

The valleys are those of the Douro and Coa rivers.

Explains investigator Pedro Matos Soares of the University of Lisbon, temperature increases are “our greatest concern, as they threaten the harvests – particularly of grapes and other productions”.

Talking at a recent seminar on UNESCO territories and Climate Change, Esmeralda Paupério added that forest fires, exacerbated by climate change, put the legendary cave paintings at 80 sites in the Coa valley at risk, largely because of the ‘thermic shock’ that is caused when planes dump their cargos of water.

She explained the sudden deluge of cold water onto hot areas could cause the ancient rocks to fracture.

Heavy rain coming in storms that are again linked to climate change could “destroy the Douro terraces”, she added.

With river levels rising, and terraces ‘destroyed’, it’s logical that the landscape would be irreparably changed.

The seminar heard from Renato Henriques of the University of Minho who said the country’s heritage was being recorded for future memory by technology “in case of geological and climate incidents” that may transform it.

The event took place in the Museum de Foz Coa, in partnership with UNESCO and the Coa Parque foundation.

Port wine has been in production in the Douro region for over 260 years, making the Douro the third oldest protected wine region in the world.

The Coa valley cave paintings were classified as a national monument in 1997, and a UNESCO heritage site in 1998.

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