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SEA-LEVEL RISE IMPACT ON COASTAL AREAS OF ESTONIA

ARE KONT, URVE RATAS and ELLE PUURMANN

Estonian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Ecology, Kevade 2, EE0001 Tallinn, Estonia

Abstract. Due to long coastline (3,794 km in total) and extensive low-lying coastal areas, global climate change through sea-level rise will strongly affect the territory of Estonia. A number of valuable natural ecosystems (both, marine and terrestrial) containing rare plant communities often rich in species, but also suitable breeding places for birds will be in danger. Most sandy beaches high in recreative value will disappear. However, isostatic land uplift and location of coastal settlements at a distance from the present coastline reduce the rate of risk. Four case study areas characterizing all the shore types of Estonia have been selected for sea-level rise vulnerability and adaptation assessment. Preliminary results and estimates of vulnerability to 1.0 m sea-level rise by 2075 for two case study areas – Hiiumaa, West-Estonian Archipelago and Parnu-Ikla,¨ south-western coast of the mainland – are presented in this paper.

1.

Introduction

Estonia is a seaside country, remaining entirely within the drainage area of the Baltic Sea. Due to long coastline (3,794 km in total) and predominance of low- lying coastal areas (NW part of the East- European Plain), accelerated sea-level rise associated with global climate change may strongly affect the territory of Estonia. On the other hand, location on the southern slope of the Baltic Shield which is undergoing isostatic land uplift (2.5 mm/year on the northern coast and 1.0 mm/year in the south-west (Vallner et al., 1988)) potentially reduces the effect of sea-level rise. Although small in area (45,216 km 2 ), Estonia is rich in different geomorphic types of coasts. The contemporary coast of the country is shoaly and it can be divided into low and bluff shores. According to the tilt of the primary relief, geological character of initial rocks and prevailing shore processes, eight various shore types have been distinguished by Orviku (1992). These are the following:

(1) cliffed shore; (2) scarp shore; (3) rocky shore; (4) till shore; (5) gravel shore; (6) sandy shore; (7) silty shore; and (8) artificial shore. All above-listed shores may display a variety of natural patterns according to which stage of development they have reached depending on the exposure to prevailing currents, the time of exposure and several other factors (Orviku and Sepp, 1972). Different shore types are used by man in different ways. Coastal rural settlements in Estonia are very old. Some have been founded over 5,000 years ago. First sheds were probably set up near the coastline. As a result of isostatic uplift of the earth’s crust, most of seaside villages are located at a distance from the coastline today.

Climatic Change 36: 175–184, 1997.

c 1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

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Thus, the settlements in coastal areas of Estonia, except for the ports, are not in direct danger in the case of moderate sea-level rise. As Estonia is relatively rich in various coastal ecosystems (reed beds, many different types of meadows including wooded meadows, dunes, cliffs, etc.) which are often valuable nesting sites for birds and usually containing rare plant species and plant communities, the main attention must be given to vulnerability and protection strategies of them.

2.

Methods

Four case study areas containing all the above mentioned shore types have been selected for sea- level rise vulnerability and adaptation assessment. One of them embraces Hiiumaa, the second biggest island of West Estonian Archipelago rep- resenting a variety of geomorphic types of coasts characteristic to the whole archipelago. The other three study areas are situated in different parts of the mainland and each of them represents mainly one predominating shore type:

Ha¨ademeeste-Ikla¨ – sandy shore; The Matsalu Bay – silty shore; and Pakri-Tallinn – cliff shore (Figure 1). Detailed measurements on large-scale (1 : 25 000) topographic maps and calcu- lations according to the Bruun Rule were made along the coastlines every 200 m in distance. Two main problems appeared doing the measurements: (1) the Estonian coasts are too shoaly to apply the Bruun Rule without corrections; (2) the over- fill ratio, , was found quite approximately by experience of marine geologists using the following coefficients: sand – 1.0; silt and varved clays – 0.7; till (loam full of pebble and boulders) – 0.4; and limestone – 0.1. It is worth mentioning that till shores in Estonia are erodible to certain extent until fine-grained fractions are entirely washed out. Remaining shingle ridges and boulder fields prove to be extremely resistant against further erosion. Based on measurements, calculations and field observations, new coastline positions were drawn on the topographic maps. Field observations were needful to compare possible coastline recessions obtained by the Bruun Rule to actually existing situations, and to do corrections where necessary. Two different coastline positions were drawn – for normal weather conditions and for potential storm surge attack. Both zones were subjected to inventory of land loss and of temporary damages respectively. The data on water-level fluctuations and storm surges (Tables I and II) were obtained from meteorological and sea-level observation stations (4 stations in Hiiumaa and 2 stations in Parnu-Ikla¨ coastline section) using data which extend back to the second half of the previous century. Because of shallow basin and isolated state, tides have no significance (1 cm in average) in the water regime of the Baltic Sea. Finally, the data of isostatic land uplift measurements were also taken into consideration in land loss estimates (Figure 1).

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SEA-LEVEL RISE IMPACT ON COASTAL AREAS OF ESTONIA
SEA-LEVEL RISE IMPACT ON COASTAL AREAS OF ESTONIA

Figure 1. Location of case study areas on the scheme of isobases of annual velocities of vertical movements in Estonia (Vallner et al., 1988). –– = isobases;

//// = case study areas: A = Hiiumaa; B = Parnu-Ikla;¨

C = Matsalu Bay; D = Pakri-Tallinn.

ARE KONT ET AL.

Table I Maximum and minimum sea levels (in cm related to the Kronstadt bench mark) and possible coastline recessions (in m) in 1.0 m sea-level rise in Hiiumaa. CR – coastline recession

178

Month

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

CR

 

Tahkuna

Max

144

135

135

126

104

104

112

118

126

138

136

153

230

Min

0

–22

–10

–6

7

20

30

30

16

5

5

8

30

 

Ristna

Max

112

95

95

58

47

53

55

81

89

83

86

123

100

Min

–48

–63

–68

–65

–50

–40

–25

–32

–29

–53

–56

–78

30

 

Soru˜

Max

87

73

70

51

29

43

39

51

68

73

57

84

170

Min

–57

–85

–69

–67

–44

–43

–25

–39

–34

–49

–53

–97

50

 

Heltermaa

 

Max

93

80

85

53

26

47

48

60

71

71

65

84

140

Min

–54

–76

–71

–68

–50

–39

–22

–28

–24

–46

–61

–99

25

Table II

Maximum and minimum sea levels (in cm related to the Kronstadt bench mark) and possible coastline

recessions (in m) in 1.0 m sea-level rise in Parnu-Ikla¨

case study area. CR – coastline recession

Month

J

F

M

A

M

J

J

A

S

O

N

D

CR

 

Parnu¨

Max

159

155

175

179

135

94

97

159

174

179

183

153

185

Min

–107

–87

–103

–115

–85

–65

–39

–51

–61

–95

–100

–120

20

 

Kihnu

Max

132

150

135

68

92

59

67

94

99

118

95

127

150

Min

–102

–85

–86

–86

–58

–48

–27

–47

–38

–62

–82

–133

15

3.

Results

The present paper contains preliminary results of the vulnerability assessment to 1.0 m sea-level rise through 2075 for the two first case study areas. The other two test areas are still under study. A 0.3 m scenario would not give measurable effect because of the predominant land uplift. A few adaptation options are also included, however, assessment of socio-economic consequences and possible adaptation strategies to sea-level rise are still under study.

SEA-LEVEL RISE IMPACT ON COASTAL AREAS OF ESTONIA

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Hiiumaa (989 km 2 in area) is located in the northern part of the West Estonian Archipelago and is surrounded by nearly 200 small islets. It is a low-lying island with elevations varying between 0 and 10 m above sea level. The highest point on the Kopu˜ Peninsula (68 m) is an exception. The geological structure of the island is quite simple. Folded crystalline rocks of the fundament lying 200–300 m below present sea level are covered by Ordovician and Silurian sedimentary rocks (limestones, dolomites, marls). The bedrock is covered by a comparatively thin layer (about 10 m in average) of Quaternary deposits. The coastline (325 km) is rather straight in the west and in the east with peninsulas and bays coastline sections more characteristic to the north- west and south-east. Main coastal types are: (1) beaches with coastal ridges and dunes; (2) gravel shores with coastal ridges; (3) abraded till shores with erratic boulders; (4) silty shores surrounding shallow bays; and (5) low limestone shores. The only city – Kardla¨ and its harbours – have artificial shores with protection structures. According to the data obtained in four meteorological and sea- level observation stations in Hiiumaa (Figure 2), it can be said that the highest sea-levels have been measured in the stations most exposed to waves and storm surges (Table I) extending 1.53 m over the Kronstadt 0 (local bench mark for the eastern part of the Baltic Sea) in Tahkuna. At the same time sea- level fluctuations are more considerable on the eastern and southern coasts of the island, probably as a result of the greater number of shoals. Although, precise relevelling indicates a slow uplift of the earth’s crust in Hiiumaa today (Vallner et al., 1988), there has been erosion of sandy beaches in past decades, and in some places the sea is advancing again (Orviku, 1987). Since 1954, Hiiumaa has been subject to at least eight extremely strong storms (in 1954, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1975, 1983, 1986, 1990), of the kind that, according to statistics, should occur only once in a hundred years. In the autumn and winter period, the westerly and south-westerly storm winds raise the water up to 2 m above its summer level. As there is little evidence of a rising sea level in Estonia over this period, beach erosion appears to be largely due to recent increased storminess in the eastern Baltic Sea. The results of measurements and calculations show that the most vulnerable shore types to sea-level rise are shoaly sandy and silty shores. Sandy beaches are concentrated on the western coast of Hiiumaa, while silty shores are prevailing in the north-west and south-east. Most extensive coastline recessions (over 500 m) would occur on silty shores, nearby Korgessaare˜ and Kaina¨ (Figure 2). 38 km 2 of coastal territory of Hiiumaa will submerge in the case of 1.0 m sea-level rise. The land loss includes 21.5 km 2 of coastal meadows, 8.3 km 2 of forests and 5.6 km 2 of beaches. 155 low-lying islets nearby the coast of Hiiumaa disappear and over 40 new islets appear by separation from present headlands. A number of valuable coastal ecosystems, plant communities and plant species will be destroyed. Part of

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ARE KONT ET AL.

Figure 2. Hiiumaa case study area. = inundation zone; = storm surge zone; = hydrometeorological observation station.

SEA-LEVEL RISE IMPACT ON COASTAL AREAS OF ESTONIA

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them are located within the limits of the Hiiumaa Biosphere Reserve which is rich in valuable breeding places for birds. Preliminary estimates of losses indicate that 100% of reed beds, 80% of coastal meadows including rare saline plant communities of Salicornia europaea, Glaux maritima-Juncus gerardi and Carex glareosa site types are in direct danger. In addition to the above-listed communities, biotopes of several unique plant species such as Myosotis laxa, Samolus valerandi, Sagina maritima, Herminium monorchis, Halimione pedunculata, Suaeda maritima, Coeloglossum viride and Polygonum oxyspermum (Red Data Book of the Baltic Region, 1993) are also threatened. A very unusual complex of ecosystems consisting of numerous lagoons with calciphilous meadows rich in orchids surrounding them on the north-western coast of Hiiumaa completely disappear. As the villages are usually situated at a distance from the present coastline, there will be only 18 dwellings in direct danger. About 60 boathouses and sheds for nets are located within the limits of inundation zone. Additionally, 550 build- ings including 332 dwellings, 44 km roads will be at risk during strongest storm surges. 7 harbors, 8 lighthouses, 9 km of roads connecting harbors with villages and nearly 50% of the territory of Kardla,¨ the only city of Hiiumaa need protection by constructing seawalls and dikes. Storehouses in the harbors will need recon- struction. Korgessaare˜ will be isolated from the rest of Hiiumaa. The most effective adaptation option to preserve natural ecosystems in Hiiumaa would be hardening of headlands to avoid the coastline straightning. The Parnu-Ikla¨ study area is located in SW Estonia on the western coast of the Gulf of Riga. Most of the area is made up of accumulation sandy beaches with an extensive ridge of coastal formations covered by foredunes and dunes. The highest dunes of Estonia (40 m above sea level) are situated in the southern part of the study area. This is one of the most popular recreation areas with famous health resorts in Parnu¨ and numerous motels between Rannametsa and Ikla. Measurements and calculations according to the Bruun Rule indicate the sec- tions most vulnerable to sea- level rise are located in the northern part of the study area where silty shore type is predominant (Figure 3). Coastal ridges as potential protections against inundation are located at a distance from today’s coastline. Dur- ing recent strong storms, the waves have reached many dwellings, located about 300 m from the sea. In places where ridges of coastal formations are interrupted by brook valleys or drains, low-lying meadows extending landwards beyond the ridges and dunes are also vulnerable to sea-level rise, being potentially inundated by numerous drains. Dikes built before the last world war are no longer effective. In high water level conditions erosion of dunes is evident. In the case of 1.0 m sea-level rise, 22.2 km 2 of coastal territory (0.3 km 2 – forests, 20.5 km 2 – meadows, 1.4 km 2 – beaches) will be submerged. Isostatic land uplift here (about 1.0 mm/year) is less efficient than in Hiiumaa. That is why the relative land loss compared with that in Hiiumaa is much greater (the coastline length is only 70 km). One small and low islet existing today will submerge, and

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182 ARE KONT ET AL. Figure 3 . Parnu-Ikla¨ rological observation station. case study area. =

Figure 3. Parnu-Ikla¨

rological observation station.

case study area. = inundation zone; = storm surge zone; = hydrometeo-

SEA-LEVEL RISE IMPACT ON COASTAL AREAS OF ESTONIA

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the 5 m high Piklanina headland will turn to islet. 1.8 km 2 of the territory of Parnu¨ including valuable beach and health resorts will be in danger. The strongest storm surges may embrace an additional 22.6 km 2 of coastal territory. About one third of Parnu¨ city and over 450 buildings outside Parnu¨ are located in this zone. Finally, it can be said that there are few highly valuable natural ecosystems in Parnu-Ikla¨ case study area which would need special protection. The main problems here are connected to socio-economic aspects, particularly to protection of recreation values. The best beaches ought to be saved.

4.

Conclusions

Due to relatively small territory and long traditions in the natural sciences, all natural components of the coastal system are well investigated and mapped in Estonia. Consequently quite easy to assess vulnerability of the natural ecosystems and possible changes in their structure as a result of global climate change. It is obvious that different types of coasts are vulnerable in different ways. Each study area needs a specific approach in estimating potential losses and selecting the best adaptation policies. Preliminary assessment of different shore types in various locations of Estonia shows that different rates of isostatic land uplift and different geomorphic types of coasts cause the degree of inundation to vary from place to place. Most vulnerable to sea-level rise are sandy and silty shores in SW Estonia. Cliff, scarp and till shores typical of the northern part of the country are naturally much better protected. Sparsely populated coastal areas in Estonia are often rich in unique and scientif- ically valuable ecosystems (West-Estonian Biosphere Reserve, Vilsandi National Park, Matsalu Nature Reserve, etc.) which must be preserved for future generations. At the same time, it is extremely difficult to estimate their monetary value. Densely populated areas, particularly cities with their infrastructure, harbors and recre- ation zones also need protection. Thus, every coastal area of Estonia is vulnerable to possible sea-level rise, and deserves the formulation of appropriate adaptation options.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the U.S. Country Studies Management Team for giving us the possibility to participate in the U.S. Country Studies Program and for their review and recommendations during the production of this paper. We are also grateful to Dr. Kaarel Orviku for helpful comments.

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References

Ingelog,¨ T., Andersson, R., and Tjernberg, M. (eds.): 1993, Red Data Book of the Baltic Region 1, Lists of Threatened Vascular Plants and Vertebrates, Uppsala, Riga, p. 95. Orviku, K. and Sepp, U.: 1972, ‘Stages of Geological Development and Landscape Types of the Islets of the West-Estonian Archipelago’, in Geogr. Studies, Valgus, Tallinn, pp. 15–25. Orviku, K.: 1987, ‘The Coast of Estonia and Its Changes’, Eesti Loodus 11, 712–719 (in Estonian with summations in Russian and in English). Orviku, K.: 1992, Characterization and Evolution of Estonian Seashores, Summary of Doctoral Thesis at Tartu University, Tartu, p. 20. Vallner, L., Sildvee, H., and Torim, A.: 1988, ‘Recent Crustal Movements in Estonia’, J. Geodynam. 9, 215–223.

(Received 17 November 1995; in revised form 4 October 1996)

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