African heritage sites threatened as sea-level rise accelerates

Vousdoukas, Michalis I., Clarke, Joanne ORCID:, Ranasinghe, Roshanka, Reimann, Lena, Khalaf, Nadia, Duong, Trang Minh, Ouweneel, Birgitt, Sabour, Salma, Iles, Carley E., Trisos, Christopher H., Feyen, Luc, Mentaschi, Lorenzo and Simpson, Nicholas P. (2022) African heritage sites threatened as sea-level rise accelerates. Nature Climate Change, 12 (3). 256–262. ISSN 1758-678X

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The African coast contains heritage sites of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’ that face increasing risk from anthropogenic climate change. Here, we generated a database of 213 natural and 71 cultural African heritage sites to assess exposure to coastal flooding and erosion under moderate (RCP 4.5) and high (RCP 8.5) greenhouse gas emission scenarios. Currently, 56 sites (20%) are at risk from a 1-in-100-year coastal extreme event, including the iconic ruins of Tipasa (Algeria) and the North Sinai Archaeological Sites Zone (Egypt). By 2050, the number of exposed sites is projected to more than triple, reaching almost 200 sites under high emissions. Emissions mitigation from RCP 8.5 to RCP 4.5 reduces the number of very highly exposed sites by 25%. These findings highlight the urgent need for increased climate change adaptation for heritage sites in Africa, including governance and management approaches, site-specific vulnerability assessments, exposure monitoring, and protection strategies.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Data availability: The models and datasets presented are part of the integrated risk assessment tool LISCoAsT (Large Scale Integrated Sea-level and Coastal Assessment Tool) developed by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The African heritage sites list, as well as the coastal hazard assessment data, are available through the LISCoAsT repository of the Joint Research Centre data collection ( from Heritage sites can be identified by their designated name and number in the data, and the centroid of the site is provided. We do not provide the polygons showing the extent of each site due to data sensitivities, but these can be provided by the corresponding authors on reasonable request for non-commercial use. Code availability: The code that supported the findings of this study is available on reasonable request from the corresponding authors. Acknowledgements: R.R. is partially supported by the AXA Research Fund. N.P.S. received financial support from the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada (grant no. 109419 – 001). C.H.T. is supported by the FLAIR Fellowship Programme: a partnership between the African Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society funded by the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund. N.K. is supported by the Mapping Africa’s Endangered Archaeological Sites and Monuments project funded by Arcadia Fund, UK. S.S. is supported by the Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Training Scheme, UK.
Uncontrolled Keywords: environmental science (miscellaneous),social sciences (miscellaneous),sdg 13 - climate action ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/2300/2301
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
University of East Anglia Research Groups/Centres > Theme - ClimateUEA
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Art History and World Art Studies
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Area Studies
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Beyond Materiality
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Heritage and History
Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Centres > Centre for African Art and Archaeology
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2022 11:30
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 09:58
DOI: 10.1038/s41558-022-01280-1


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