Research Viewpoints from EGU GA 2011 (2)

This year on the EGU General Assembly blog there will be guest posts from participants about their research and their impressions of sessions. These are personal points of view not EGU corporate views. If you would like to contribute a research viewpoint, please email us.

This Research Perspective comes from Luís Costa, a PhD student at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He will present his research in NH5.5 Storm Surges and coastal areas: extreme events, damages, and risk.

Lamarck vs Darwin: Evolutionary paths for sea-level rise adaptation

I came across a dilemma when looking on how authors integrate adaptation options to sea-level rise in impact assessment models. Should adaptation at the coastal zones be the product of a Lamarckistic or Darwinistic process? For both ground-breaking naturalists, adaptation was the evolutionary process whereby a population becomes better suited to its habitat, the difference between both conceptions lies on the mechanisms driving changes in the population.

For the last two decades authors have been looking at potential impacts at the coastal zone and proposing adequate adaptation measures to counteract the negative effects of a substantial increase in global sea-levels by the end of this century [1]. Assessments appear to be restricted to a narrow portfolio of adaptation options. Coastal protection, coastal retreat, beach and wetland nourishment rank as the most commonly investigated solutions to adapt to sea-level rise [2]. It appears that most options labelled as coastal adaptation can be better defined as current coastal management practices scaled up to accommodate accelerating levels of sea-level change and highly uncertain storm intensities. In this sense, adaptation to sea-level rise seems to follow a Lamarkistic approach. In the in the same way the giraffe altered its physiology by constantly stretching its neck to adapt to higher trees, researchers seem to envision the upgrade of existing coastal management strategies as a suitable response to higher sea-levels. The same Lamarkistic view is traced to the common assumption that all coastal regions of the world (that are currently in different states of urban and economic development) will rely on the same set of adaptation options within 80 years time. The assumption that technology on coastal protection employed today in developed coasts will be adopted in other world regions is in striking similarity with Lamarck’s claim that the acquisitions or losses wrought by nature on individuals are preserved within the coming generations.

Adaptation to sea-level rise following a Darwinistic approach implies that coastal zones better adapted to sea-level rise survive while the ill adapted ones perish. The idea of a “better adapted” coast demands serious refinement. It is commonly accepted that the European part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands possesses a well adapted coastline. The immense tradition on coastal protection and land reclamation, associated to robust economic performance, seem to provide all necessary conditions for the Dutch to endure sea-level rise. There are even reasons to believe that the inherent vulnerability to sea-level rise of the Dutch culture is socially constructed [3], highlighting how deep into society adaptation to climate change needs to be considered. Just across the rising Atlantic, the Katrina example warns us for the costly price of developing our coastal activities relying on traditional protective measures. The old New Orleans should have perished, and in its place, a Darwinistic new New Orleans flourish by engaging in a progressive abandonment of traditional protection measures, enforcing a moratorium on coastal development, creating unprecedented liberty margins for the sea and a redistributing its economic activities to safer areas. In the aftermath of the disaster, the rush by the residents to rebuild the familiar and the effort to reconstruct the failed levees to their existing height [4] places coastal adaptation back in line with Lamarck’s thesis. A Darwinistic view on coastal adaptation seems dramatic. But considering that necessary emissions cuts to avoid dangerous climate change [5] implies restructuring most of the world’s energetic system, the magnitude of reconfiguring prone coastlines appears to me as an equally plausible challenge.

As a researcher I’m currently struggling with what is the best adaptation approach to sea-level rise. A Lamarck’s adaptation weighted by the technical and economic capacity of coastal communities, or the Darwinistic prospect of a dying coastline as example of a brighter future?

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Tuesday at EGU GA 2011

We hope you had a good first day at the European Geoscience Union General Assembly 2011, whether you’re here in person or following online via the webstream.

Some union wide events happening at the EGU GA 2011 on Tuesday 5 April.

13:30–15:10 Union Symposium. The Future of Water Cycle Earth Observing Systems, Room D [Webstream]
This Union Session will explore visions on new water cycle observing systems. Major space agencies are planning new satellites that will provide new and additional space-based observations of the water and energy cycles components. It is expected that these observations will lead to improved applications (e.g. in agriculture, water and energy management) and scientific understanding the Earth’s climate. Overall the level of innovation presented in the future missions is limited, whether in sensor design, the synergistic use of the data with other data or the delivery of the information to users. For more information see the Session Details

15:30–17:00 Great Debate. How will Europe face the raw materials crisis? Room D [Webstream]
Recent publicity of China’s control of the rare earth element market and the growing crisis of supply of metals essential for new technologies is a reminder of Europe’s near-total dependence on imported metals. The European Union spends 55 billion Euros per year, half of its total budget, to assure a supply of agricultural products but seems satisfied that >97% of all metals are imported. In this debate, experts from academia and industry will discuss the current state of the minerals industry, in Europe and on a global sale; they will explore which metals may be in short supply and what can done in universities, government agencies and industry to mitigate the problem. For more information see the Session Details

Townhall Meetings
10:30–12:00 A roadmap for European Geoscience Infrastructure (sponsored by EU RD infrastructures) and ESFRI, Room 1.

19:00–20:00 Joint IODP ICDP Townhall Meeting. (Room 4)

19:00–20:00 Career Development: how can we integrate graduate and employer needs, Room 5. More details about the speakers can be found on the YES Network site. This is being webstreamed independently see their webstream page for details.

The EGU Booth

The EGU Booth is in Booth 01 of Exhibition on the Yellow Level (Ground Floor) (pdf map) it’s directly in front of you as you come in the Main Entrance to the Conference Venue.

The EGU Booth is the location for Meet EGU where you can meet Division Presidents.

Merchandise is for sale at the booth including adult polo shirts, adult and child t-shirts, EGU General Assembly 2011 mugs. You can pick up free 3D rulers, pens, stickers, bags and postcards at the EGU Booth. The postcards (three designs) are the winners of the 2010 Photo Competition. Place your written postcards in the box near the EGU Information point and they will be posted for you (you don’t need to buy stamps).

Quick reminder of Author Guidelines at EGU GA 2011

The guidelines for authors can be found on the EGU General Assembly Guidelines page and are reproduced below.

Oral presentations are organized in oral sessions scheduled in specific lecture rooms given in the programme together with the time of presentation of each contribution including discussion and change over. The oral sessions are scheduled in four time blocks per day, each time block with 90 minutes. Please note that the duration given to your oral presentation includes 3 min. for questions and discussion, e.g. a 15 min. talk should be 12 min. actual presentation + 3 min. discussion.

The oral presentations are not organized centrally. Therefore, the authors are kindly asked to upload their presentations directly in the respective lecture room within 30 minutes preceding the actual time block of the session starts. A lecture room assistant will be available for any help.

It is strictly prohibited to take photos and/or copies from notebooks of any scientific material without the expressed permission by the authors.