Benefits of adapting to sea level rise: the importance of ecosystem services in the French Mediterranean sandy coastline


This article proposes an innovative approach to assess the benefits of adapting to sea level rise (SLR) in a coastal area on a regional scale. The valuation framework integrates coastal ecosystem services, together with urban and agricultural assets. We simulate the impacts of a progressive 1 m rise in sea level in the twenty-first century and an extreme flooding event in 2100 for four contrasted adaptation scenarios (Denial, “Laissez-faire”, Protection and Retreat). The assessment involves coupling the results of hazard-modelling approaches with different economic valuation methods, including direct damage functions and methods used in environmental economics. The framework is applied to the French Mediterranean sandy coastline. SLR will result in major land-use changes at the 2100 time horizon: relocation or densification of urban areas, loss of agricultural land, increase in lagoon areas and modification of wetlands (losses, migration or extension of ecosystems). Total benefits of public adaptation options planned in advance could reach €31.2 billion for the period 2010–2100, i.e. €69,000 per inhabitant (in the study area) in 2010 or €135 million/km of coastline. Our results highlight the importance of (i) raising awareness to ensure that public services and coastal managers can anticipate the consequences of SLR and (ii) incorporating coastal ecosystems into the assessment of the adaptation options. Our findings could provide a basis for participatory foresight approaches to build coastline adaptation pathways.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. 1.

  2. 2.

    Activity conducted as part of the multidisciplinary MISEEVA research project, funded by the French National Research Agency

  3. 3.

  4. 4. and consulted in March 2011

  5. 5.

    While RF and EF may also impact beaches and dunes by increasing erosion rates, data and knowledge were insufficient to build plausible assumptions for the evolution in erosion over the next few decades.

  6. 6.

    Under the Protection scenario, lagoon and wetland ecosystems are assumed to remain stable (Online Resource 2).

  7. 7.

    Impacts of an EF event are not included in the analysis, and they are considered to be negligible in comparison with PF and RF impacts because coastal wetland and lagoon ecosystems are resilient to EF.

  8. 8.

    The characterisation of physical impacts is based on interviews and working sessions with the stakeholders and scientific researchers actively involved in managing the lagoons and associated wetlands in the study area.


  1. Agenais A (2010) Evaluation économique des dommages liés à la submersion marine sur l’agriculture: Construction d’un modèle et application au Languedoc-Roussillon. Dissertation Montpellier SupAgro Brgm, Montpellier, France

  2. André C, Boulet D, Rey-Valette H, Rulleau B (2016) Protection by hard defence structures or relocation of assets exposed to coastal risks: contributions and drawbacks of cost-benefit analysis for long-term adaptation choices to climate change. Ocean Coast Manag 134:173–182.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Anthoff D, Nicholls R, Tol R (2010) The economic impact of substantial sea-level rise. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 15:321–335.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Brunel C (2010) Evolution séculaire de l’avant côte de la Méditerranée française. Impact de l’élévation du niveau de la mer et des tempêtes. Thesis, Université Marseille 1, France

  5. Castaings J (2008) Etat de l’art des connaissances du phénomène de comblement des milieux lagunaires. Rapport de phase 1. Dissertation, Cépralmar, France.

  6. CETE Méditerranée (2010) Evaluation des coûts de protection des territoires littoraux en Languedoc-Roussillon. Rapport d’étude pour la DREAL Languedoc-Roussillon

  7. CGDD (2010) Evaluation économique des services rendus par les zones humides. Etudes & Documents n°23.

  8. Clément V, Rey-Valette H, Rulleau B (2015) Perceptions on equity and responsibility in coastal zone policies. Ecol Econ 119:284–291.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Craft C, Clough J, Ehman J, Joye S, Park R, Pennings S, Guo H, Machmuller M (2009) Forecasting the effects of accelerated sea-level rise on tidal marsh ecosystem services. Front Ecol Environ 7:73–78.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Darwin RF, Tol RSJ (2001) Estimates of the economic effects of sea level rise. Environ Resour Econ 19:113–129.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Deleuze C, Fotre C, Nuti I, Pierot F, Torterotot J (1991) Evaluation de fonctions de coûts économiques des dommages aux cultures dus aux inondations. Dissertation, Ecole Nationale du Génie Rural, des Eaux et des Forêts (ENGREF), Paris, France

  12. Devaux-Ros C (2000) Evaluation des enjeux et des dommages potentiels liés aux inondations en Loire moyenne, Méthode et principaux résultats. Agence de l’Eau Loire-Bretagne, Orléans, France

  13. Fankhauser S (1994) Protection vs. retreat: estimating the costs of sea level rise, CSERGE Working Paper GEC 94-02.

  14. Fletcher CS, Rambaldi AN, Lipkin F, RRJ MA (2016) Economic, equitable, and affordable adaptations to protect coastal settlements against storm surge inundation. Reg Environ Chang 16:1023–1034.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Ghyben BW, Drabbe J (1889) Nota in verband met de voorgenomen putboring nabij Amsterdam (Notes on the probable results of the proposed well drilling near Amsterdam). Tijdschrift van het Koninklijk Institunt voor Ingenieurs, The Hague, pp 8–22

  16. Hallegatte S, Ranger N, Mestre O, Dumas P, Corfee-Morlot J, Herweijer C, Wood RM (2011) Assessing climate change impacts, sea level rise and storm surge risk in port cities: a case study on Copenhagen. Clim Chang 104:113–137.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Herzberg A (1901) Die Wasserversorgung einiger Nordseebaden (The water supply on parts of the North Sea coast in Germany). Zeitung für Gasbeleuchtung und Wasserversorgung:44, 815-9–842-4

  18. Hinkel J, van Vuuren DP, Nicholls RJ, Klein RJT (2013) The effects of adaptation and mitigation on coastal flood impacts during the 21st century. An application of the DIVA and IMAGE models. Clim Chang 117:783–794.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Ifremer (2001) L’eutrophisation des eaux marines et saumâtres en Europe, en particulier en France. Rapport Ifremer pour la Commission Européenne – DG.ENV.B1. 64p

  20. IIBRBS (1998) Evaluation des dommages liés aux crues en Région Ile de France. Agence de l’Eau Seine-Normandie, Nanterre

    Google Scholar 

  21. IPCC (2014) Summary for policymakers. In: Field CB, Barros VR, Dokken DJ, Mach KJ, Mastrandrea MD, Bilir TE, Chatterjee M, Ebi KL, Estrada YO, Genova RC, Girma B, Kissel ES, Levy AN, MacCracken S, Mastrandrea PR, White LL (eds) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part A: global and sectoral aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1–32

  22. Kebede AS, Nicholls RJ (2012) Exposure and vulnerability to climate extremes: population and asset exposure to coastal flooding in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Reg Environ Chang 12:81–94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Kuhfuss L, Rey-Valette H, Sourisseau E, Heurtefeux H, Rufray X (2016) Evaluating the impacts of sea level rise on coastal wetlands in Languedoc-Roussillon, France. Environ Sci Pol 59:26–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Lecacheux S, Pedreros R, Devallée E, Poisson B, Garcin M (2010) Evaluation simplifiée de la submersion marine à l’échelle du Languedoc-Roussillon. Rapport du projet ANR MISEEVA. BRGM, Orléans

    Google Scholar 

  25. Li S, Meng X, Ge Z, Zhang L (2015) Vulnerability assessment of the coastal mangrove ecosystems in Guangxi, China, to sea-level rise. Reg Environ Chang 15:265–275.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Lichter M, Felsenstein D (2012) Assessing the costs of sea-level rise and extreme flooding at the local level: a GIS-based approach. Ocean Coast Manag 59:47–62.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Lin BB, Khoo YB, Inman M, Wang C, Tapsuwan S, Wang X (2014) Assessing inundation damage and timing of adaptation: sea level rise and the complexities of land use in coastal communities. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang 19:551–568.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Luisetti T, Turner K, Bateman IJ (2008) An ecosystem services approach to assess managed realignment coastal policy in England. CSERGE Working Paper ECM 08-04. Norwich: University of East Anglia.

  29. MEA (2005) Millennium Ecological Assessment. In: Millennium ecosystem and human well-being: a framework for assessment. Island Press, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  30. MEDDTL (2012) Stratégie nationale de gestion intégrée du trait de côte. Vers la relocalisation des activités et des biens. Paris, France.

  31. Michael JA (2007) Episodic flooding and the cost of sea-level rise. Ecol Econ 63:149–159.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Monioudi IN, Karditsa A, Chatzipavlis A, Alexandrakis G, Andreadis OP, Velegrakis AF, Poulos SE, Ghionis G, Petrakis S, Sifnioti D, Hasiotis T, Lipakis M, Kampanis N, Karambas T, Marinos E (2014) Assessment of vulnerability of the eastern Cretan beaches (Greece) to sea level rise. Reg Environ Chang 16:1–12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Nicholls RJ, Wong PP, Burkett VR, Codignotto JO, Hay JE, McLean RF, Ragoonaden S, Woodroffe C (2007) Coastal systems and low-lying areas. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 315–356

    Google Scholar 

  34. Oude Essink GHP (2001) Improving fresh groundwater supply—problems and solutions. Ocean Coast Manag 44:429–449.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Rulleau B, Rey-Valette H (2013) Valuing the benefits of beach protection measures in the face of climate change: a French case-study. J Environ Econ Pol 2:133–147.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Rulleau B, Rey-Valette H, Hérivaux C (2015) Valuing welfare impacts of climate change in coastal areas: a French case study. J Environ Plan Manag 58:482–494.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Sogreah (2011) Rapport sur l’évaluation économique des dommages liés à l’élévation du niveau de la mer sur l’habitat et les entreprises à l’échelle régionale. Projet MISEEVA, Grenoble

    Google Scholar 

  38. Spalding MD, Ruffo S, Lacambra C, Meliane I, Hale LZ, Shepard CC, Beck MW (2014) The role of ecosystems in coastal protection: adapting to climate change and coastal hazards. Ocean Coast Manag 90:50–57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. SYMADREM (2010) Etude du renforcement de la digue du Rhône rive droite entre Beaucaire et Fourques: Etude des enjeux agricoles. Chambre d’agriculture du Gard, Nîmes

    Google Scholar 

  40. Titus JG (1990) Greenhouse effect, sea level rise and land use. Land Use Policy 7:138–153.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Tompkins EL, Few R, Brown K (2008) Scenario-based stakeholder engagement: incorporating stakeholders preferences into coastal planning for climate change. J Environ Manag 88:1580–1592.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Torterotot JF (1993) Le coût des dommages liés aux inondations: estimation et analyse des incertitudes. Thesis ENPC, Paris/ Marne-la-Vallée

    Google Scholar 

  43. UNEP-MAP, RAC/SPA (2010) In: Bazairi H, Ben Haj S, Boero F, Cebrian D, De Juan S, Limam A, Lleonart J, Torchia G, Rais C (eds) The Mediterranean Sea biodiversity: state of the ecosystems, pressures, impacts and future priorities. RAC/SPA, Tunis 100p

    Google Scholar 

  44. Vanroye C, Auffret C (2010) Coût de la protection côtière en Languedoc-Roussillon: Quelle rentabilité? in Actes des journées “Impact du Changement Climatique sur les Risques Côtiers”, 15-16th November 2010, Orléans.

  45. Wong PP, Losada IJ, Gattuso JP, Hinkel J, Khattabi A, McInnes KL, Saito Y, Sallenger A (2014) Coastal systems and low-lying areas. In: Field CB, Barros VR, Dokken DJ, Mach KJ, Mastrandrea MD, Bilir TE, Chatterjee M, Ebi KL, Estrada YO, Genova RC, Girma B, Kissel ES, Levy AN, MacCracken S, Mastrandrea PR, White LL (eds) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part A: global and sectoral aspects, Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 361–409

    Google Scholar 

  46. Yohe G (1990) The cost of not holding back the sea—toward a national sample of economic vulnerability. Coast Manag 18:403–431.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Yohe G, Neumann J, Ameden H (1995) Assessing the economic cost of greenhouse-induced sea level rise: methods and application in support of a national survey. J Environ Econ Manag 29:S78–S97.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Yohe G, Neumann J, Marshall P, Ameden H (1996) The economic cost of greenhouse-induced sea-level rise for developed property in the United States. Clim Chang 32:387–410.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Zhou Y, Tol RSJ (2005) Evaluating the costs of desalination and water transport. Water Resour Res 41:W03003.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was undertaken in the framework of the research project “Marine Inundation Hazard Exposure Modelling and Social, Economic and Environmental Vulnerability Assessment in regard to Global Changes” (MISEEVA), which was financed by the French National Research Agency. We gratefully acknowledge Jean-Daniel Rinaudo for his useful comments and suggestions. The preparatory work for this chapter was made possible thanks to financial support from BRGM.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cécile Hérivaux.

Additional information

Editor:Sarah Gergel.

Electronic Supplementary Materials

Online Resource 1

(PDF 479 kb)

Online Resource 2

(PDF 407 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hérivaux, C., Rey-Valette, H., Rulleau, B. et al. Benefits of adapting to sea level rise: the importance of ecosystem services in the French Mediterranean sandy coastline. Reg Environ Change 18, 1815–1828 (2018).

Download citation


  • Sea level rise
  • Ecosystem services
  • Adaptation options
  • Climate change
  • Economic valuation