Quantitative assessment of the differential coastal vulnerability associated to oil spills

Abstract

The risk associated with a given hazard (natural or technological) generally results from the interaction between the hazard potential and the vulnerability. This paper is centred on the assessment of the vulnerability variable. A quantitative vulnerability assessment and mapping methodology is proposed, with two main specificities: (1) it is hazard- and spatially-centred (respectively, oil spills and coastal areas) and; (2) the spatial segregation level used is the municipality. Due to the geographic context of the Portuguese mainland coast, the proposed methodology was applied in an attempt to illustrate the spatial distribution and the degree of the vulnerability associated to oil spills for mainland Portugal coastal municipalities. A final map is presented together with other informative elements. Analysis and discussion of the results allows for the understanding that: (1) there is a very heterogeneous and differential distribution of the degree of vulnerability to oil spills along the Portuguese coastline; (2) the application of specific hazard-centred and spatially-centred vulnerability assessment methodologies, comprising multi-dimensional indicators (e.g., geographic, ecological, demographic, social and economic), produces more robust and realistic results, highlighted by a thorough and spatially detailed analysis; and (3) future research is required on vulnerability assessment in Portugal; along side, hazard potential assessment methodologies must also be developed in order to create a final risk profile, which can be an extremely useful tool in spatial planning and management.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge Carlos Pinto, for the technical support provided, and André Carapeto, for the help in the National Protected Areas data collecting process. Also to SCPMH-DGAM for the data provided pertaining to the distribution of spills in the Portuguese EEZ.

The authors would also like to acknowledge the comments of two anonymous referees who greatly helped improving the paper quality and its focus.

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Correspondence to Catarina Frazão Santos.

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Frazão Santos, C., Carvalho, R. & Andrade, F. Quantitative assessment of the differential coastal vulnerability associated to oil spills. J Coast Conserv 17, 25–36 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11852-012-0215-2

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Keywords

  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Composite indicator
  • Risk management
  • Oil spill pollution
  • Coastal management
  • Portugal