Scientists are set to create three-dimensional maps of key sites on the Scottish coastline as part of a move to protect important infrastructure and historical monuments from the effects of climate change.
Three of the country’s most iconic places have already been earmarked for in-depth studies during the two-year initiative.
These are the globally important neolithic ruins at Skara Brae in Orkney, the “home of golf” at St Andrews in Fife and Montrose Bay in Angus. Further areas will be included as work gets under way.
Almost a fifth of the Scottish shoreline is soft and at risk of erosion, threatening some of the country’s most prized land, structures and transport links.
Studies have shown both the rate and extent of erosion has increased dramatically in recent decades, which experts believe is down to the impacts of global warming.
Researchers working on the state-backed Dynamic Coast project have already produced maps highlighting which parts of the country are most at risk from erosion and flooding and predicted roads, railways, property and archaeology worth billions of pounds are in danger.
Now they will use drone footage, satellite images and other data to create a more detailed picture and categorise the resilience of Scotland’s coast. They also aim to identify potential solutions.
“We need to think outside the box and act more sensitively and sensibly when it comes to coastal developments in future,” according to Professor Jim Hansom, from the University of Glasgow, Dynamic Coast’s principal investigator.
He stressed the importance of identifying crunch points now in order to plan ahead and target resources to protect communities and heritage.
“We are now facing decades of future sea level rise and increasing erosion and flooding at the coast, so we need to better understand the increased risk posed by climate change to coastal assets and communities,” he said.
“We need to know whether to adapt, defend or move those coastal assets as well as how social justice might be better incorporated into future policies. Failure to act now will lead to enhanced costs and impacts later.”
Mike Cantlay, chair of Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “Our beaches and dunes can be a natural ally in combating the effects of climate change. ”
Scottish environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham added: “We need to take action now to adapt and adjust to these changes. This research will forecast the extent of damage that could be caused to our precious coastlines through the effects of climate change and will work with communities, local authorities, transport agencies and other planning bodies to develop plans to manage coastal change before it’s too late.”