Climate Change and Heritage Management: Measuring and Monitoring the Impacts of Future Climate and Environmental Change on the Historic Environment and Cultural Resources

Posted on November 3, 2015


Tired of conference videos yet? I hope not because this was a very interesting session at EAA about climate change and cultural resources (If you are reading this through an RSS feed reader or email notification you may not see the videos and will have to view them on the page, sorry about that)-

Session Abstract:

Dr.Andy Howard, Landscape Research & Management. Dr.David Knight, York Archaeological Trust. Prof.Thomas Raab, Brandenburgische Technische Universität Cottbus-Senftenberg. Dr.Sjoerd Kluiving, VU University of Amsterdam. Dr. Ben Gearey, Department of Archaeology, UCC
it is widely acknowledged by the scientific community that greenhouse gas emissions are causing irrevocable changes to climate systems. The impact of changing geological processes (e.g. sea-level rise; the intensity and frequency of flooding) will create their own challenges, but these will undoubtedly be followed by significant societal, geopolitical/ economic changes and increasing pressures upon natural resources. Whether considered singularly or combined these factors are likely to impose exceptional strains on the historic environment, defined here as upstanding structures, subsurface cultural and environmental remains and artefacts. Heritage practitioners and managers are beginning to recognize the potential impact of climate change. However, by comparison with allied disciplines such as ecology, the published literature suggests that as a community our level
of engagement with the subject matter is still relatively low. Furthermore, in addition to mitigating the impacts of future environmental change on the historic environment, our community is in a unique position to provide a context for studies of past environmental change and its impact upon societies and landscapes; this information has the potential to provide invaluable insights for scientists, policy-makers and politicians.This session will take a holistic approach to the theme of future climate change and the historic environment, with the aim of providing a context for future change and a forum for sharing best-practice. We would welcome papers from around the globe focused upon a number of key topics:The impact of natural
processes and consequent societal pressures upon the historic environment.Monitoring, modelling and mitigating the impacts of environmental change. Positive benefits of environmental change for heritage. Contextualizing climate change and decisionmaking, including interfaces with broader international frameworks such as ecosystem services. This session has been placed within Legacies and Visions, BUT it is probably best considered under an additional theme such as Managing the Heritage Record.

Introduction to Climate Change and Heritage Management Session

Climate Change Adaptation for Scotland’s Historic Environment

Mairi Davies
As a large public body, Historic Scotland (HS) has duties under Part 4 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 that require it to contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and to act sustainably. Ministers have identified HS as a ‘Major Player’ because it has a larger influence/impact on climate change than other public bodies. HS’s Climate Change Action Plan 2012-2017 sets out how it will fulfil its duties under the Act.
The UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2012 identified a range of risks and opportunities that climate change may present. Many of these have the potential to impact on the historic environment. Historic Scotland is key to the delivery of the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, which includes quantifying heritage assets affected by climate change, collating action on understanding and mapping anticipated coastal erosion/flood risk to cultural heritage, and researching the physical effects on buildings of changing weather patterns and profiles.
We will present an overview of our work, including initial climate change risk assessments from around the Historic Scotland Estate, and specific conservation measures such as dune stabilisation and soft-capping of exposed wallheads. We will also outline collaborative work with Buildings Standards and other agencies to increase resilience against climate change impacts such as rainwater penetration, flooding, coastal erosion etc., and publication of guidance on how owners of traditional buildings can ensure that their property is ‘Climate Ready’.

Preserving and Protecting the Peatland Record post-Kyoto Protocol

Benjamin Gearey
European peatlands are well known for remarkable archaeological discoveries and for the preservation of records of environmental change in the form of proxies such as pollen. However, these environments face a number of threats, ranging from anthropogenic activities including drainage, agriculture and peat extraction, to the impact of climate change. The possible response of peatland ecosystems to future climate change scenarios is also an area of some debate and discussion. Recent years have also seen the emergence of the ecosystem services framework which seeks to identify and value the ‘services’ provided by healthy, functioning ecosystems, which for peatlands include carbon storage and hence the potential to mitigate
the effects of climate change. This framework looks set to be adopted by many institutions and governments. Associated with this is the increasing move towards peatland restoration and conservation, which is being driven in part at least by the Kyoto Protocol which includes wetland restoration as contribution towards the carbon targets set for signatory parties. This complex of political and environmental factors presents a range of threats as well as opportunities for peatland archaeology, which do not as yet appear to have been widely identified or recognised.This paper will review this situation and suggest the necessity of concerted debate and engagement to ensure that the ecosystem services represented by the archaeological record and the particular requirements for the protection of the resource are included in future policy developments.

Recent landscape evolution of the Rio Grande drainage basin and impacts on the UNESCO World Heritage List of the Nasca lines and geoglyphs (Peru)

Francesca Cigna1, Deodato Tapete2, Nicola Masini3, Rosa Lasaponara4
The arid Peruvian coastal plain, where the Nasca Civilization flourished between 200 BC and 600 AD, has a long history of landscape changes and alterations induced by not only human action and modern urban activities along the riverbeds of the Rio Grande drainage basin, but also environmental factors and natural land processes. Although erosion by flowing water seems of minor concern, the susceptibility to natural hazards such as flash floods and run-off of sandy materials from the Andean foothills persists for the fragile archaeological heritage of the UNESCO World Heritage List (WHL) site of the Nasca lines and geoglyphs. The potential risk to this heritage is also exacerbated by the effects of climate change, e.g. variations in the regional precipitation regime. Our research analyses satellite radar imagery depicting the WHL site over the last 20 years and aims to map landscape changes from the regional scale, looking at the whole drainage basin, to the local scale, focussing on river valleys of the tributaries Rios Ingenio, Nazca and Taruga and studying the recent hydraulic regime of the puquios, i.e. the ancient waterways and sources of irrigation water. We use a variety of radar sensors, including those onboard the European ERS-1/2 and ENVISAT missions, and the German TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X satellites. Analysis of satellite time series with feature extraction and change detection approaches allows improvement of our knowledge of archaeological features, identification of surface indicators of environmental changes in such a dynamic region, and their correlation with climate pressure.

Predicting future challenges: Creating a foresight methodology for climate change adaptation

Meredith Wiggins, Jen Heathcote
Foresight has become an important tool for identifying potential future challenges. It involves gathering together myriad lines of evidence to characterise unknowables and address long-term, strategic issues. To that end, Historic England (formerly English Heritage) are working to develop an holistic methodology to assess possible future stresses upon the historic environment. This approach involves the spatial and quantitative analysis of data drawn from varied UK environmental, land use, infrastructure, climate projections and other sources. The combination and interrogation of these data will allow us to identify places at possible risk in the medium to long term. We have two aims. First, to improve our ability to assess the likely location and scale of future threats to the historic environment. Second, to generate robust information that allows us to begin talking about the adaptation measures required to improve protection where that is possible, and to develop alternative strategies where it is not. This paper will focus on case studies involving potential future environmental and climatic change.

Assessing palaeochannel resources in the light of future environmental change: a case study from the Trent Valley, UK

David Knight, Samantha Stein, Steve Malone
Palaeochannels are one of the most common features of valley floors in temperate alluvial landscapes, and their value as natural sediment traps containing proxy records of climate, vegetation history and land-use is well known within the archaeological and geomorphological communities.
In the recent past, the most significant threats to these landforms have been associated with quarrying, but future climate change may bring new challenges, associated both with changing natural threshold conditions and with flood risk management. Mitigating and managing future threats to these important historic environment assets requires detailed knowledge of their extent and character. This paper outlines a multi-staged approach to evaluating the palaeochannel resource in the Nottinghamshire sector of the middle and lower Trent Valley, UK. The first stage of the project involved the mapping of features from a variety of remote-sensed imagery, including standard aerial photography, lidar and multispectral data, and assessing the efficacy of each methodology. However, producing a landform resource map is simply the first stage of this project, and this presentation will also explore future stages, including fieldwork strategies for assessing the chronology and preservation potential of these landforms at the macroscale and likely future threats associated with climate change. Whilst such research is important for heritage management, this approach can benefit the wider community. In particular, palaeochannels are key assets for nature conservation, and can play a key role in flood management strategies as a part of
Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems.

Safeguarding Open-Air Rock Art

Myra Giesen1, P. A. Warke2, P. Lewis2, A. D. Mazel2, D. W. Graham2
The United Kingdom and Ireland are endowed with a large number of Neolithic and Bronze Age open-air rock art panels. However, evidence suggest that rates of panel deterioration may be increasing, potentially placing these iconic monuments under growing risk. Climate modelling predicts warming temperatures, more seasonally variable precipitation, and increased wind speeds in Northern England; factors that all tend to accelerate stone deterioration due to increased physiochemical weathering. By investigating a range of environmental factors that influence the present and future condition of such panels, we have developed a better understanding of the environmental pressures that most impact deterioration. In this paper, we will present new findings from work conducted at 18 important rock art sites in England, Scotland, and the Republic of Ireland.
In total, 77 rock art panels in Northumberland, Dumfries and Galloway, and Donegal were evaluated, where we gathered close to 200 soil samples, recorded over 900 in situ portable X-ray Fluorescence readings on stone surface mineralogy, and gathered condition and risk data per panel. These data were then statistically compared to identify key threats to panel preservation, which might be influenced by warmer, wetter climatic conditions. Recommended management interventions to safeguard panels will be provided based on these data to help ensure panel longevity into the future.

Impacts of climate and Environmental Change: The effects on coastal saltmaking in Lincolnshire, UK

Tom Lane
Following the results of English Heritage sponsored Surveys, chiefly in the 1980s, and subsequent investigative works, information is present about a series of past climate and environmental change events in the Fenland and coastal regions of Lincolnshire, Eastern England, covering some five millennia. These changes have resulted both in coastal erosion in places and elsewhere on the coast accretion. These altered landscapes affected not just coastal communities but those inland for up to 50km. Because of its specific natural resource requirements it is intended to view the issue through the coastal saltmaking industry, which flourished from the Bronze Age through to the end of the 16th century. The mapped west –east movement of the industry, and back again, reflects the displacement and movement of people, particularly the specialist saltmakers, and considers how such specialists may fare when the environment and resources necessary for their craft/industry is no longer available. The paper also considers human adaptability to such changes and asks what happened to people who were forced to move and become, in effect, refugees in their own country. Also touched on are issues of individual and group identity and cultural heritage of such groups.

Medmerry: Coastal change from the Neolithic to Medieval period

Kristina Krawiec, Lucy Allott
The site of Medmerry has been subject to a program of managed retreat through a multi-million pound Environment Agency scheme undertaken in 2011. As part of this scheme the site was subject to set-piece archaeological excavation and palaeoenvironmental investigation. The results of these have demonstrated a range of landscape processes which in conjunction with the archaeological evidence have shown that this area and its inhabitants have been coping with coastal change for thousands of years. The site has now been given over to the RSPB who are forming a ‘new’ wetland which bears striking resemblance to the landscape during the prehistoric period. This paper will present the approach used to investigate a deeply buried palaeoenvironmental resource in order to provide context for the archaeological remains encountered at the site.

When an Asset Becomes a Curse. Isostatic uplift and 17th century military planning – old causes and present risks for the impending inundation of a Swedish town

Claes B. Pettersson1, Fredric Jonsson2
In 1613 a Royal Decree declared that the Swedish town of Jönköping had to be moved to a new location. It had been destroyed in the Kalmar War the previous year. Now the authorities wanted to replace the medieval settlement with a modern fortress town, protected by walls and water. The site chosen was a low peninsula, exposed to storms and recurring floods. A wise decision from a strategic military point of view, but hardly for the good citizens of Jönköping. And the fight against the Forces of Nature has continued ever since. However, there were other far worse complications, unknown to the architects and town planners of the 17th century. In a longer perspective the fate of this town is sealed. Isostatic uplift, making the large Lake Vättern spill over to the south, will eventually drown the city center even without a changing climate. This realization has led to a unique co-operation between archaeologists and the emergency services. With a combination of excavated and written evidence from past catastrophes,
together with simulations and experiences gathered today, possible solutions are sought after. Temporary as the results may be, these risk assessments and precautions might be helpful in prolonging the life of a Jönköping as we know it. And in doing so, protective measurements taken in this historic, early modern environment could prove to be useful as examples for other sites threatened by climatic and environmental change!

Managing World Heritage Sites by Geoarchaeological Landscape Assessment and Modelling: a case study from the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, Derbyshire, UK

Andy Howard1, David Knight2, Tom Coulthard3, David Kossoff4
The availability of natural resources together with water for power was critical to the development of the heavy industries that kindled the Industrial Revolution. Paradoxically, however, many of these advantageous physiographic and geological characteristics, which were essential for industrial development, also create environments where geomorphological processes are most sensitive to future climatic change. Coupled with the legacy of pollution associated with many of these industrial landscapes, these inherited characteristics now pose significant threats to the historic environment when impacted by climate change. Whilst dealing with individual historic sites is challenging, management is made more complex where the historic environment comprises multiple assets and where site integrity is based upon the entire resource. The Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site (DVMWHS) is one such example, comprising a series of major mill complexes, houses, schools and churches stretching over a distance of 24km.
This paper describes a methodological ‘landscape’ approach to managing the built and other historic assets of the DVMWHS. This seeks to understand how the valley has responded to natural geomorphological change over the past millennium, a period that includes major climatic anomalies. Within this context, Historic Environment Records have been mapped to elucidate past human activity and responses to environmental change. Alongside this investigation of past activity, fluvial modelling has been undertaken to demonstrate how the river might respond to future climate change. This methodological approach is helping to inform the development of risk management and mitigation strategies for the WHS and has wider generic applicability.


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