Bottom up Adaptation Strategies for a Sustainable Europe

Coast of Ílhavo and Vagos (Ílhavo, Portugal)


The Climate Challenge

The low-lying coastal stretch between Ílhavo and Vagos in Portugal is one of the most vulnerable in Europe when it comes to storm surges and flood risks. The territory is characterized by urban settlements with summer residencies, fishing communities and permanent residences. The study area is a dune barrier along a stretch of nearly 20 km that suffers from strong erosion, mainly due to a deficit of sediments associated with a decline in river sediments supply. Sea level may rise up to a meter by 2100. Changes are expected in wave direction as well as an increase in wave height and extreme events such as storms, which are already frequent in winter.


The Adaptation Response

The study followed a participatory action-research approach. The Scenario Workshop method engaged different stakeholders and provided the context for the co-design of an action-plan. The Adaptation Pathways and Tipping-Points method was used to produce dynamic adaptation pathways, which were then analysed through a cost-benefit analysis and presented to local stakeholders. To deal with technical uncertainty the participatory process included a Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA). The first versions of the Multi-Criteria Analysis and of the Adaptation Pathways were done by researchers, then presented to participants for discussion and re-design. The outputs of these exercises presented to all in a final event. The suggested adaptation options were sand nourishment operations, a sand dike and a submerged detached breakwater.


The People and Institutions Involved

Actors in the region have been largely disengaged and there has been no concerted action plan for dealing with the coastal problem. Also, various administrative entities are responsible for coastal protection, yet institutional efforts and inter-institutional collaborations have been scarce. Local residents and business owners have claimed their participation in previous studies was never converted into real action, which made researchers especially committed to inclusiveness in this scheme.


The Outcome of Action

Dune construction and strengthening is the only measure so far being implemented through ongoing sand nourishment operations. Measures such as the adaptation or improvement of dykes are also foreseen in the action plan resulting from the action-research intervention. Local municipalities are currently developing studies for the possibility of building a submerged detached breakwater to protect the most vulnerable spots.



Ines Campos,


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Full Report

The full report of this case study can be read here.


Photo © Centre for Environmental Biologic (CBA/FCUL)