|sector:||Agriculture, Tourism, Water resources|
|hazard:||Drought, Heat wave|
|by Darryn McEvoy
A changing climate will have important direct and indirect consequences for economic activity in the region. For instance, a dominant agricultural sector will be subject to decreased precipitation during the growing seasons (spring and summer) with increased irrigation requirements at a time of low water availability, ultimately adding to existing conditions of water stress. Furthermore, the system is also likely to be impacted by 'multiple-stressors', including: threats from new pests and diseases, a worsening of erosion and desertification, a loss of fertility, and a greater incidence of forest fires. Changes to climatic conditions also enhance other risks to forest resources, especially through increased tree mortality and land degradation (SIAM, 2001). This is particularly unfortunate as the rise in temperatures will increase the demand for outdoor recreation, with forests and woodland areas having the potential to provide suitable conditions and micro-climates for a range of activities (this highlights one obvious link between leisure / tourism and the natural environment).
It is likely that tourism in the region will also be impacted negatively, both directly and indirectly. The indirect impacts on tourism activity relate to climate change increasing the vulnerability of attractive local landscapes (for instance in terms of forest fires), with important implications for the 'carrying capacity' of the area (McEvoy et al, 2008). More directly, many studies have suggested that Mediterranean region will become less attractive (and competitive) under climate change though much of this analysis is based on increased temperatures e.g. a northwards shift in tourism patterns in Europe as the appeal of the Mediterranean deteriorates, in contrast to more northerly European Union (EU) destinations which may potentially benefit from hotter summers. Here again, other issues may also come to the fore, including increased incidence of disease, water shortages, desertification etc, as temperatures rise.
However, there is another hypothesis to consider. This is that decreasing water availability in the region may act as a significant barrier to long-term sustainable tourism, and lead to competition between the tourism and agricultural sectors not only in terms of land but also more and more in terms of access to water. Although water availability is not a major focus of the majority of climate change and tourism studies particularly at a macro-scale, it is evident that the projected impacts for the region are serious, even potentially threatening the bipartite water treaties signed between Spain and Portugal, with the supply of water to both urban and rural regions of Portugal of major concern (Kilsby et al, 2007). The transboundary tensions are encapsulated in the Portuguese demand for 6 million Euros in compensation from its Spanish neighbour after flows in the Duoro River fell below limits agreed by a bilateral agreement during the recent severe drought event (ibid).
© 2009 ADAM, Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies: Supporting European climate policy