Book Your Trip Soon

Oct. 16, 2018

If you’ve been thinking about a sightseeing trip to the Mediterranean, you might want to go sooner rather than later, according to a recent study, which says that many of the cultural treasures along the coast will eventually be partly underwater or eroded away.

The paper just published in the journal Nature Communications surveyed 49 UNESCO World Heritage sites in coastal areas around the Mediterranean Sea. It found that 37 are at risk from a 100-year flood and 42 from coastal erosion. The risk for both will increase steadily over the next century, the study says, with flood risk overall increasing by 50% and erosion risk by 13%, although some specific sites are in more urgent danger. About a third of the at-risk sites are in Italy, but Croatia, Greece, and Tunisia are all well represented.

Among the endangered areas are the entire city of Venice and its lagoon, many parts of Istanbul, the Old City of Dubrovnik (where some of the TV series “Game of Thrones” is filmed; winter might not be coming but the floodwaters almost certainly are), the archaeological ruins of Carthage, Ephesus, Rhodes, the central part of Naples, the Kasbah of Algiers, and the Piazza del Duomo in Pisa, including the Leaning Tower. The authors estimated, for each site, what percentage of the total area would likely be flooded during a 100-year storm; the numbers range from less than 1% (the relatively fortunate Leptis Magna in Libya and the Cultural Landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana on Mallorca) to 97% (Venice).

A Yale history professor not involved in the research notes that, although it’s unfortunate that so many of the sites are at risk, “That’s just classic Mediterranean history. Everything is within two miles of the coast.”

With the exception of Venice, which is working on a barrier system to help prevent flooding, few of the sites have plans for protection.

About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines.