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article imageDozens of historic sites in Scotland at risk from climate change

By Karen Graham     Jan 16, 2018 in Environment
A climate change risk survey has just been completed for historic sites in Scotland, and the news is not good. Dozens of Scotland’s most famous historic sites are at very high risk of being badly damaged by climate change and need urgent protection.
Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the agency which oversees nearly 340 of the country’s most important castles, abbeys, Neolithic sites and ruins, has for the first time issued red warnings for nearly a fifth of its sites and put amber, high-risk warnings against another 70 percent, reports the BBC.
The report, issued by HES on January 12, identified 28 sites as being at the most risk from natural hazards. They include Fort George in the Highlands, Kisimul Castle off the coast in Barra, and Inchcolm Abbey in the Firth of Forth. A further 160 sites were labeled as high-risk from flooding, coastal erosion, and slope instability.
Loch Leven Castle is a ruined castle on an island in Loch Leven  Scotland. Possibly built around 130...
Loch Leven Castle is a ruined castle on an island in Loch Leven, Scotland. Possibly built around 1300, the castle was the location of military action during the Wars of Scottish Independence (1296–1357).
Jonathan Oldenbuck
Ewan Hyslop, head of science and technical research at HES, was quoted by The Times: “Climate change poses very real threats to Scotland’s historic environment, from an increased frequency of extreme and unpredictable weather events to rising sea levels. Average rainfall has risen by more than 20 percent since the 1960s, with historic buildings particularly susceptible to the accelerated decay this can cause."
The report is just the first step in the agency's effort to understand, monitor and manage the environmental risks associated with a changing climate. “This report places Scotland at the forefront of the global challenge to tackle climate change," said Mr. Hyslop.
A first-of-its-kind assessment
The study was very comprehensive, combining climatic data from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa), geological information from the British Geological Survey, and the agency’s own site surveys to draw up a detailed assessment of every site.
Roman Catholic cathedral in St Andrews  Fife  Scotland. It was built in 1158 and became the centre o...
Roman Catholic cathedral in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. It was built in 1158 and became the centre of the Medieval Catholic Church in Scotland as the seat of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and the Bishops and Archbishops of St Andrews.
The results of this initial risk assessment will provide the strategic basis for existing maintenance work programmes, as well as the allocation of funds for future conservation, according to HES.
In a press release, four case studies were outlined, like Blackness Castle, which provides an example of how the risk assessment data and methodology can be used to mitigate against specific risks.
The fortress on the Firth of Forth has been determined to be at high risk from a number of natural hazards, including coastal erosion and flooding. To protect against these hazards, HES have implemented the construction of a retaining shore-front wall to prevent damaging wave action.
Scara Brae. A Neolithic settlement  located on the west coast of Mainland  Orkney.
Scara Brae. A Neolithic settlement, located on the west coast of Mainland, Orkney.
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain. And like all of Great Britain, Scotland's cultural and national heritage is well-known around the world. And with the rise and fall of monarchs over the ages, there remains a wealth of historic sites, some dating to over 6,000 years ago, like the well-preserved village of Skara Brae on the mainland of Orkney.
It is commendable that Scotland is taking steps to maintain and preserve these sites, actually monuments to historical figures and events in its history. But changing climate conditions have already started to hasten decay processes, and there is damage from erosion and rising sea levels. Much of what HES oversees, including castles, mills and coastal defenses, are situated in landscapes that are susceptible to natural hazards.
More about Scotland, historic sites, Climate change, Historic Environment Scotland, Datasets
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