30,000 sites in Wales at risk from climate change

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More than 30,000 historic sites in Wales are at risk from flooding or weather damage unless more is done to protect them, a group of experts has warned.

30,000 sites in Wales at risk from climate change
Burial cairns, Bryn Cader Faner, Gwynedd [Credit: Wales Online]

Faced by projections of higher temperatures, wetter summers and winters and significantly more frequent bouts of extreme weather, The Historic Environment Group (HEG) said 12,000 archaeological sites on valley bottoms are vulnerable, with many only a metre or less above sea level.

There are also more than 18,000 archaeological sites on peat, which is susceptible to drying out, erosion and irreversible damage.

The group, made up of a forum of more than 20 organisations with a professional interest in the historic environment, suggested the potentially devastating effect of rapid climate change is being ignored.

HEG representative Emma Plunkett-Dillon of National Trust Wales said: “Increased flooding on floodplains and valley bottoms alone in Wales puts 5,000 listed buildings and 12,000 archaeological sites, 300 of which are scheduled ancient monuments, at risk.”

A report by Dyfed Archaelogical Trust said damage caused by severe storms, such as the collapse of a chimney and walls at King’s Court medieval house, Talley, Carmarthenshire, will become more frequent as the climate changes.

The role of the HEG Climate Change Subgroup is to assess how the challenge of climate change can be addressed and to advise the Welsh Government on priorities.

Initial studies have recommended the need for the impacts on the historic environment to be taken into account when formulating Glastir agri-environmental management plans.

The group took the Met Office’s model for climate change and looked at the potential impact on Wales’ historic assets within a lifetime. The results have been published in the booklet ‘Climate change and the historic environment of Wales: A summary of potential impacts’.

It shows coastal erosion has already removed part of the Iron Age fort at Dinas Dinlle, Gwynedd, and burial cairns, such as Bryn Cader Faner, constructed about 4,000 years ago are now vulnerable to opportunities for new farming practices as the climate once again changes. It also highlights sudden flooding events such as that in Bodnant Garden, Conwy, 2012, which left parts of the area under water.

Minister for Culture & Sport, John Griffiths, said: “We have to identify where we need to act now, and have been working to assess the most severe risks. We know coastal erosion threatens a great many sites and a huge number of our historic jewels and urban spaces are only a metre or less above sea levels and therefore at very serious threat.”

Source: Wales Online [December 03, 2013]

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