Coastal vulnerability to climate change in the Languedoc coastal region, southern France

Resource System
Terrestrial (including coastal and riparian) land, the river network and associated wetlands.
Resource Units
Urban/rural/agricultural spaces, freshwater, biodiversity

The Languedoc coastal zone is located in the delta region of the river Rhone bordering the Mediterranean Sea between Montpellier and the Petite Camargue in southern France. The study site also encompasses 20 km (~12.43 miles) of the inland area, including numerous communities of various sizes, the Lez and Vistre rivers, coastal lagoons and basins, and a mix of freshwater and brackish wetlands.  The Languedoc study area is characterized by an action arena in which (1) rapid population growth is actively fostered by policymakers who facilitate the concomitant overappropriation of space and freshwater resources through unsustainable hard infrastructure development (e.g., interbasin water transfers, road and housing development in ecologically sensitive areas). (2) A reliance on the amenity industry and high unemployment in conjunction with an influx of affluent “equity refugees” heeding policymakers’ calls is leading to community fracturing and dual socio-economic structures. Finally, (3) potentially polycentric rule structures and local empowerment measures are undermined by government austerity measures and aggregation rules which is leading to confusion as to what rules apply when, lack of coordination between intercommunalities, and a blurring of responsibilities between citizens and public infrastructure providers.

This case study represents one of three coastal social-ecological systems (SESs) examined in collaboration with researchers in Britain, France, and South Africa as part of the Multi-Scale Adaptations to Climate Change and Social-Ecological Sustainability in Coastal Areas (MAGIC) research project funded by a Belmont grant.  Information on the two other case studies, as well a comparative analysis of  all three SESs can be found by following the "Related Studies and Models" link below.