14.2.3. Sea-Level Rise
18.104.22.168. General Impacts
Information on areas of land loss in several countries of Latin America as
a result of sea-level rise is synthesized in Table 6-5 of the IPCC Special Report
on Regional Impacts of Climate Change (IPCC, 1998). Fishing production is a
sector that would suffer as a consequence of sea-level rise. Along the Central
American coastline, sea-level rise will affect infrastructure, agriculture,
and natural resources, as well as potentially exacerbate coastal erosion and
salinization of aquifers and increase flood risks and the impact of severe storms
(Campos et al., 1997; MINAE-IMN, 2000).
Chapter 6 of the Special Report identified information on the economic cost
of sea-level rise in Latin America as assessed by Saizar (1997) and Olivo (1997)
for the Uruguayan and Venezuelan coastlines, respectively. Saizar (1997) assessed
the potential impacts of a 0.5-m sea-level rise on the coast of Montevideo (Uruguay).
Given no adaptive response, the cost of such a rise in sea level was estimated
to be US$23 million, with a shoreline recession of 56 m and land loss of 6.8
ha. Olivo (1997) studied the potential economic impacts of a 0.5-m sea-level
rise on the coast of Venezuela. At six study sites, she identified land and
infrastructure at risksuch as oil infrastructure, urban areas, and tourist
infrastructure. Evaluating four scenarios, Olivo (1997) suggests that Venezuela
cannot afford the costs of sea-level rise, either in terms of land and infrastructure
lost under a no-protection policy or in terms of the costs involved in any of
three protection policies.
Coastal wetlands in the region endure the impact of population growth, expansion
of the agricultural activity, and land-use changes.
Observed sea-level rise at the local or regional level in Latin America could
be greater than the global average value (Field, 1995; Codignotto, 1997; Kjerve
and Macintosh, 1997). Negative trends in river streamflow along the Patagonian
coast may result in reduction of sediments toward deposition areas. Coastal
erosion would be affected by this effect as well as increased sea level (Codignotto,
1997; Kokot, 1999).
22.214.171.124.1. Mangrove ecosystem
The response of mangrove forests to changes in sea level within 50-100
years under climate change conditions is complex and controversial; it depends
on physiography as well as ecological and biological factors (Villamizar, 1994;
Ellison and Farnsworth, 1996; Ewel and Twilley, 1998; Rull et al., 1999).
The land-building function of mangrove vegetation has very important implications
in coastal management because it works as a natural barrier to protect adjacent
agricultural land by reducing erosion caused by wave action, tides, and river
flow. This is important for shallow estuaries that are prone to flooding, especially
where the land is below sea level (Twilley et al., 1997; Villamizar and
In the tropical Americas, the loss of coastal forests, mainly mangroves, occurs
at a rate of approximately 1% yr-1. The rate is much faster in the
Caribbeanapproximately 1.7% yr-1 (Ellison and Farnsworth, 1997).
Because most commercial shellfish and finfish use mangal for nurseries and refuge,
fisheries in mangrove regions are declining at a similar rate as mangrove communities
(Martínez et al., 1995; Ewel and Twilley, 1998).