The Role of Detailed Geomorphic Variability in the Vulnerability Assessment of Potential Oil Spill Events on Mixed Sand and Gravel Beaches: The Cases of Two Adriatic Sites

Edoardo Grottoli, Paolo Ciavola

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Abstract

The role of short- to medium-term geomorphic variation is analyzed in two Italian mixed sand and gravel beaches to better understand how it could affect vulnerability assessments of oil spill events. The study sites, Portonovo and Sirolo, are in one of the most congested areas for oil transportation in the Adriatic Sea (Ancona port). A “snapshot” situation populated with field data collected in April 2015 is compared to a “changing” situation built with previous field datasets (topographic surveys and surface sediment samplings) available for the two beaches. According to the ESI guidelines established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], 2002, both Portonovo and Sirolo can be ranked as ESI 5 or 6A in most of the cases. Sediment size resulted in the most decisive factor for the ESI assessment. As consequence of the bimodal direction of storms, the high geomorphic variability on the two sites is
mainly related to storm berms which lead to rapid burial processes on both beaches. In oil spill circumstances, burial is considered the most alarming factor, especially on microtidal mixed beaches that develop storm berms so high and close to the shoreline. A quantification of the maximum potential depth reachable by the oil in the beach body is therefore needed for the most dynamic beaches; this could be achieved with repeated field measurements to be performed in the period between two consecutive ESI updates (5–7 years) and the addition of an appendix in the ESI maps dealing with the geomorphic characteristics of the beach. The significance of a changing ESI rank is that the authorities in charge of responding to the oil spill could be improperly prepared
for the conditions that exist at a spill site if the geomorphology has changed from when it was first given an ESI rank.
Original languageEnglish
Article number242
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Volume7
Early online date13 Sep 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2019

Keywords

  • oil spill
  • coastal impacts
  • Mixed beach
  • coastal geomorphology
  • Storm impact
  • Coarse-clastic beach
  • sediment transport
  • coastal vulnerability
  • storm berm
  • burial
  • coarse-grained beaches
  • mixed beaches
  • ESI

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