Archaeologists issue call to save sites threatened by rising seas

Santa Barbara Channel site vulnerability index by Leslie Reeder of SMUA group of archaeologists that includes an SMU graduate student has called for action to save important sites that are in imminent danger from climate change.

If sea levels continue to rise as predicted by global warming models for the coming decades, thousands of archaeological sites in coastal areas around the world will be lost to erosion. Torben Rick of the Smithsonian Institution, Leslie Reeder of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, and Jon Erlandson of the University of Oregon have urged scientists to assess the sites most at risk and to take action to save them, as reported in a story that appeared in Science Daily‘s Oct. 28, 2010 edition.

Writing in the Journal of Coastal Conservation and using California’s Santa Barbara Channel as a case study, the researchers illustrated how quantifiable factors such as historical rates of shoreline change, wave action, coastal slope and shoreline geomorphology can be used to develop a scientifically sound way of measuring the vulnerability of individual archaeological sites.

The scientists propose developing an index of the sites most at risk so informed decisions can be made about how to preserve or salvage them.

(Left, Santa Barbara Channel archaeological sites coded according to a Cultural Resource Vulnerability Index. Graphic by Leslie Reeder, SMU.)

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