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Environment and History

A Historical View on Coastal Erosion: The Case of Furadouro (Portugal)

Joana Gaspar de Freitas and João Alveirinho Dias

Environment and History 23 (2017): 217-252. doi: 10.3197/096734017X14900292921761

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The village of Furadouro, on the north-western coast of Portugal, is emblematic of current problems of coastal management. The purpose of this article is to analyse the interaction between human communities and the coast in Furadouro, in order to understand how practices and arrangements have contributed to potentiate coastal erosion effects in the last century. The conceptual tools of 'socio-natural sites'; 'co-evolution'; and 'socio-natural sites as nexus of practices and arrangements' guide this investigation. The methodology adopted is socio-ecological long-term research. Data used comes mainly from primary historical sources (church registers, minutes of local authorities' meetings and newspapers) and secondary literature (local writers and monographs). Historical information was cross-referenced with geomorphological data to allow for a more global approach to the coastal erosion phenomenon. The analysis of the evolution of Furadouro shows that human activities determined the increase of coastal erosion problems, not only by contributing to the decrease of sand on the beach, but also by destroying its natural protection structures – the dunes. The reconstruction of past coastal landscapes and human intervention gives us a better understanding of the complex and intertwined history of this socio-ecological site, also offering a model of analysis and interpretation that can be applied to other cases around the world.

KEYWORDS: Socio-natural site, long-term research, coastal management, hazards, vulnerability

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