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The Link between Climate Change and Africa’s Heritage Sites is Under-researched

On the shores of North Africa, ancient cities have stood for millennia. The columns of Carthage, in modern-day Tunisia, are a reminder of the once bustling Phoenician and Roman port, and along the coast in what’s now Libya, lie the majestic ruins of Sabratha’s Roman amphitheater close — perhaps too close — to the sea. Africa’s iconic natural sites date back even further, such as the ancient coral reef of the Seychelles’ Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean, thought to be around 125,000 years old. But extreme weather events and rising sea levels mean that all three — and around 190 other spectacular heritage sites that line Africa’s coasts — will be at risk of severe flooding and erosion in the next 30 years, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. This is particularly pertinent in Africa, where the links between climate risk and heritage have been mostly ignored. Past scientific research has identified cultural sites endangered by climate change in the Mediterranean, Europe and North America, but this is the first continent-wide assessment of Africa.