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Press release

European project will help northern communities to adapt their heritage to climate change

Otternes farmyard in Aurland in Sogn og Fjordane county is one of the ten case studies that will form part of the project Adapt Northern Heritage. Photo: Marte Boro, Directorate of Cultural Heritage

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The three-year project Adapt Northern Heritage started on 01 June 2017, bringing together 15 partners from Iceland, Norway, Russia, Scotland and Sweden.

More rain and a humid climate lead to more rot in historic buildings in Norway, ever more severe storms threaten Scotland’s coastal archaeology, rising temperatures change the traditional landscapes of the Samí people in Sweden and higher temperatures increase the risk of flooding in Iceland.

Climate change will have a severe impact on Europe’s northern regions, endangering many unique and important historic places of uniqueness and importance, which help sustaining local communities through heritage tourism.

To support local communities and authorities in Europe’s remote regions, a new European project, Adapt Northern Heritage started on 01 June 2017, supported by the European Union’s Interreg programme for the Northern Periphery and Arctic. The three-year project will help communities plan the adaption of their historic places to the direct and indirect environmental impact of climate change as well as associated natural hazards.

The project, with a budget of about €1m (approx. £800 000) is run by four project partners; Historic Environment Scotland, as the lead partner; Riksantikvaren (Norway’s Directorate for Cultural Heritage), as co-lead; Minjastofnun Ísland (Cultural Heritage Agency of Iceland) and Norsk institutt for kulturminneforskning (Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research) – and supported by eleven associated partners from a total of six countries.

Adapt Northern Heritage will develop an online tool to assess the risks and vulnerabilities of historic places, and provide guidance for the planning of strategic adaptation measures. The tool will be developed, tested and demonstrated in ten case studies, in Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Scotland. The project will also create a community network with a networking platform, round table workshops and training events.

“Climate change will have a direct effect on heritage sites, through physical impact in the environment that will change the conservation conditions for the materials of the site. We have only seen the beginning of the physical change”, notes the 2010 report Climate Change and Cultural Heritage in the Nordic Countries. Action is urgently needed to prevent or at least minimise accelerated deterioration and loss of historic places in the northern European regions.

“Due to the remoteness and geographically dispersed, communities and authorities in Europe’s Arctic and northern periphery and other northern regions are finding it particularly difficult to develop the required capacities, and allocate sufficient resources, to manage their cultural heritage in ways which actively takes climate change into account,” says Ewan Hyslop, Head of Science and Technical Research at Historic Environment Scotland. “Adapt Northern Heritage will support stakeholders by helping to build capacity and providing tools that will enable communities and authorities in northern world regions to cope better with the complexities added to historic place management in times of a changing climate.”

The project has three objectives:

  • Develop procedures for risks and vulnerabilities assessments and sustainable adaptation planning of historic places and make the procedures accessible through online software
  • Produce a select adaptation action plans to demonstrate how the environmental impacts of climate change and associated natural hazards can be integrated into conservation planning
  • Create a network for stakeholders concerned with the conservation of northern cultural heritage in the context of a changing climate to contribute, engage, learn and network 

“In the project, we will bring local actors from different north-European regions together to learn, exchange ideas and discuss the risks to and vulnerabilities of our respective historic places”, says Marte Boro, senior adviser at Riksantikvaren. “Although the climate change impacts will vary immensely across the Interreg NPA programme area, the exchange of expertise and experiences will benefit us greatly when planning sustainable adaption measures for historic sites.”

Gudmundur Sigurdarson, project manager at Minjastofnun Íslands adds that “experiences of conserving cultural heritage in Scotland might well become helpful in Iceland, considering how drastically our climate is likely going to change over the coming decades. Especially the case studies of the Adapt Northern Heritage project will be informative and helpful for anyone trying to plan for the future of historic sites in the 21st century.”

The project will perform 10 case studies in 6 countries: two each in Iceland, Norway (Svalbard and Aurland), Scotland (in Argyll & Bute and Dumfries & Galloway), Russia (in the Arkhangelsk Oblast), and one case study in western Ireland and northern Sweden.

Details of associated partners and case study sites will be release during the summer of 2017. Further information is available on the dedicated project website, where you also can sign up for a regular email newsletter.