Climate Change Monitoring at Neolithic Orkney

At Neolithic Orkney, digital documentation technology and the Climate Vulnerability Index have been applied to help monitor and assess the impacts of climate change at this important World Heritage Site.

The 'Heart of Neolithic Orkney' is a World Heritage Site comprised of four significant Neolithic sites, including Skara Brae. In recent years, Historic Environment Scotland (HES) have carried out two major heritage science projects that have made valuable contributions to understanding the impact of climate change at these important sites.

3D and 4D Digital Monitoring at Skara Brae

Since 2010, HES have been using digital documentation technologies, such as laser scanning and UAV photogrammetry, to measure coastal erosion at Skara Brae at regular intervals. These technologies have built up a bank of accurate 3D models of the landscape that can then be compared to each other over time to monitor the impact of climate change at this site. This data is shared with the Dynamic Coast project, which provides evidence and strategy recommendations for coastal erosion in Scotland.

Read more about this project.

Climate Vulnerability Index

In 2019, HES conducted a workshop with several partners to apply the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) to the Orkney World Heritage Site. The aim was to rapidly assess the potential risks of climate change for Neolithic Orkney's Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) and its community (local, domestic and international). They found that both were at high levels of risk and vulnerability, although emphasised the community's strong capacity for adaptation.

Neolithic Orkney was the first World Heritage Site to undergo a CVI assessment and the tool has since been applied to other Scottish World Heritage Sites, including the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh and the Antonine Wall.

Read more about this project.

This impact case study about the heritage science Neolithic Orkney projects has been produced with support from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Image: Photo by Ryan Denny on Unsplash