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Monday, 25 February, 2002, 14:45 GMT
Bailing out flooded Venice
St Marks Square, Venice, BBC
The famous St Mark's Square under water
A team of scientists from Scotland is to play a major role in the efforts to stop the romantic Italian city of Venice from sinking into the sea.

The city is threatened year after year by rising sea levels and increased flooding.

Now, experts from St Andrews University will take part in a study into how to better protect the Venice coastline.

Venice, BBC
Venice's trademark gondolas
The team will be paid 250,000 by the European Union to research how tidal systems in lagoons and estuaries change over time.

They will compare similar changes in the Forth Estuary on the east coast of Scotland and Morecambe Bay on the west coast of England with the aim of coming up with a way of preserving Venice for centuries to come.

In all, nine different European institutions will collaborate on the Tidal Inlets Dynamics and Environment Project.

Rising pollution

Part of their study will involve assessing the land-use effects of public access and tourism around the Forth Estuary.

Prof David Paterson, BBC
Professor David Paterson: Leading the team
The estuary is of international importance in terms of wading bird populations but has problems of degenerating coastline due to pollution and a rising sea level.

The group will also look at the ways in which conservation policies are perceived by land managers and the general public, and the values which local people attach to the coastline.

Professor David Paterson, head of the sediment ecology research group at St Andrews University, who will lead the study, said his team had "great experience" in analysing coastal systems.

More frequent

The group wants to establish the biological status of coastal zones as well as determine the rate of system degradation. Professor Paterson said: "Plans will be examined to help slow down or halt adverse changes."

In general, the work is expected to help in the planning and execution of coastal preservation activities such as the construction and preservation of marsh areas.

In Venice, water slowly seeps out from under the stones in St Mark's Square, the lowest point in Venice. In 1966, when the city was hit by the most serious floods in its history, the water rose 1.8 metres.

In recent years the flooding has been less dramatic, but more frequent. In 1997, the centre of the city was flooded 80 times. According to experts, in 50 years' time there could be flooding every day.

See also:

17 Dec 01 | Europe
Europe battles snow and floods
08 Dec 98 | Europe
Venice behind barriers
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