186 Fiona Beglane and Jerr y O’Sullivan
Fig. 10—Staad Abbey, Co. Sligo: mapped regression of the cliff edge from 1837 to 2020, based on historic Ordnance Survey maps and more recent survey data (see Table 1 for sources), overlaid on the 2016 drone photography by Western Aerial Survey. Note the presence of the peat horizon on the beach to the north-east of the church.This had not yet expanded to its maximum extent.
churches and hermitages, shore cemeteries, tidal mills, and a wide variety of masonry and timber structures associated with marine traffic. These range from single boat bollards to piers and quays and, of course, shipwrecks. Other than local case-studies (below), there has been no detailed systematic survey of these monuments in Ireland in terms of their changing condition or conservation needs.
The impact of climate change and rising sea levels on the built heritage is a matter of growing international concern. Many projects around the world have identified specific examples of archaeological sites at risk of coastal erosion and have sought to model these through time, often using similar methodologies to those employed here (e.g. Dawson 2005; Gontz et al. 2011; Pourkerman et al. 2018). In Ireland it has been the subject of a sporadic literature, including various local case-studies (e.g. Bolton 2009; Daly 2011;Westley and McNeary 2014) and papers by governmental and non-governmental organisations (Daly 2019; Edwards and O’Sullivan 2008; Kelly and Stack 2009; National Trust Northern Ireland 2007). Unfortunately, to date, there has not been a corresponding level of action. Without understanding the current situation, it is not possible to plan for the future, so we support the calls for baseline surveys of coastal sites and monuments and for local and regional vulnerability studies (Edwards and O’Sullivan 2008, 16–17; Kelly and Stack 2009, 124).
Worldwide, considerable expertise has been developed in methods of recording individual sites within longer stretches of coastline, in carrying out risk assessments to determine the vulnerability and value of particular sites, and in then determining priorities for action (e.g. Andreou 2018 in Cyprus; Hunt 2011 in England; Harmsen et al. 2018 in Greenland; Westley and McNeary 2014 in Northern Ireland; Dawson 2013 in Scotland; and Miller and Murray 2018 in the USA). Common to many of these projects is the aim of standardising recording so that surveys can be performed rapidly and are repeatable, even where different individuals undertake them, including both amateurs and professionals.They also stress the value of aerial photography, which is becoming increasingly accessible with the advent of drone technology, as we saw at Staad. The contribution of community volunteers can be invaluable, especially with the development of accurate GPS and high-quality