On March 25, Prof. Maria Carmen Llasat, from I-CHANGE team of University of Barcelona, gave the talk “Are Flash Floods Increasing in the Mediterranean Region? The case of Spain” in the context of the Water Webinar “Extreme Storms, Floods, and Climate Change: Recent Advances and Interdisciplinarity” chaired by Prof. Athanasios Loukas.

The conference started showing the necessary multidimensional approach that considers Human-Food-Systems (HFS) as complex systems in which anthropogenic processes and hydrological responses are mutually shaped. Consequently, it requires  the integration of physical and social sciences in flood-related research, that is known as Pluralistic Flood Research (PFR), following the conclusions of the IAHS Panta Rhei initiative concluded last year, 2023 (Viglione et al., 2023). The I-CHANGE project follows this philosophy to cope with floods, mainly flash floods. Disastrous flash floods are more frequent in the Mediterranean coastal areas than other European regions, due its climate and topographic conditions, and the high population and urban settlements in flood-prone coastal areas on the other hand. Its geographical position favors the water vapor supply from other regions far away. However, the perception of its importance by both the population and policymakers and stakeholders is low.

For this reason, the I-CHANGE Living Labs of Barcelona (Spain) and Genoa (Italy) have selected floods as one of the types of extreme events to deal with. Specifically, the Barcelona Living Lab on Extreme Events  is placed in Catalonia (NE of Spain), where 219 flood events (42 with deaths) have been recorded between 1981 and 2010 (Llasat et al., 2014) and 10,3% of them have produced catastrophic damages. The Barcelona Living Lab on Extreme Events is constituted by 36 municipalities, where land uses changes and the increase of population and exposure has drove to an increase of flood events since 1981, despite Barcelona city shows a negative significant trend thanks to the improvement of drainage systems and pluvial tanks. Prof. Llasat also shown how the scenarios points to an increase of the risk of damaging events due to an increase of heavy precipitation and population growth.

The last part of the presentation was devoted to mitigation and adaptation measures, and Prof. Llasat introduced the concept of Integrated Flood Risk Management (IFRM) as the best solution to diminish flood impacts. It is a comprehensive approach that aims to manage flood risk by considering the entire spectrum of activities and measures related to floods, and involves the integration of various disciplines, stakeholders, and strategies to minimize the adverse impacts of flooding on human lives, infrastructure, and the environment. Prof. Llasat showed how the strong collaboration with the quadruple helix of stakeholders and the citizen science activities developed in I-CHANGE are a good example of this IFRM.