Assessing the coastal Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) is very important for contingency planning for oil spills, especially for regions undergoing urban development. This study is an attempt to identify the sensitivity of the southeastern portion of the Gulf of Suez shoreline; a very promising area for economic development. Enhancing a methodology for calculating ESI in this work obtains more efficient results for environmental sensitivity assessment. This is accomplished by adding more detailed physical factors that may affect the ESI. The coastline is ranked according to factors controlling coastal resiliency to oil spills. These factors are categorized in three sets of data: 1) physical habitats of the coastline that determine the persistence of oil pollution and ease of cleaning and reclamation such as beach types, degree of exposure to waves, beach slope, wave directions and tidal flats (physical factors); 2) biological resources sensitive to oil (ecosystem factors); and 3) the types of human-use resources (socio-economic factors). Data used to determine these factors were collected from satellite images, field work and documentary information and were manipulated in a GIS environment using a geospatial arithmetic modeling to produce spatial environmental sensitivity maps of coastal shorelines. The studied shoreline of the southwestern Sinai coastal plain of Egypt has a wide range of sensitivity to oil spills ranges from very low to very high. The northern part of the shoreline is characterized by low sensitive beaches where the morphology and beach type play the dominant rule in reducing the sensitivity. It is composed mainly of high slope rocky beaches. The southern part is dominant by sandy tidal flat beaches and coral reefs communities that extend wider and shallower. This makes the southern beaches relatively more environmentally sensitive to oil spills.
Geospatial, GIS, Oil Spills, Environmental Sensitivity Index, Sinai Egypt, Coastal Plains
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