Environment Erie

Coastal management strategies in the age of climate change

Sep 04, 2015 | Posted in News

Coastal decision-makers must move away from considering physical and economic forces in isolation to fully recognise and explain changes to coastlines, according to new research from Cardiff University.

The coastlines where we live, work and play have long been altered by people, but now researchers have investigated why developed coastlines change over time in ways that are fundamentally different from their undeveloped, natural counterparts.

Published in the journal Geomorphology, the research sets the scene for a new approach to understanding these changes in the context of climate change.

The paper explains that the processes that change the shape of natural coastlines are physical; storms and waves move sediments around, eroding the shoreline in some places and building it out in others.

In contrast, the dominant processes that change the shape of developed coasts, researchers state, are economic – especially where shorelines are actively modified by hard sea defences and additional sand brought in to compensate for beach erosion.

The authors say that these interventions, which are largely linked to economics of coastal property value and tourism, affect how natural physical processes – especially those driven by waves and storms – interact with the coastline itself.

The research states that developed coastal zones can therefore be described as “coupled systems” governed by reciprocal relationships between physical and economic forces.

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