iCOAST: Integrated COASTal sediment systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Environmental Change Institute SoGE


Prediction of changing coastal morphology over timescales of decades raises scientific challenges to which there are not yet widely applicable solutions. Yet improved predictions are essential in order to quantify the risk of coastal erosion, which is significant in its own right and also one of the main mediators of coastal flood risk. Whilst 'bottom-up' process-based models provide valuable evidence about hydrodynamic, sediment transport and morphodynamic processes in the short term, their predictive accuracy over scales of decades is for the time being fundamentally limited. Meanwhile, behavioural systems models, that focus on the main processes and feedback mechanisms that regulate coastal form have been shown to have predictive capability at a mesoscale (10-100y and 10s-100km) but so far only in a rather narrow sub-set of coastal forms.

The iCoast project is based upon a hierarchical systems concept which combines (i) the beneficial features of process-based models, (ii) a new generation of coastal behavioural systems models and (iii) an extended approach to coastal systems mapping, which can be used to systematise and formalise different sources of knowledge about coastal behaviour.

The research is focussed upon four deliverables that have been identified as major challenges in the NERC Natural Hazards Theme:

Deliverable 1 will be an overall systems framework. The successful approach to coastal systems mapping developed by French et al. will be extended and applied to all of the England and Wales, making use of a new systems mapping tool. These new coastal systems maps can both supersede the coastal cells and sub-cells currently used in shoreline management planning and provide an evidence-based framework for more quantitative modelling. Therein, hydrodynamic and sediment transport coastal area models will be implemented at a broad spatial scale in order to provide evidence of wave and tidal forcings and sediment pathways. The systems framework will be implemented in open source software tools and coupled with methods for uncertainty analysis. Coupling with proprietary tools will, where appropriate, be implemented in OpenMI.

Deliverable 2 will be a new generation of reduced complexity behavioural geomorphic models to enable simulation of coupled coastal-estuary-offshore landform behaviour at a meso-scale. Work on this deliverable will begin by reviewing existing behavioural modules, several of which are held in-house within the iCoast consortium (SCAPE, ASMITA, various version of 1-line beach models). Identified priorities for new development and incremental improvement will be researched intensively by a team with unique experience of this type of model development. The scope of data-based models that can exploit the rapidly expanding datasets from coastal observatories will be extended. The models will be integrated within a systems framework in order to identify emergent properties and explore key sensitivities.

Deliverable 3 will entail application and validation at two coastal regions, namely the Suffolk Coast (Sub-Cell 3c) and Liverpool Bay (Sub-Cells 11a and 11b), exploring the sensitivities of these coastal regions to changes in sediment supply resulting from sea-level rise, climate change and coastal management scenarios. These applications will yield the results needed for high impact publication and the demonstrations that are essential to build confidence in new approaches being transferred into practice.

Deliverable 4 will facilitate knowledge transfer of the new methods through a range of dissemination mechanisms, including tutorials, manuals and knowledge transfer workshops. Our open source modelling strategy will initiate a community modelling approach in the coastal research community, at the same time as maximising access by practitioners to the knowledge generated at a time when requirements for coastal adaptation urgently require new predictive capability.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries from the research fall into two main categories:

1. The worldwide coastal research community, who recognise the difficult problem of mesoscale coastal prediction, will be eager to take up new methodologies. This is evidenced by the rapid uptake of the SCAPE model, which has now been applied in New Zealand and the Great Lakes as well as at several sites in the UK.

2. Coastal practitioners in the UK and worldwide, urgently need new mesoscale predictions of coastal change in order to manage the risks of coastal erosion and coastal flooding. These coastal risks are profoundly influenced by the long term behaviour of coastal sediment systems, but existing predictive approaches are severely limited, especially in conditions of long term change. Coastal practitioners include those in government and its agencies (e.g. the Environment Agency) and those in local authorities with responsibility for coastal management and adaptation. Whilst the focus of the research is upon UK coasts, the leading UK coastal consultants (e.g. Halcrow, HR Wallingford, Royal Haskoning) have considerable international businesses, so the UK is expected to benefit through the exploitation of iCoast science by these organisations in their international businesses.

Ultimately, coastal communities will benefit from more sustainable coastal management that is based upon dependable predictions of coastal change. This will help to reduce the risks from flooding and coastal erosion and help to ensure that the costs of coastal management do not become unmanageable in future, even in the context of a changed climate. Improved and evidence-based coastal management will also help to sustain coastal ecosystems, which are threatened by sea level rise and coastal squeeze.

The benefits from the research will derive from the developed methods for enhancing understanding and predicting processes of coastal change. Enhanced understanding will be delivered in particular via the new tools for systems mapping, which have already proved to be a worthwhile approach to formalising knowledge of coastal processes but which will be considerably extended in the course of the iCoast research. The process of developing behavioural geomorphic models will yield new insights into the controls upon coastal change and the ways in which coasts may be modified by changed environmental forcings. The coastal area modelling will yield new insights into the complex processes of sea bed sediment transport.
Of most practical benefit will be the new predictive tools that are developed in the iCoast project. These will take a number of different forms, including coastal area models, data-based methods and behavioural geomorphic models. They will all be developed with a focus upon predicting the variables of most relevance to coastal managers, along with well justified uncertainty estimates.

There is a realistic prospect that innovations in the iCoast project will be rapidly taken up in practice. There is an urgent need for better predictive models to analyse coastal risks and justify coastal adaptation strategies. Strong links with the practitioner community and well developed knowledge transfer mechanisms mean that outputs can be transferred into practice as soon as they are demonstrated and validated. These innovations need not wait till the end of the project to be taken up in practice.

The cohort of researchers employed in the iCoast project will develop scarce skills and systems perspectives which are in short supply in both the research and practitioner communities. Thus the iCoast project will contribute to the development of these research and professional skills in the research team and amongst the project stakeholders with whom we interact.
Description The iCOASST Project has demonstrated that improved decadal to centennial coastal geomorphic simulations can be developed using models. This was achieved through linking a range of components within a new logical framework.. This framework comprises (1) qualitative understanding, most especially a new Coastal and Estuarine System Mapping (CESM) method which describe the coastal geomorphic components and their relationships, (2) coastal area models of the shallow seabed which are used to quantify sediment fluxes and other influences on the coast, (3) decadal landform behavioural models which can be used over these timescales, and (4) model coupling in run time using Open MI. CESM was developed and demonstrated within iCOASST and a software developed which will allow this method to be applied by others. Existing coastal area models were developed and extended, and a range of numerical experiments were conducted for the iCOASST project. In terms of the landform behavioural models, iCOASST used existing models of the open coast (Unilinea) and estuaries (ASMITA), developed existing open coast models of shore platforms and finite beaches (SCAPE+), and produced completely new models of tidal inlets (MESO_i) and estuaries (ESTEEM).This gave a selection of models to link together in compositions with demonstration sites from Sefton to Blackpool in NW England (Using Unilinea and ASMITA) and the Deben Estuary and environs in Suffolk (using SCAPE+, MESO_i and ESTEEM).
Using the case studies and our new methods we have engaged in a participatory modelling approach with active stakeholder engagement. We held several meetings with stakeholders from each study site. In the earliest meetings we introduced the project and asked for the management problems and issues affecting the part of the coast for which they are responsible. Some of the insights gained from the stakeholders were important both in terms of how we approached the problem, and we were able to feed these insights into our model development. . By demonstrating our interest in their day-to-day management issues, we were able to create buy-in from stakeholders and have invaluable discussions on how results from the iCOASST project could contribute to practical, long-term coastal management in the UK.
The coupled model compositions both showed interesting results that would not have been apparent in stand-alone models. For example, if managed realignment (removal of coastal defences) along the Ribble Estuary is too rapid this will create such a demand for sediment that it impacts the adjoining open coast. Therefore, our model compositions allowed us to consider the wider coast in a holistic manner, and would allow coastal managers to determine unintended impacts of their management actions. In Suffolk, it became apparent that there are small net littoral drifts on the open coast and the Deben inlet morphodynamics mainly represents recycling of existing sediment. Coupling to the Deben estuary is mainly via changes in tidal prism which influence the size of the inlet.

The University of Oxford's research in the iCoast consortium has led to two main outcomes:

1. We have developed systems dynamics methodology to characterise and represent the complex behaviour of coastal landforms. As well as qualitatively representing landform dynamics, we have been able to link these qualitative descriptions with formal dynamical models.

2. We have developed a new modular coastal systems modelling framework, called CoastalME. This is based on the recognition that coastal landform modelling is fundamentally based on (i) quantification of sediment budgets (most generally in a 2D raster framework and (ii) analysis of dynamical behaviour on 'line' sections e.g. cross-shore sections. We have built a modelling system based upon these concepts, which is general enough to include all approaches to coastal behavioural modelling of which we are aware. A number of these modules have been implemented, including an extended version of the SCAPE model and a 1-line beach model. Further developments are under way.
Exploitation Route The research will help the long term planning of sustainable coastal management.
Sectors Construction,Energy,Environment,Transport

URL http://www.icoast.co.uk/
Description The research is contributing to the challenges of adapting the coast to sea level rise. Decisions about coastal adaptation need to make use of predictions about how the coast will change on decadal timescales. Our research has developed understanding and models that will help to predict these changes. This work is being taken forward in two ways. A dedicated web site on the Channel Coastal Observatory (going live in July 2016) will archive all the results and the open source models for download. In addition the Environment Agency are funding an additional piece of work over the next year to write a manual on the iCOASST methods and the wider issue of predicting decadal and centennial geomorphic evolution. There will also be a demonstration case study from the iCOASST models to a flood risk analysis which will show how these tools can inform strategic flood risk assessment. All Environment Agency results will be added to the CCO web site. Beyond these planned activities, the CESM approach could be applied to the entire coast of England and Wales and more widely as with small modifications, the approach is transferable globally. We have also been in discussion with owners of long-life infrastructure about applying the iCOASST methods to their frontages.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Construction,Energy,Environment,Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description 25th Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress Copenhagen; 'Quality of Life': Digital Connectivity Presentation 18/09/2018 (17/09/2018 - 21/09/2018)
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact ? Outputs & outcomes:Conference Section: TS11 - COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES 1 Powerpoint presented by James Padden, Department for Transport, UK: 'EU-TP1075 Understanding 'Digital Demand': how will demand for digital connectivity evolve across different road environments, and what does this suggest for digital infrastructure requirements?' Accompanying slide narratives supplied by Ed Oughton (Mistral) External participants: James Padden; Head of Future Roads Technology, Traffic & Technology , Department for Transport, Government, UK Thomas E. Kern; Principal, The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), USA (ITS Conference session Moderator) Internal participant: E. Oughton
URL https://itsworldcongress.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Copenhagen-2018-congress-programme.pdf
Description A member of the research team has participate in a WUN network workshop 
Organisation Worldwide Universities Network
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Andres Payo has participated at a workshop funded by the Worldwide Universities Network hosted by the University of Southampton, UK
Collaborator Contribution A panel of worlwide of coastal engineering experts got together to analyse the needs to ensure future sustainable coastal systems.
Impact Discussions during the workshop has been collapsed into a commentary piece published at Nature Climate Change DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2344
Start Year 2013