Coastal resilience in the face of sea-level rise: making the most of natural systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment

Abstract

Sea-level rise is one of the most profound aspects of human-induced climate change and its steady but uncertain rate of rise will transform the world's coasts in the coming decades threatening millions of coastal and flood plain residents. While this is understood in a technical sense, wider society has not grasped the scale of change produced by expected rise in sea level over the next century. In the UK, with its large legacy of coastal defences, this issue is especially challenging. Many defences are uneconomic to maintain and renew, and widespread 'realignment' is planned within the strategic process of Shoreline Management Planning (SMP). Realignments reactivate natural sediment processes which enhances self-adjusting natural protection with both risk-reduction and aesthetic benefits. However, the transformation from a defended to a realigned coast is especially challenging to implement and will be an important focus of this research. There has been surprisingly little consideration of how the transition to a realigned coast can be facilitated and enabled across the full range of physical and social perspectives. Efforts to better understand the full range of adaptation options and their implementation, including realignment, offer potentially significant rewards in terms of tangible enhancement of coastal resilience.

CoastalRes aims to develop and demonstrate prototype methods to assess realistic pathways for strategic coastal erosion and flood resilience in the light of climate change, including sea-level rise. We will accomplish this aim via three objectives.

Objective 1. Co-produce a comprehensive set of representative coastal archetypes that describe the open and estuarine coasts of England and Wales in terms relevant to building coastal resilience, including present and future demography, hazards, sea-level rise, contrasting geomorphology, shoreline position, land use patterns and management legacy. This will include early and fully participatory engagement with stakeholders to consider their knowledge and experiences and define the full range of archetypes.

Objective 2. Identify and evaluate a comprehensive range of strategic high level adaptation options, considering their physical suitability, economic efficiency, social acceptability and pathways of application (potential sequence in time) and impact on UK resilience. This will include a systematic literature-based review combined with two regional stakeholder workshops organised with the Coastal Group Network and the Environment Agency.

Objective 3. Taking three common and representative coastal archetypes, design decision pathways to maintain and enhance resilience based on the menu of adaptation options. This will include consideration of a range of factors including policy choices, cost implications, risk trade-offs and public participation in problem specification and decision making. These adaptation pathways for resilience will be validated with representative real sites.

The use of coastal archetypes for the analysis, rather than case studies, is novel and allows generalisation from individual cases to develop generic and transferable guidance. Crucially, our analysis considers all the open coasts and estuaries in England and Wales, as estuaries contain a large proportion of the assets and activities exposed to marine flooding.

In contrast to previous work, which has tended to rely on consultation and 'outreach' to stakeholders, our research will have a genuinely participatory approach. This will allow us to achieve a consensus understanding with a large and diverse group of relevant Project Partners, including the key organisations the Environment Agency and Maritime District Authorities.

The CoastalRes Project will provide a solid demonstration of a transition to a more balanced, resilient and sustainable portfolio of adaptive options on the UK coast and provide a foundation for further research in this area.

Planned Impact

CoastalRes will develop new innovative prototype methods and understanding concerning the strategic assessment of adaptation options for erosion and flooding given sea-level rise and climate change and enhancing coastal resilience. In particular, it will inform future development of Shoreline Management Planning (SMP) process in England and Wales, which is the current policy process for strategic coastal flooding and erosion management, and hence a key component determining the coastal resilience of our coast. Our approach is strongly participatory in nature and we will engage with key stakeholders as Project Partners from the beginning of the project to formulate our detailed approach and make sure that it addresses the range of relevant stakeholder issues. The letters of support from the wide range of stakeholder organisations shows the need and demand for the proposed project and highlights their commitment to end-user 'buy in' from the outset.

The Pathways to Impact document has been developed in consultation with, and will be delivered through, direct, regular and genuinely participatory engagement with multiple stakeholders in England and Wales. The key stakeholders and Project Partners are the Environment Agency and the Maritime Local Authorities (represented by the Coastal Group Network). The Environment Agency has committed to act as a Project Partner if the project is funded. Our other project partners are from other parts of government (Natural England), providers of critical infrastructure (Network Rail and ABP), key NGOs with large coastal land holdings (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and National Trust) and other national NGOs (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and National Flood Forum). This forms a strong group able to both inform the project and take our results as they emerge and disseminate them into practice. We are open to add new Project Partners as the project develops and will invite selected additional stakeholders to the final workshop (e.g., EDF Energy).

The main ways in which we will engage with end-users are via our stakeholder workshops, a policy brief summarizing our major outcomes and insights, a webinar with the same goal, and web content on the Channel Coastal Observatory site which is used extensively by coastal stakeholders (building on content such as https://www.channelcoast.org/iCOASST/introduction/). We will hold four workshops through the project, linked to our three objectives. The first workshop will link to the development of the coastal archetypes with attendance of the Environment Agency and our Project Partners. The second and third workshops will be regionally-focussed and will focus on defining a comprehensive set of adaptation options: one workshop will be hold in the south and one in the north to focus on local experience and consider possible regional differences. The fourth and final workshop will focus on validating the adaptation pathways developed with the coastal archetypes and will include national stakeholders, with regional input as appropriate. It will also consider the potential next steps for the research. All these workshops will be designed to be participatory and engage our stakeholders to the maximum degree possible. This will include discussion on the policy brief and webinar as the results develop. We will also engage with our Project Partners via telephone or the internet, bilaterally as needed. We will also seek advice from the University of Southampton's dedicated Public Policy knowledge transfer team In terms of developing the policy brief and webinar.
 
Description Resilience is widely seen as a desirable attribute of coastal systems and, as a concept, is increasingly prominent in national policy documents. However, there are conflicting ideas on what constitutes resilience and, in practical terms, it largely remains an academic discourse with little firm basis for operationalisation or application to coastal management and adaptation to climate change and sea-level rise. In this project, we examined in a practical way how coastal resilience to coastal flooding and erosion could be measured and applied in policy processes in England. We define resilience pragmatically, in economic, environmental and social terms, integrating and expanding upon a disparate set of existing policy objectives in government. Our definition envisages several dimensions of resilience and we develop a series of indicators for each of these, with reference to available national geospatial datasets. A workflow to measure resilience is developed and implemented within a prototype model that generates a quantitative resilience index for a given geographical unit (England being represented by about 8,000 such units). Stakeholder preferences are vitally important to this process and are captured by relative weightings elicited in this prototype from the research team. With this approach, illustrative resilience maps are successfully produced for detailed case studies and nationally. We stress that the results presented here are very much about the process of assessing resilience, and the research insights mainly concern the process of operationalising resilience in a quantitative sense. Further application would require further development of the methods and especially the stakeholder preferences. In addition, to apply resilience as part of national policy would require a strong commitment from government to establish the incentives for coastal managers to engage with and apply a resilience-focused approach. Moreover, such an integrated philosophy of resilience will raise questions for existing governance structures, which may require fundamental revision as a result.
Exploitation Route The Coastal Resilience Model methods might be tests and trialled by government to measure and enhance resilience. especially as the Environment Agency is now embracing a Resilience Agenda for managing flooding and coastal change. At the time of writing we have just discovered that our work will feed into a successful bid to the Environment Agency led by JBA and entitled "Understanding Changes in Resilience to Flooding and Coastal Change ".
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Energy,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Transport

URL https://www.channelcoast.org/ccoresources/coastalres/
 
Description Our work had three components: (1) Stakeholder workshops were we considered the strengths and weakness of current arrangements for coastal erosion and flood management and the implications of moving from a coastal risk perspective to a coastal resilience perspective; (2) Assessments of national open datasets suitable to assess coastal risk and coastal resilience; and (3) Design and development of a prototype coastal resilience model which we applied to demonstration sites (Christchurch Bay, Portsmouth, North Humber) and nationally. During our research, we held four workshops (two national workshops in London, one southern workshop in Havant near Portsmouth and one northern workshop in York) to ascertain the views of coastal engineers, scientists, managers, plus other coastal users across a wide range of sectors about how the shoreline in England is managed today. Presentations may be found here: https://www.channelcoast.org/ccoresources/coastalres/. We also held telephone conversations individual coastal managers in Wales. Impacts included: *Increased awareness through debate of shoreline management policies, including their pros and cons through different sectors talking with each other in a neutral environment, including sectors that they would not normally talk with. *Highlighting gaps (or particular challenges) in theory and practice in national and local approaches to shoreline management to those who help inform or contribute to policy. This included resourcing issues, including finance, timescales, education and communication. *Consideration of the implications of moving from a coastal risk to a coastal resilience framing of coastal management. The assessment of data showed that while data is available, public data on coastal risks and resilience needs more consideration and this was fed into the Channel Coastal Observatory and a public position paper was written. The Coastal Resilience Model (CRM) was demonstrated at our last workshop to about 50 delegates and presented in Climate Resilience Webinar in October 2020. Members of this consortium will contribute to research commissioned by the Environment Agency on "Understanding Changes in Resilience to Flooding and Coastal Change". This links to the large Environment Agency investments in Resilience. Hence, our reach is at national level, with engagement from local authorities, the Environment Agency, Defra, Natural England, NGOs and critical infrastructures companies.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description DEFRA Call for Evidence on Flooding and Coastal Erosion
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://consult.defra.gov.uk/flooding/call-for-evidence-flooding-and-coastal-erosion/
 
Description Environment Agency: Flood and Coastal Erosion Call for Evidence
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-calls-for-evidence-on-floods-and-coastal-erosion
 
Description Parliament Coastal flooding and adaptation to climate change inquiry launched
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/environment-food-and-rur...
 
Description To provide written evidence for the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on flooding. Fourth Report of Session 2019-21. e Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and associated bodies. Written evidence from Dr Sally Brown (Bournemouth University), Dr Ivan Haigh (University of Southampton), and others.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/4949/html/
 
Title Coastal Resilience Web Portal on the Channel Coastal Observatory (CCO) website 
Description We are widely disseminating the results and tools of the Coastal Resilience Project to the national (and international) research and practitioner community via a dedicated web site hosted at the Channel Coastal Observatory (CCO) which is the national repository for coastal erosion and change data in England. Hence, it is widely used by relevant practitioners in government and their consultants. As papers are published and other developments occur, the web site can be updated and such updates are reported as news by the CCO to their users, alerting practitioners to the new content. In terms of use there have been1651 visits to the CoastalRes page over the last 9 months, which is an average of 183 per month. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact While the Coastal Resilience Project is finished, we continue to work on dissemination of the results and products, including the Coastal Resilience Model. We created a dissemination web site hosted at the Channel Coastal Observatory (CCO) to reach target UK coastal practioners (see https://www.channelcoast.org/ccoresources/coastalres/). There have been1651 visits to the CoastalRes page over the last 9 months, which is an average of 183 per month. 
URL https://www.channelcoast.org/ccoresources/coastalres/
 
Title CoastalRes: Coastal Resilience Model Prototype 
Description The prototype Coastal Resilience Model (CRM) quantifies the economic, environmental and social dimensions of resilience with reference to a suite of performance measures that can be assessed using open-access geospatial datasets. The prototype provides a framework for mapping the current state of coastal resilience, as well as representing past and future resilience.The analytical approach uses Multiple-Criteria Analysis (MCA) methodology to derive a composite Resilience Index derived from a broad set of diverse measures and data, as well as stakeholder weightings. Given suitable hazard and socio-economic scenarios, modelled resilience time trajectories can be created to reveal the impact of alternative coastal development and adaptive pathways. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The outcomes of the prototype, applied to the English coast, were discussed in a well-attended UKRI online seminar available at https://gtr.ukri.org/projects?ref=NE/S016651/1 
URL https://reshare.ukdataservice.ac.uk/854523/
 
Description 'A pilot study for England' University of Hohai, China: a seminar given by Prof Ian Townend 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact University students attended a seminar and question/answer session based on the work of the project and approaches to coastal management in the UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description 'An introduction to the concept of Coastal Resilience' University of Southampton: a lecture given by Prof. Ian Townend 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Ian Townend was a guest lecturer in the 'Sea Level Rise and Coastal Management' module at the University of Southampton. He discussed the concept of resilience with the students and how this can be applied within coastal management.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description 'Is the concept of coastal resilience useful for coastal communities?' University of Auckland, NZ: a seinar given by Prof Ian Townend 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Ian Townend presented outcomes and thoughts generated in the project to communicate some the latest developments in coastal management from the UK. A question and answer session followed with the students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description 'Preliminary thoughts from NERC "CoastalRes " Project' Southampton Conference Centre for English Coastal Challenge 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The purpose of this presentation was to present and discuss preliminary study findings with stakeholders. Discussions contributed to the development of the project and increased the visibility of the project among practitioners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description A Climate Resilience webinar on "Coastal Resilience to Flood and Erosion Hazard: A Demonstration for England" by Prof. Robert Nicholls with Dr. Charlotte Thompson acting as a discussant on 28 October 2020. Available at https://www.ukclimateresilience.org/news-events/coastal-resilience-to-flood-and-erosion-hazard-a-demonstration-for-england-webinar/ 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a webinar at the end of the project to communicate our main results which concerns the Coastal Resilience Model and the insights that emerged. The webinar is archived at https://www.ukclimateresilience.org/news-events/coastal-resilience-to-flood-and-erosion-hazard-a-demonstration-for-england-webinar/ and is also available at the Coastal Resilience part of the Channel Coastal Observatory -- https://www.channelcoast.org/ccoresources/coastalres/.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.ukclimateresilience.org/news-events/coastal-resilience-to-flood-and-erosion-hazard-a-dem...
 
Description A presentation on shoreline management, climate change and heritage 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference presentation on shoreline management, climate change and heritage. Audience included academics and practitioners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.blackpool.gov.uk/Residents/Planning-environment-and-community/Documents/Sea-Change-Progr...
 
Description A talk given by Prof. Jon French on 'Coastal Resilience and its operationalization for coastal erosion and flood hazard management' to the Channel Coastal Observatory Annual Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presented our research results on coastal resilience at the Channel Coastal Observatory's annual meeting (by Jon French), including coastal engineers, scientists and managers, from the Environment Agency and local authorities, see https://www.channelcoast.org/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Discussion with journalist 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discussion with journalist, Tom Wall
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/dec/01/climate-crisis-leaves-british-coastlines-inches-...
 
Description Final stakeholder workshop presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation and engagement with practioners and policy makers to explore the CoastRES framework and methodology to maximise coastal resilience at a national scale to 2100. Discussion outcomes were taken and integrated into the final project prototype model.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
URL https://www.channelcoast.org/ccoresources/coastalres/national_nov_for_cco_website221119.pdf
 
Description Presentation at the Channel Coastal Observatory's annual meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Research on coastal management presented at the Channel Coastal Observatory's annual meeting (by Ian Townend), including coastal engineers, scientists and managers, from the, Environment Agency and local authorities, https://www.channelcoast.org/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation on shoreline management 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation on rising ground waters, hosted by the National Trust and the British Geological Survey.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation to the English Coastal Challenge Summit 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk and wider discussion, led by Ian Townend, to coastal managers, NGO's, EA, DEFRA, MHCLG, regarding coastal management in England and Wales. Talk received positive feedback from the organisers. http://www.coastalpartnershipsnetwork.org.uk/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Promoting coastal engineering 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Television (not broadcast) and radio (Radio 4) interview regarding the Bacton sand mega-nourishment scheme.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48965715 and https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0006sdy (listen from 27 seconds)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-48965715
 
Description Promoting engagement with new coastal engineering scheme - media activity 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Promoting coastal engineering
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://theconversation.com/giant-sandscaping-plan-to-save-norfolk-coast-will-only-put-off-the-inevi...
 
Description Promoting new coastal engineering scheme 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview with Ben Webster from The Times regarding Bacton sand mega-nourishment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/sandscaping-offers-grain-of-hope-to-coastal-home-vqn9w0jj0
 
Description Quoted in report to raise awareness of flooding issues 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Sally Brown and Robert Nicholls were interviewed by The Climate Coalition (a group of people dedicated to action on climate change and limiting its impact). The group produced a report 'Home Truths' about increased flood risk with climate change.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58b40fe1be65940cc4889d33/t/5e31bf3a3a5d2c0086124158/158090673...