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Coastal systems are dynamic meaning they are undergoing constant, and some people would argue increasing rates of change. This therefore leads us to think that they are incredibly hard to predict thus making them difficult to manage. Around the United Kingdom there is a deliberate attempt to impede the change of the coast, by using different forms of coastal protection. Coasts are the area where the land meets the sea, and are constantly undergoing change from erosion, deposition and transportation.
Successful management of coastal areas depends on understanding the interests of those who want to use the land, and understanding the impact certain processes have on the area of coast. The processes upon coasts which make them complex include the weather and climate which contribute to erosion and weathering, Human activity resulting in erosion and transportation, the geology of the area which influences rate of erosion and how stable the area is near the cliff lines. Approximately twenty percent of our coastline is protected; the 80 percent that is not protected are areas with isolated dwellings or areas used for farmland.
I believe that coastal systems are complex to be controlled, however there is proof that they can be managed all over the world. Much of our use of the coastline was initially grounded in the confidence that it was essentially fixed. Therefore certain settlements and structures were constructed close to the edge of the coast. Local need used to be the controlling factor; the consequences for coastlines down drift or for coastal environments in general were rarely considered by the councils and port authorities paying for the coastal works.
Due to this, the traditional approach to protecting an area of coastline from flooding was to use hard engineering, as people did not realise it would affect other areas of coastline. But now scientists and geographers have realised that the coastline is dynamic, and the past ways of managing the coast were not the best solution and have caused far worse problems in other areas; their has been an adoption of a more “hands-off” approach. The extent of the problem caused now can be seen by the numerous cases of retreat of cliff lines or coastal flooding.
A report called the “shifting shores” by the National Trust have predicted that over the next 100 years that 60% of the national trust owned coastline will loose a significant proportion of land by erosion, and 5% of this will take place of 100m inland. Another prediction in this report was about the warnings of coastal flooding, with 40 square km of their land currently at risk from coastal flooding. Coasts are managed for a variety of reasons; usually either human and physical.
The main reason coasts are managed is to stop the loss of land for further use; either for protecting settlements, agriculture, leisure, tourism, ecology or conservation, due to loss of land by retreat or by flooding due to sea level rise or erosion. Examples of people who want to protect the coast are many environmentalists, local developers, tourist companies, local residents and the local council. The obvious reason why coasts retreat is erosion; either sub aerial or coastal. The problems that an unmanaged coastline can bring are quite high. Coastal flooding is often a big driving force in the way coasts are managed.
There are many less economically developed countries that cannot afford extensive and effective defences that they will need to help keep their land from flooding, such as Bangladesh which is densely populated, low-lying and has a fierce river: the River Ganges. The government in Bangladesh has only put protection systems in place in certain areas, but they do not extend to others as the cost of protecting every vulnerable area is astronomical, and not possible for the government of Bangladesh. Other more economically developed countries have however found it economically viable to protect areas from coastal flooding.
The Thames Barrier is a good example, where after the 1953 storm surge, there was a noticeable need for improvement of defence, as London is the capital city. This was an extremely expensive project, however it was found economically viable by the government; as if London was flooded by the Thames by tidal flooding, it has been calculated that over one million people will be in danger and there would be a huge disruption to trade, industry and commerce due to many stations and an airport being out of use. When managing the coastline there are many points to consider.
The environment agencies work with the local authorities around the coast of England and Wales to make the shoreline management plan. The shoreline management plan needs a cost-benefit analysis which looks at the value of the coastline intended to be protected, against the cost it will take to protect it. These plans are always being reviewed, so therefore are as dynamic as the coasts themselves. This takes many factors into account: how big a settlement is, and how important the settlement is; the cost of the land in the area; the leisure facilities; the industry and the ecology.
Usually if the land only has farms or isolated dwellings in the area, it will not be protected, however if there is a facility such as a golf course or a railway line, then it will usually get protected with a variety of strengths. Also another factor is considering how much the defences would cost; if only a little coastal protection is required, it would be more cost effective to use soft engineering. An example of the shoreline management plan is on the Yorkshire coast, from Saltburn to Flamborough Head.