Challenging assumptions of future coastal habitat development around the UK

Julian Orford, J.S. Pethick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


One habitat management requirement forced by 21st century relative sea-level rise (RSLR), will be the need to re-comprehend the dimensions of long-term transgressive behaviour of coastal systems being forced by such RSLR. Fresh approaches to the conceptual modelling and subsequent implementation of new coastal and peri-marine habitats will be required. There is concern that existing approaches to forecasting coastal systems development (and by implication their associated scarce coastal habitats) over the next century depend on a certain premise of orderly spatial succession of habitats. This assumption is shown to be questionable given the possible future rates of RSLR, magnitude of shoreline retreat and the lack of coastal sediment to maintain the protective morphologies to low-energy coastal habitats. Of these issues, sediment deficiency is regarded as one of the major problem for future habitat development. Examples of contemporary behaviour of UK coasts show evidence of coastal sediment starvation resulting from relatively stable RSLR, anthropogenic sealing of coastal sources, and intercepted coastal sediment pathways, which together force segmentation of coastal systems. From these examples key principles are deduced which may prejudice the existence of future habitats: accelerated future sediment demand due to RSLR may not be met by supply and, if short- to medium-term hold-the-line policies predominate, long-term strategies for managed realignment and habitat enhancement may prove impossible goals. Methods of contemporary sediment husbandry may help sustain some habitats in place but otherwise, instead of integrated coastal organization, managers may need to consider coastal breakdown, segmentation and habitat reduction as the basis of 21st century coastal evolution and planning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1625-1642
Number of pages18
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Volume31 (13)
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geography, Planning and Development


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