Coasts (4/4)- Coastal Management (Soft and Hard Engineering and Sustainable Approaches)


Coastal Management

Some coastal landscapes, including human and natural environments, are coming under increasing pressure from both natural processes and human activities. Reason for coastal management may be obvious to protect homes and businesses from being damaged and even destroyed by coastal erosion and flooding. Failure to do this can lead to severe economic and social effects especially along coastlines which are used from tourism and industry.

In response to this, a range of protection and management strategies have been put in place in many coastal areas. These solutions are often successful but, in some cases, the solutions themselves cause other problems.

Coastal management has two main aims:

  • To provide defence against, and mitigate the impacts of flooding

  • To provide protection against, and mitigate the impact of coastal erosion.

Other aims of management include:

  • Stabilising beaches affected by longshore drift

  • Stabilising sand dune areas

  • Protecting fragile estuarine landscapes.

It’s becoming increasingly important for councils and governments to start managing coastlines in order to protect them from increasing coastal erosion and flooding due to altering sea levels. The reason for coastal management is obvious, to protect homes and businesses from being damaged and even destroyed by coastal erosion or flooding. Failure to do so can have severe economic and social effects, especially along coastlines which are used for tourism and industry (pretty much all of them).

Management of coastlines is also important to help protect natural habitats, however, governments generally don’t engage in coastal management where there isn’t an economic risk as effective coastal management is very expensive.

When engaging in coastal management, there are four key approaches that can be taken:

  1. Hold the line - Where existing coastal defences are maintained but no new defences are set up.

  2. Advance the line - New defences are built further out in the sea in an attempt to reduce the stress on current defences and possibly extend the coastline slightly.

  3. Retreat the line (surrender) - Move people out of danger zones and let mother nature unleash take control.

  4. Do nothing - The easy option, deal with the effects of flooding and erosion as they come or just ignore them. This is generally what happens in areas where there are no people, and so nothing of “value” (to the government) to protect.

Like most engineering schemes in geography, there’s hard and soft coastal engineering. As usual, hard engineering techniques are high technology, high cost, human-made solutions. They do little to work with nature and sustainability is a key issue with them, despite their initial signs of success. Soft engineering techniques are low tech, low-cost solutions that work with nature to reduce erosion. They’re nowhere near as effective as hard engineering techniques but they’re far more sustainable.


: Making a physical change to the coastal landscape using resistant materials like concrete, boulders, wood and metal- working against nature. They tend to be expensive, last only a short amount of time, are visually unattractive and unsustainable. They often increase erosion in other places


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