The Thames estuary provides a focal point for waterfront development and supports many unique and internationally significant habitats for wildlife. These communities and habitats face particular threats from environmental change, including sea-level rise, flooding and storms as well as diminishing sediment quality due to sustained urban and industrial pollution. The BGS has developed a methodology to help track human-induced environmental change over time in coastal and fluvial systems.
One of the major challenges in evaluating and managing sediment quality in the Thames Basin is understanding how pollution spreads through the basin and locating its source. Historical contamination hot spots are usually observed in the deeper sediment layers, thus a key question is will these contaminated sediments layers be uncovered and transported as the impacts of climate change such as sea-level rise, increased storminess and flooding become more frequent.
Understanding the economic and environmental implications for planning to adapt to and mitigate these risks, including coastal defence and managed retreat, will also require a geological consideration both in terms of the construction materials required and the potential for resource sterilisation.
An integrated study has the potential to consider how this may impact on the broader region as demand for resources in the Thames basin imposes pressure on other regions. This wider perspective has the potential to improve policy at a national level.
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