Coasts and estuaries

BGS Research

BGS Coasts and Estuaries provides independent and expert geoscientific tools and advice for collaborative decision making to assess different adaptation options for coastal flooding and erosion.

Coastal team members setting up the portable devices used to measure sediment transport on mixed sand and gravel beaches at Minsmere, East England, UK (more info about the device here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coastaleng.2019.103580)
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Team members setting up the portable streamer trap devices used to measure sediment transport on mixed sand and gravel beaches at Minsmere, eastern England, UK – BGS © UKRI

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This research area aims to make our coasts and estuaries more resilient to coastal geohazards, help the transition from grey to green engineering, ensure that the built environment is adaptable to today’s and tomorrow’s climate and to minimise the impacts due to the legacy of anthropic activities on the coastal zone.

Globally, most people live within a few hours’ travel of a coast or an estuary. Because of their access to marine resources and opportunities for transport, trade and recreation, coasts and estuaries are major concentrations of population and investment and are the greatest concentration of assets anywhere on the planet. They provide enormous resources, not only in relation to minerals, energy, habitats and food, but also as a recreational amenity.

Such resources and societal assets are threatened by a range of hazards, including marine flooding (the greatest flood risk in the UK), erosion and contamination. Long-term environmental changes, including societal pressures and climate change, are threatening the processes and functions of the coast upon which we depend.

Climate change will also have an enormous impact on coastal stability. Associated changes in the ocean climate are changing the frequency and scale of storm surges in the short term and, in the longer term, increases in sea level pose major threats to coastal areas.

The characterisation of geological processes, resources and hazards on the coast is essential in understanding how coasts are likely to change under future environmental and management scenarios. The knowledge and data we acquire will serve business, government and wider society to make better-informed decisions about coastal risks and opportunities. The BGS Coasts and Estuaries research programme will therefore target the increasing need for impartial, authoritative geoscientific advice on coasts nationally and internationally.

Coastal response to environmental change

BGS Coasts and Estuaries will combine the use of innovative 4D simulation models and cost-effective monitoring approaches (i.e. from space and using non-intrusive survey methods) to quantitatively assess the effects of different adaptation options against coastal flooding and coastal erosion (for example non-active intervention, managed realignment, hold the line, advance the line) with an emphasis on the transition from traditional grey engineering (such as hold the line with hard defences) to more green engineering (a combination of sand-scaping and giving space to coastal processes).

Ongoing research activities

  • CoastalME is a modelling environment that simulates decadal and longer coastal morphological changes. It is an engineering tool for advanced modellers seeking to simulate the interaction of multiple coastal landforms and different types of human interventions.
  • BLUECoast We are developing an integrated modelling tool that will be used to evaluate coastal resilience and scope alternative management options along managed coastlines with critical energy infrastructure, such as:
    • Dungeness foreland, south-east England
    • Minsmere nature reserve, eastern England
  • Monitoring Coastal Change from the Space As part of the Coastal Change consortium, our aim is to develop applications to detect and track coastal erosion and accretion to inform coastal management plans. We will do this through volumetric analysis of sediment transport as well as by analysing 25 years of ESA Sentinel-1 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data, and Sentinel-2 and NOAA Landsat optical data to quantify historical coastal change, developing our own methodologies to address these problems.

Contact

If you want to discover more then please contact Andres Payo Garcia.

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