BGS news

BGS to lead new research project on barrier systems to support more sustainable coastal management

Scientists at BGS will lead a new four-year project that will enhance our understanding of gravel barrier systems across the coastlines of the UK.

06/12/2023 By BGS Press
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Two people setting up a pair of streamer traps in the backshore of a mixed sand and gravel beach. East coast of England at Minsmere Cliffs, located between Dunwich and Sizewell. BGS © UKRI

Gravel-dominated beach and barrier systems are common around the UK and provide important coastal defences, especially in low-lying regions.  A new, four-year research project, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and entitled ‘Gravel barrier coasts’ (GBCoasts), will deliver enhanced understanding and modelling of gravel barrier systems. The project aims to support more sustainable coastal management by increasing resilience and reducing the vulnerability of coasts to climate change.

BGS will use a new community modelling system, ‘Coastal modelling environment (CoastalME)’, alongside terrestrial, marine and groundwater models, to characterise how a combination of processes along gravel barrier coasts control coastal flooding and erosion.

CoastalME will produce numerical simulations to support multi-hazard analyses under present and future climate change scenarios. These will project, over a range of timescales:

  • how multi-hazards will respond to predicted climate change processes and impacts
  • how humans are affecting future hazards
  • how we will be affected under different coastal management scenarios; for example, how do gravel barriers respond to individual events, such as storms, in the context of longer-term, ‘progressive’ trends, such as sea-level rise?

The results will support improved coastal management decision making based on the improved understanding of how gravel barriers evolve over longer time scales under different climate condition and human intervention scenarios.

The findings will be combined with an assessment of the role of coastal habitats, resulting in national maps of vulnerabilities of coastal habitats to climate-driven multi-hazards for protective services. BGS will also provide tools to analyse the efficacy of future coastal management schemes.

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The GBCoasts project will enable us to better address the transformational challenges that many communities along the UK’s coastlines are facing today and in the near future, regarding ever-increasing risks of coastal flooding and coastal erosion.

Andres Payo Garcia, BGS Coastal Geomorphologist.

In order to achieve the objectives of GBCoasts, there will be a collaboration between the different sectors of UK academics, engineering consultants and research institutions.

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is the driving force of investment in environmental science in the UK. It advances the frontier of environmental science by commissioning new research, infrastructure and training that delivers valuable scientific breakthroughs.

NERC invests public money in world-leading science, designed to help us sustain and benefit from our natural resources, predict and respond to natural hazards and understand environmental change.

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