A digitised cliff analysis methodology developed by geographers at Birkbeck, University of London, has been used by the Environment Agency to provide quality-assured guidance to coastal authorities in England and Wales in order to effectively manage shoreline retreat.
Storms create serious problems for coastal managers because they inflict damage on infrastructure and communities and are unpredictable. Cliff retreat is one crucial aspect because it delivers thousands of tonnes of sediment into the nearshore zone and cliffs cannot recover once removed.
Geographers at Birkbeck developed, calibrated and applied a shoreline response model to rapidly retreating cliffs (those retreating up to 7 metres per year). The model can predict future shoreline locations under different climate change scenarios.
The researchers also combined contemporary and historic data approaches to investigate large-scale shoreline change, with a particular focus on complex barrier coasts such as North Norfolk.
The research has particular relevance to the ongoing management of the easily-erodible shorelines of East Anglia.
The research has provided evidence that “Hold the Line” is not necessarily the best approach for rapidly eroding soft sediment coastlines. This has informed the new mobile sandscaping scheme chosen for future protection of the Bacton Gas Terminal with 1,800,000m3 of sand placed along the beaches at Bacton.
The Environment Agency are drawing on the Anglian coastal monitoring research in the new generation of Shoreline Management Plans for the area, where managed realignment is now preferred.
Institution: Birkbeck, University of London
Researcher: Sue Brookes