Beaches can survive sea-level rise, says report

Beaches can survive sea-level rise as long as they have space to move, according to researchers at the University of Plymouth. 

An international team of coastal scientists has dismissed suggestions that the world’s beaches could become extinct over the course of the 21st century.

The new research highlights that if beaches have space to move under the influence of rising sea levels then they will retain their overall shape and form but in a more landward position.

However, they have highlighted that beaches backed by hard coastal cliffs and engineering structures are indeed likely to disappear in the future as they are unable to move inward.

These beaches will first experience ‘coastal squeeze’ resulting in a decrease in width and then they will eventually drown.

Coastal structures such as seawalls prevent beaches from naturally adjusting to rising sea levels, therefore the researchers have said that the removal of these structures or using nature-based solutions may be the only method to safeguard the future of such beaches.

Andrew Cooper, professor of Coastal Studies at Ulster University and the new paper’s lead author said: ‘New methods are needed for predicting impacts of sea-level rise on the coast.

‘This will require better datasets of coastal morphology and improved understanding of the mechanisms of shoreline response in given settings.

‘As sea level rises, shoreline retreat must, and will, happen but beaches will survive. The biggest threat to the continued existence of beaches is coastal defence structures that limit their ability to migrate.

‘Sea level is currently rising and will continue to rise at an increasing rate for many years to come.

‘This will lead to more coastal erosion and it is crucial that we anticipate the future loss of land and take this into account in coastal management and planning to avoid putting more buildings and coastal infrastructure in harm’s way. ‘

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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Pippa Neill

Pippa Neill

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