Geography- Coastal Environments

OCR AS Geography, Section 2, Coastal Environments Everything you need to know about coasts

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Coasts are Systems

Coast= the frontier between land and sea and is one of the most fragile and dynamic environments on earth

Inputs- River Sediment, sediment from cliffs that have been eroded or suffered landslides, and sediment that has been transported by waves from offshore

Processes- wave action, tidal movement, erosion, weathering, transportation, deposition

Outputs- sediment washed out to sea, or deposited further along the coast

positive sediment budget suggests that beaches are developing and are relatively

negative sediment budget suggests a loss of beach material and the possibility of increasing wave action on cliffs

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Coasts are constantly being reshaped by:

  • waves
  • tides
  • ocean currents
  • effects of the weather

when rock structures are more resistant or sheltered from prevailing wind and waves, changes occur slowly

when rock structures are less resistant and are open to storm conditions and heavy rainfall, sudden and dramatic changes can occur

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Waves are created by wind blowing over the surface of the sea, creating friction, the energy in transferred which creates the waves

stronger wind-> greater friction-> higher and more powerful waves

  • The effect of a wave on the shore depends on its height
  • wave height is affected by the wind speed and the fetch of the wave
  • fetch= maximum distance of sea the wind has blown over creating the waves
  • a high wind speed and long fetch creates high waves

waves move across open ocean in a circular motion as a swell,

  • as waves approach the shore they break, friction with the sea bed slows down the bottom of the waves and makes their motion more elliptical, the crest of the wave rises up and then collapses
  • water washing up the beach/force= swash,
  • water washing back= gravitational backwash
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Constructive Waves

  • build up beaches
  • long wavelength
  • low frequency (about 6-8 waves per minute)
  • they are long and low- gives more elliptical cross profile
  • swash is quickly absorbed by the beach because of the low levels of energy
  • sediment thrown up by the breaking waves accumulates in ridges or 'berms'
  • backwash has little power to  move the sediment back towards the sea
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Destructive Waves

  • high and steep
  • more circular cross profile
  • higher frequency (10-14 waves per minute)
  • wavelengths are shorter
  • wave breaks at considerable height creating a large amounts of energy which cannot be easily absorbed by the beach
  • powerful waves run up on the beach, the volume of water creating the opportunity for strong backwash to move sediment back down the beach and eventually out to sea
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Classifying Coastal Environments

Storm wave environments

  • frequent low pressure systems
  • strong onshore winds generating powerful waves
  • e.g. north-west europe

Swell wave environments

  • less extreme pattern of wind and waves
  • considerable swell built over long fetch
  • e.g. west africa

Tropical Cyclone

  • extreme winds which allows huge waves to develop and push massive amounts of water towards coastal areas
  • e.g. south-east asia and the caribbean
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=periodic rise and fall of the ocean surface

  • caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun
  • tides affect the position at which waves break on the beach (at high tide they break higher up on the shore)
  • the area of land between maximum high tide and minimum low tide is where landforms are created and destroyed
  • tide levels are predictable so can be published
  • when high tides collide with unpredictable events such as strong winds, large waves and heavy rainfall can lead to catastrophic events
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Storm surges

occur when the following factors collide

  • high tide
  • strong onshore winds creating high levels of wave energy
  • low pressure weather systems allowing the sea to expand

the shape of the landscape can add to the intensity of a storm surge

  • where the sea is 'pushed' into a narrow area between two land masses, it is forced to rise causing flooding in coastal areas
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Sub-aerial processes

  • sub-aerial weathering describes coastal processes that are not linked to the action of the sea- includes freeze thaw and salt weathering
    • weathering weakens cliffs and makes them more vulnerable to erosion
  • through-flow (flow of water through cliffs) and runoff (flow of water over the land) caused by heavy rain can also make cliffs more unstable and increase the likelihood of mass movement
  • mass movement is the movement of material downhill due to gravity. it includes landslides slumping and rockfalls
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Coastal Processes

Coastal landforms are the result of the interaction of a number of processes

  • marine erosion
  • weathering
  • human activity
  • mass movement and slumping
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Hydraulic Action/ Pressure

  • areas where there is limited beach material to absorb the energy of breaking waves, cliff faces can be attacked
  • breaking waves exert a force of up to 40 tonnes per square metre on cliff faces
  • force air into joint and cracks in the cliff surface
  • the compressed air has the power to loosen and break away pieces of rock
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Abrasion/ Corrasion

  • during storm conditions waves have the energy to pick up sand particles and pebbles and hurl them at the cliff face
  • the 'sand blasting' effect is thought to be the most rapid process
  • bits of rock and sediment transported by the waves smash and grind against rocks and cliffs, breaking bits off and smoothing surfaces.
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  • Rocks and pebbles constantly colliding with each other as they are moved by waves
  • action reduces the size of beach material and increases its 'roundness' by smoothing away rough edges
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Corrosion/ solution

  • soluble rocks e.g. chalk and limestone, get gradually dissolved by seawater
  • the effects of sea water can speed up effects of chemical weathering 
  • saltwater evaporation form sea-spray leads to the growth of salt crystals in rock
    • they develop and expand forcing the rock to disintegrate
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exfoliation/ onion skin weathering

  • softer rocks such as clays are susceptible to wetting and drying
  • where these rocks are in the coastal splash zone they are constantly expanding and contracting as they become wet and dry out
  • causes weaknesses in the rock which allows marine processes to attack and erode more easily
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Human activity

  • increasing use of coastal area for leisure and recreation can put pressure on fragile coastal environments
  • human erosion of cliff-top footpaths can cause weaknesses in rock structure
  • removal of vegetation can leave rock surfaces more prone to weathering and erosion
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Mass Movement

  • rockfalls and landslips are common features
  • occur as result of wave action weakening the base of the cliff and sub-aerial processes attacking the upper part of the cliff face
  • sub-aerial includes weathering processes and effects of rainfall- percolation
  • more resistant rocks like chalk, are often as a result of undercutting by the sea and the weakening of the rock by corrosion and ongoing wetting and drying
  • these processes can lead to fragments of rock falling or in extreme circumstances whole sections of cliff collapsing
  • landslides and slumping are often associated with weaker rocks such as clays and sands and can be triggered by periods of heavy rainfall
    • when ground becomes saturated, combination of extra weight, increased lubrication cause small scale mudslides or landslides
    • slumping is a result of marine processes undercutting the base of the cliff, heavy rainfall, and curved slipping plane where different rock types meet
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Impact of coastal landforms

Rock type and structure have an impact

  • more resistant such as chalk and limestone erode slower and often produce spectacular cliff and headland features
  • weaker rocks such as clay and sands have less structural strength and are easily eroded, producing a lower cliff profile with mudslides and slumping

the direction in which rocks occur in relation to the coast is important

  • coasts where the rock types run parallel to the sea are called concordant coasts and produce straighter coasts
  • coasts where the rock types outcrop at right angles to the sea are called discordant coasts and often produce headlands and bays
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Features of coastal erosion

  • some rock types are more coherent meaning that they have well connected individual particles and few lines of weakness
    • igneous rocks but also in sedimentary rocks such as chalk and sandstone
    • solid coastline with steep cliff profile and slow rates of erosion retreat
  • some rock types are more incoherent, which means that they have poorly connected particles or a lot of cracks and joints, giving rise to a high level of weakness
    • clay is a poorly 'cemented' rock which is affected by both sub-aerial and marine
  • the angle at which rock strata reaches the coast can affect coast profiles
    • horizontally bedded strata usually forms steep cliffs
    • where the strata is dipping towards or away from the sea usually forms a more gentle cliff profile 
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Headlands- associated with resistant rocks

  • headlands of more resistant rocks and bays where weaker rocks outcrop
  • headlands and bays form where there are bands of alternating hard rock and soft rock at right angles to the shoreline
  • soft rock is eroded quickly, forming a bay
  • hard rock eroded less quickly so sticks out as a headland
  • because of promontory nature of the headlands they are under constant attack form marine processes on both sides
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Cracks, Caves, Blow Holes, Arches, Stacks, Stumps

  • weak areas in rock (e.g joints) are eroded by the process of hydraulic action and abrasion to form a cave
  • weakness in the rocks at the top of the cave are picked out by hydraulic action forming a channel reaching the surface of the headland- blow hole
  • sea caves cut through the headland forming an arch
  • the arch collapses forming a stack
  • a stack continues to be eroded away resulting in a stump
  • loose rock is removed by the sea or picked up and hurled at cliff during storm conditions
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Landforms associated with weaker rocks

  • slopes under stress because of the force of gravity
  • if the forces acting on a slope are greater than the resistant strength the slope with fall -> resulting in a landslide
  • clay coastlines are prone to landslides because clay is poorly consolidated and becomes unstable when wet
    • heavy rain soaking through fissures reduces the friction which helps hold the slope together, as the ground becomes saturated, the bands between the rock particles fail and more fissures develop
    • rational slumping where a whole mass of rock moves
    • toe of the cliff is removed by marine erosion which destabilizes the climb
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Cliffs and Wave-Cut platforms

  • cliffs retreat due to the action of waves and weathering
  • weathering and wave erosion cause a notch to form at the high water mark, which eventually develops into a cave
  • rock above the cave becomes unstable with nothing to support it and it collapses
  • wave-cut platforms are flat surfaces left behind when a cliff is eroded
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features of coastal deposition

as waves enter shallow water and break, they pick up beach in the direction of the breaking wave (swash)

the movement of swash up the beach stops when the energy has been used, any water that has not percolated into the beach flows back down the beach under the influence of gravity (backwash)

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Swash aligned beaches

  • forms when the waves approach the coastline parallel to the beach
  • the swash and backwash move sediments up and down the beach often creating a stable, straight beach with a longitudinal profile
  • during storm conditions severe backwash can move sediment out to sea, creating sand or shingle bars on the seabed
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Drift- aligned beaches

  • forms when waves approach the coastline at an angle and sediment is moved along the coast by the process of longshore drift

longshore drift

  • swash carries sediment up the beach, parallel to the prevailing wind
  • backwash carries sediment back down the beach at right angles to the shoreline
  • when theres an angle between the prevailing wind and the shoreline, a few rounds of swash and backwash move the sediment along the shoreline
  • on some coasts the movement of material is slowed down by building wooden or concrete groynes
  • this allows sediment to build up creating a wider beach but this can starve beaches down drift
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Features of beaches

Berms and ridges of sand and pebbles (about 1-2m high) found at high tide marks, are formed by deposition of coarse material at the limit of the swash

Runnels and grooves in the sand running parallel to the shore are formed by backwash draining to the sea

cusps are crescent shaped indentations that form on beaches of mixed sand and shingle, develop in areas where waves break parallel to the beach and where there's a large tidal range

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Formation of a Spit

  • tend to form where the coast suddenly changes direction e.g. across river mouths.
  • longshore drift continues to deposit material across the river bank leaving a bank of sand and shingle sticking out into the sea
  • occasional changes in the dominant wind and wave direction may lead to a spit having a curved end
  • over time the recurved ends may be abandoned as the waves return to their original direction
  • the area behind the spit is sheltered from the waves and often develops into mudflats and salt marshes
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Formation of bars

  • bars are formed when a spit joins 2 headlands together
  • can occur across a bay or across a river mouth
  • a lagoon forms behind the bar
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Formation of sand dunes

  • sand dunes are formed when sand deposited by longshore drift is moved up the beach by the wind
  • sand trapped by driftwood or berms is colonised by plants and grasses e.g. marram grass. the vegetation stabilises the sand to accumulate there, forming embryo dunes
  • over time, the oldest dunes migrate inland as newer embryo dunes are formed- mature dunes
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Formation of Salt Marshes

  • salt marshes form in areas of sheltered water e.g. river estuaries or behind spits
  • as silt and mud are deposited by the river or the tide, mudflats develops
  • the mudflats are colonised by vegetation that can survive the high salt levels and long periods of submergence by the tide
  • the plant trap more mud and silt, and gradually they create an area of marshland that remains exposed for longer and longer between tides
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Hurst Castle Spit

is a shingle ridge

  • developed as a result of longshore drift in christ church bay
  • sudden change in the direction of the coast in the south-east of Milford on sea allows deposited shingle sediment to develop into a spit
    • reaches 2km out from the coastline
    • strong tidal winds and currents have created a distinct curved end

The area behind hurst castle spit:

  • mudflats which are evident during low tide
  • colonisation of mudbanks bu halophytic plants, trapping more sediment
  • ocean currents are stronger than the drift resulting  in a recurved end to the spit
  • hurst point, fed by gravel that drifts around the hurst coast line
  • keyhaven saltmarsh/ nature reserve
  • groynes built to maintain spit and hurst castle
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Holderness- Case Study

  • Average rate of erosion is about 1.8m per year
  • coastline is 61km long
    • stretches from flamborough head to spurn head
    • in some places e.g. Great Cowden the rate of erosion has been over 10m/year


  • Flamborough head is a chalk headland so is slowly retreating
  • The rest is soft coastline made of glacial till/ clays which are easily eroded by sub ariel processes and wave attack
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Holderness- Main reasons

Main Reasons

  • Easily eroded rock type- the cliffs are mostly made of till (boulder clay) not only is till easily eroded through corrasion but is also prone to slumping when wet
  • narrow beaches- beaches slow the waves, reducing their erosive power, narrow beaches protect the cliffs less, narrow because:
    • flamborough head stops sediment from the north replenishing the beaches along holderness, also made of chalk which dissolves when eroded rather than making sand for beaches
    • coastal defences e.g. at mappleton 
  • powerful waves because:
    • long fetch- all the way form the Arctic ocean
    • the coast faces the dominant wind and wave direction
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Holderness- Environmental impacts

  • Some SSSIs (sites of special scientific interest) are threatened
    • e.g. the lagoons near Easington
    • have a colony of over 1% of the British breeding population of British terns
    • the lagoons are separated from the sea by a narrow strip of sand and shingle
    • erosion of this would connect the lakes to the sea meaning the lagoons would be destroyed
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Holderness- Economic impacts

  • visitor numbers in Bridlington dropped by over 30% between 1998 and 2006
  • many caravan parks are at risk from erosion
    • e.g. seaside caravan park at Ulrome is losing on average 10 pitches a year
  • £2 million was spent at Mappleton in 1991 to protect the coast
  • The gas terminal at Easington is at risk
    • its only 25m from the coast
    • terminal amounts for 25% of Britains gas supply
  • 80,000m2 of good quality farmland is lost each year, this has a huge effect on farmers' livelihoods
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Sea level changes

sea level= relative position of the sea as it meets the land

  • sea levels have fluctuated considerably over the last 2000 years
  • sea level varies on a daily basis with the tidal cycle. onshore winds and low atmospheric pressure systems also cause sea surface to rise temporarily
  • rising sea levels are evident when looking at drowned river estuaries (rias) or glacial valleys (fjords)= submergent coastlines
    • rias- river valleys are partially submerged, have gentle long- and cross- profile. they are wide and deep at their mouth, becoming narrower and shallower the further inland they reach, e.g. milford haven in south wales
    • Fjords- drowned glacial valleys- relatively straight and narrow with steep sides, they have a shallow mouth, they are very deep the further inland e.g. sognefjorden in Norway
  • falling sea levels can be seen by the evidence of raised beaches or cliff formations now seen inland from current positions= emergent coastline
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Preparing for rising sea levels

  • 80 million people in Europe live on the coast
  • the potential affects of climate change have been identified by coastal scientists:
    • climate change is likely to cause rising sea levels, changes in wave patterns, increases in rainfall in winter
    • may be an increase in storm events
    • more frequent flooding of low lying developments
    • erosion of salt marshes accelerate
    • soft rock retreat more rapidly because of increased rainfall
    • protecting vulnerable coastlines will become more difficult and more expensive
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The response project

  • a number of European coastal scientists worked on the response project responding to the risk of climate change
  • developed a response methodology based on maps which gather existing information


  • gathering information about
    • existing landforms and processes, current coastal defenses, existing coastal hazards, coastal assets/population
  • interpretation of information
    • coastal behavior, potential coastal hazards
  • guidance for future management
    • potential for future coastal risk, summary of potential hazards, planning and guidance
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  • most dynamic and fragile environments on earth
  • over 4 billion people worldwide living within 40km of a coast


  • DEFRA (department of the environment, food and rural affairs) has overal responsibility for the protection of the coastline from erosion and flooding
  • coastline of england and wales is split into 11 cells
    • these are lengths of coastline which are relatively self contained in terms of movement of sediment
    • boundaries of the cells are often natural features such as headlands
  • each cell is divided into sub cells
    • this division is based on knowledge of local processes
    • in order to understand and manage a sub cell an SMP (shoreline management plan) is developed
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Why do they need to be managed

  • lots of people live near the sea- without protection millions of pounds worth of property would be lost
  • coastal areas provide sand and gravel for building, the extraction of rescources needs to be managed in case it affects sediment flows in the area
  • coastal environments like salt marshes, coral reefs and mangroves are becoming rare- management is required to ensure sustainability
  • global warming- rising sea levels and increase in storm activity means coastal areas are vulnerable to flooding
  • important industrial areas with heavy industry and ports creating work as well as being important for national economies
  • Coastal tourism is a massive industry and the beach is an important amenity so must be protected
  • the fishing industry relies on natural processes in relation to breeding patterns if they are disturbed, stocks of fish and shell fish would be affected
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Shoreline management plan (SMP)

=document which examines the risks associated with coastal processes and presents a policy to manage those risks

  • considers risks to local people as well as the built and natural environment
  • final policy document is drawn up after consulation with lots of different groups of people

The published SMP for a sub-cell will:

  • 1. divide the subcell into appropriate management units
  • 2. for each management unit:
    • identify the economic and environmental assests
    • assess the issues and conflicts associated with the unit
    • propose a coastal defense plan for the next hundred years, divided into time periods
  • 3. use the defra criteria for management which is:
    • advance the line, hold the line, managed realignment, no active intervention
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Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM)

=method of managing not only the shoreline but also the coastal zone

  • set up by the European Union in 1996
  • ICZM sees management as being 'environmentally sustainable, economically fair, socially responsible and culturally sensitive' and that 'uncoordinated coastal policies can lead to conflict and further deterioration of the coast'
  • number of local authorities have drawn up ICZM polices to work with their SMP's
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Hard engineering- involve built structures

Sea walls- curved, straight or stepped reinforced concrete walls

  • reflect waves back out to sea, preventing erosion of the coast, also acts as a barrier to prevent flooding
  • expensive to build and maintain
  • creates strong backwash which erodes under the wall

Reventments- wooden or concrete structures

  • waves break against the revetments which absorb energy
  • expensive to build but cheep to maintain
  • create strong backwash

Gabions- steel mesh cages filled with small rocks

  • absorb energy and reduce erosion
  • cheap but ugly
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Hard engineering

Rip rap (rock armour)- large rocks placed at the foot of sea walls to absorb wave energy

  • absorb wave energy, fairly cheap and can shift sometimes in storms

Groynes- wooden or concrete structure built at right angles to the coast

  • trap beach material transported by longshore drift creating wider beaches which slows the waves reducing their energy
  • quite cheap to build
  • they starve down-drift beaches of sand. thinner beaches don't protect the coast as well, leading to greater erosion and flooding

Breakwaters- concrete blocks or boulders deposited off the coast

  • force waves to break offshore, waves' energy and erosive power reduced before they reach the shore
  • expensive and can be damaged in storms
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Soft engineering- coaxing natural processes along

  • Beach replenishment- pumping sand or shingle back onto the beach to replace eroded material
  • building bars- underwater bars reduce wave water
  • beach re-profiting- changing shape of the beach so that it absorbs more energy and reduces erosion
  • fencing/hedging- preserves the beach by reducing the amount of sand being blown inland
  • replanting vegetation- planting grasses or salt-resistant plants to stabilize low- lying areas
  • beach recycling- moving material from one end of the beach to the other counteract longshore drift
  • less expensive, more environmentally friendly, resulting beach has amenity value which is important for tourists
  • may not be suitable in places which are very developed
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Managed Retreat

  • often seen as soft engineering and works by allowing existing defenses to be breached and areas to flood up to their natural level
  • as sea levels rise this method of coastal defense may be seen as increasingly more economically and environmentally stable
  • many coastal areas use a mixture of defense methods, often using hard engineering where there is a need to protect the built environment and softer methods where there are fewer built structures to protect
  • before any method is out in place cost- benefit analysis (CBA), and environmental impact assessment (EIA) is carried out in order to assess their economic and environmental costs
  • inexpensive method of defense where there are few buildings but is not suitable in highly developed areas or areas of high quality farmland
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Case Study- Holderness, hard engineering

Holderness coastline is the fastest eroding coastline in Europe (see earlier card for details)

A total of 11.4km of the 61km coastline is currently protected by hard engineering

  • Bridlington is protected by a 4.7km long sea wall as well as timber groynes
  • There's a concrete wall, timber groynes and riprap at Hornsea that protect the village
  • Gabions just south of Hornsea help protect the Hornsea Caravan Park
  • two rock groynes and a 500m long revetment were built in Mappleton in 1991. They cost £2 million and were built to protect the village and the B1242 coastal road
  • the eastern side of spurn head is protected by groynes and riprap
  • there are groynes and a sea wall at Withernsea. Some riprap was also placed in front of the wall after it was damaged in severe storms in 1992
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Case Study- Holderness

The schemes are locally successful but cause problems down-drift

  • the groynes trap sediment, increasing the width of the beaches protecting the local area but increasing erosion of the cliffs down-drift (as the eroded material isn't replenished) 
    • e.g. the Mappleton scheme has caused increased erosion of the cliffs south of Mappleton
    • Cowden farm, south of Mappleton is now at risk of falling in the sea
  • the sediment produced from the holderness coastline is normally washed into the Humber Estuary (forms mudflats) and down the Lincolnshire coast.
    • reduction in sediment increased the risk of flooding in the Humber Estuary and increases erosion down the Lincolnshire Coast
  • The protection of local areas is leading to the formation of bays, as bays develop waves pressure on headlands increases and it becomes too expensive to maintain defences
  • all this problems make existing schemes unsustainable
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Case Study- Holderness

Possible schemes all have problems:

  • The SMP for holderness for the next 50 years recommends 'holding the line' at some settlements (e.g. Bridlington, Withernsea, Hornsea, Mappleton and Easington Gas Terminal) and 'doing nothing' along more unpopulated areas
    • this is unpopular with land or property owners of these stretches
  • Coastal realignment of businesses has been suggested e.g. relocating caravan parks further inland
    • this would be a more sustainable scheme as it would allow the coast to erode as normal without endangering businesses
    • however, there are issues surrounding how much businesses should be compensated by for relocation
    • also relocation isn't always possible e.g. farmland can't be 'relocated' and there may be no land for sale to relocate buildings too
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Case Study- Holderness

  • sea wall has been proposed to better protect Easington Gas Terminal, would cost £4.5 million,
    • problem is that it would reduce sediment flow to the south increasing erosion at the village of Easington (with a population of 700 people)
    • a longer sea wall could be built that would protect the village as well as the gas terminal but this would cost £7 million
  • Offshore reefs made from concrete-filled tyres have been proposed to protect the coastline- they act like breakwaters and similar reefs have been built in the USA and have reduced erosion.
    • some people think the reefs will harm the environment
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Case Study- Blackwater Estuary- Soft engineering

Blackwater estuary is part of the Essex coastline. Land in the estuary is being eroded at a rate of o.3-1m/year but in some exposed areas e.g. cobmarsh island, the rate is 2m/year.

the area is also at risk of flooding as sea level is rising and the south of England is sinking relative to the sea

there are some hard engineering in the estuary, but these are becoming too expensive to maintain so soft engineering processes are now being implemented:

  • coastal realignment was implemented at Tollesbury Fleet in 1995. An existing sea wall was breached and 21 hectares of farmland were flooded to encourage marshland to form. A new lower sea wall was built further back on higher ground to protect from flooding
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Case Study- Blackwater Estuary

  • in 1991 an existing sea wall was lowered and breached flooding 0.8 hectares of land at Northey Island
  • In 1995 a sea wall was breached and 40 hectares of farmland at Orplands were flooded as part of coastal realignment
  • coastal realignment has been carried out at Bradford-on-sea by breaching an old sea wall
  • marsh stabilisation has been carried out by planting stakes and brushwood on the water line to encourage sediment to build up e.g. at Ray Creek
  • Beaches have been nourished along the estuary e.g. at Mersea Island
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Case Study- Blackwater Estuary

The schemes are more sustainable than hard engineering schemes

  • the schemes are more sustainable in the long term e.g. to repair the wall at orplands would have cost more than £600,000 (and would have only last for 20 years) the 40 hectares of farmland flooded was valued around £600,000 but the marshland created would defend the coast for longer as it's self repairing
  • the schemes created more marshland, which provides a larger habitat for wildlife
  • however, some areas haven't changed to marshland (e.g. parts of the Orpland site are still bare mud, which is easily eroded)
  • also grazing land has been lost
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Case study- Sea Palling- Coastal management

cliffs are largely made up of soft sands and clays,

  • which are particularly vunerable to wave attack as well as rotational slumping

the dominant winds are north easterly creating significant sediment drift from north to south

  • creates a challenge for coastal management because protecting one part of the coast may slow down rates of longshore drift and starve beaches south.

the proposed SMP for north-east Norfolk has recommended that places with a high level of socio-economic value should adopt a policy of managed retreat

  • has caused considerable conflict as peoples houses are at risk of falling into the sea.
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Case study- Sea Palling

  • In 1953 a storm surge broke through the sand dunes at Sea Palling and flooded large parts of north-east Norfolk
    • since then, coastal protection has been increasingly necessary to protect the inland area of the Norfolk Broads from flooding
  • following the 1953 floods;
    • sea wall was built in front of the sand dunes
    • in Eccles a number of groynes were built in order to preserve local beaches
      • proved effective as it has widened beaches
  • by the 1990s the beach at Sea Palling has been reduced so much that during storms at sea often reached the sea wall which was gradually undermined
  • In 1991  rip-rap was put in front of the sea wall as a temporary measure until a more permanent solution could be put in place
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Case study- Sea Palling

What is being done at sea palling? in 1992 a 'beach management strategy' has been implemented:

  • over 100,000 tonnes of boulders have been put in front of the existing sea wall to prevent it from collapsingthe beach has been replenished with one million cubic metres of sand, covering the boulders and widening the existing beach
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Case Study- Sea Palling

  • a set of offshore bars, parallel to the coast
    • these were designed to break the waves before they reached the beach and also absorb wave energy during storm events
    • gaps were left between the bars to allow natural longshore drift to continue
    • a result of this has been a 'tombola' effect where sediment has built up behind the reefs and connected them to to the beach resulting in a series of bays
    • providing protection and amenity value for sea palling but has reduced flow of sediment further south leading to beach replenishment at waxham
  • second set of bars has been built using a different design to reduce the tombola effect
  • a third set of bars is planned south of waxham
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Case Study- Happisburgh

Become a contentious issue in recent years as the soft cliffs continue to be eroded putting increasing numbers of homes and businesses at risk

the original timber defences constructed in the late 1950s have been destroyed by the force of the waves, leaving the cliff face open to wave attack during storm conditions

the local authority identified the need to replace the existing defences in the 1990s to protect the village of happisburgh

  • in 2001 the building of rock groynes was proposed
    • thought that this would encourage the accumulation of sediment and create a wider beach to absorb wave energy during storms
    • there were a small number of rejections but eventually rejected on financial and technical grounds
  • in 2002, as an emergency measure,  4000 tonnes of boulders in order to create a rock bund at the base of the cliff, slowing down erosion temporarily
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Case Study- Happisburgh

  • the hopes of the local people for a more permanent coastal defence scheme were dashed when the SMP for the area was published in 2006
    • the plan proposed the area should have 'no active intervention' and that the coast should be allowed to retreat
  • in 2007, a temporary rock bund was extended, aided by £50,000 from the 'Buy a rock for happisburgh' local appeal.
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Case Study- Pevensey Bay, soft engineering

stretches from Eastbourne in the west to Bexhill in the east, on the sussex coast

The SMP recommendations for the area for the present, medium and long term is to 'hold the line' to protect the coast reasons for this:

  • immediate inland area has over 10,000 properties
  • the area has a significant number of commercial premises including several caravan parks
  • the main coastal road (A259) and railway network are close to the coast
  • the Pevensey levels, and environmentally sensitive area would be flooded with salt water if the coastal defences failed
  • the area has a large quantity of high value agricultural land

In order to manage this part of the coast a group of companies joined together to form the Pevensey Coastal Defence ltd.

  • June 2000 the company signed a 25 year contract allowing the company opportunities to experiment with new methods of coastal defences
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Case Study- Pevensey Bay

How is the area being managed;

  • beach replenishment and profiling
    • dominant waves are from the south west which means that sediments are moved west to east by longshore drift
    • results in a loss of 20,000 cubic tonnes of beach material each year
    • beach sediment is replaced by dredging it from the ocean floor and spraying it as slurry on the beach
    • sediment is moved by a bulldozer giving a natural profile
    • replenishment creates a wide beach able to absorb wave energy
    • beach is constantly monitored by GPS which shows where more beach material is required
  • Beach recycling
    • 2 or 3 times a year beach material is moved from the eastern end of the coastal defence area and is deposited at the western end to counteract the natural process of longshore drift
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Case Study- Pevensey Bay

Beach reprofiling

  • during winter storms beach material can be lost from the higher part of the beach and deposited on the lower part nearer the sea, where it can be removed by wave action
  • to reduce this the beach is regraded by moving material back up the beach

Groyne replacement

  • in 2000 there were 150 groynes in the coastal defence area, many were damaged
  • most were removed and replaced by a small number of more strategically placed groynes creating a more open and attractive beach
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Case Study- Pevensey Bay

Use of different materials

  • the defence scheme has been used to experiment and monitor the use of different materials and techniques including:
    • recycled plastic is being used on some of the groynes in order to reduce the use of tropical hardwoods
    • bales of old car tyres, which are buried in the upper part of the beach to provide additional bulk and stability to the beach material

wooden retaining walls

  • have been built at the landward edge of the beach to allow a steeper shingle beach to be built and prevent beach material being blown inland onto local coastal roads
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Case Study- Pevensey Bay

Has the scheme been successful?

  • been seen as environmentally sustainable because it works with natural processes rather than using heavy engineering to control them
  • maintaining and protecting the beach is seen as the most effective form of coastal defence because a wide, gently sloping beach is able to absorb wave energy efficiently
  • the scheme is being run with the agreed budget but it is too early
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Case Study- Ventnor to bonchurch, Isle of Wight- M

geology in this area is a complex mixture of chalk, greensand and clay and no real uniformity, because of this the area has a range of landslide features including:

  • rotational slumping which creates linear 'benches' separated by steep slopes
  • mudslides where clay is exposed and vulnerable to movement during wetter periods
  • rock falls and coastal landslides, especially where exposed areas of cliff are not protected from wave attack
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case study- Isle of wight

research suggests that there are at least 3 different landslide systems operating in the area which become unstable after periods of heavy rainfall

area vulnerable to wave attack because:

  • during storm conditions Atlantic waves from the south-south-wesr create powerful storm surge over 1m higher than normal predicted levels
  • there is a limited supply of drift material in the area so some places  beaches are narrow or non-existent and offer little protection to the cliffs from wave attack
  • during storm conditions waves pick up gravel and attack the cliffs or existing coastal defences through shingle abrasion
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case study- Isle of wight

Why is erosion an issue:

  • area is a coastal resort and residential area and has millions of pounds worth of commercial and residential property close to the coastline
  • the main east-west communications route passes close to the edge of the coast
  • the town of Ventnor was developed in victorian properties which weren't built with land movement protection in mind
  • estimated that serious slope failure on this coast could affect properties up to 200m inland, with enormous social and economic costs
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case study- Isle of wight

Coastal management between Ventnor and Bonchurch

  • Ventnor sea front has been protected from wave attack for many years but in the past these defences were not well co-ordinated
    • by the 1970s many of the existing defences were suffering from corrosion and collapsing leaving the area vulnerable to attack
  • during the last 25 years a number of heavy engineering schemes have been put in place to protect the coastline
    • the major example is the sea wall, 
    • concrete tetrapods placed in front of the sea wall at Wheelers bay
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Case Study- Isle of Wight

environmental impact assessment:

  • part of the area is recognised as having valuable characteristics and priority habitats leading to ecological assessments being carried out
  • however, ongoing geo-technical reports have concluded that heavy engineering options are the only viable option to protect the area from wave attack and sub-aerial processes
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Physical factors creating different coastal enviro

  • different rock types and the process of erosion produce features like cliffs, arches and stacks
  • coastal erosion can create sheltered inlets and deep natural harbours
  • where big rivers flow into the sea, wide tidal estuaries are formed
  • beaches are formed where the sea deposits eroded material e.g. pebbles or sand
  • flood plains are wide, flat valley floors that are regularly flooded by a river. deltas form at a river mouth when sediment is deposited by the river faster than the sea removes it
  • certain coastal ecosystems such as mangrove swamps, are valuable natural environments, providing important breeding grounds for many species of fish and shellfish
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These encourage different types of development...

  • the dramatic scenery of some coastlines attract tourists
    • e.g. the Jurassic Coast world heritage site in Dorset and East Devon
  • Natural harbours allow easy access for the import and export of raw materials and manufactured goods by ship, attracting industry to the area
    • e.g. companies such as shell and Esso have located in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
  • Estuaries also allow easy access for ships, so encourage port development and attract industry to their hinterlands 
    • e.g. the port of Shanghai on the River Yangtze estuary is the busiest port in the world
  • Attractive beaches in areas with equable climate attracts tourists
    • e.g. Costa Brava in Spain
  • The nutrient rich alluvium deposited by rivers on flood plains and deltas makes the soil very fertile, attracting agriculture
    • e.g. nile delta, Egypt has been farmed intensively for over 6000 years
  • Some coastal ecosystems have high biodiversity, which attracts fishing and tourists e.g. The great barrier reef in Australia
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Case Study- the solent, valuable economic and envi

A multi-use coastal area= the solent:

  • Dibden Bay- area of mudflats and grassland attracting wildlife
  • container facility- part of deepwater port covers an area of over 200 acres, frontage of 1350m and is next to the rail freight terminal
  • Exxon Mobil oil refinery- largest refinary in the Uk covering and area over 3000 acres, handles over 2000 ship movements a year and supplies 15% of all petroleum products in the Uk
  • Fawley chemical manufacturing plant- produces a million tones of chemical products a year, main products are chemicals used in paints, adhesives and rubber for vehicle tyres
  • Fawley power station one of the largest oil fired power stations in the UK
  • Calshot activities centre- largest outdoor activities centre in britain features water based activities
  • Keyhaven nature reserve- extends over 2000 acres of salt marsh and mud flats
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Case Study- the solent

  • Thorness Bay Holiday village- holiday park with a range of land and water based activities for family holidays
  • The city of southampton- resident population of over 250,000- largest city in the south of England
  • Roll on/roll off facility- nearly 750,000 vehicles delivered each year from various countries, there is a vehicle storage and distribution compound which holds 6000 cars
  • Bulk terminal- 28,000 tonne grain facility and flour mill, fertiliser importing/processing plant and a glass reprocessing facility
  • Cruise terminal- Uk's busiest port handling over 200 ships a year and 700,000 passengers, home of P&O and Cunard vessels
  • The River Hamble- several large marinas and a number of boatyards which are used by local and international yachtspeople
  • Cowes- main port and passenger ferry, has a large natural harbour used by recreational boaters and hosts the famous 'cowes week' yachting regatta
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Increased development and coastal population growt

  • the physical factors of accessibility, fertile soil, equable climate, dramatic scenery and high biodiversity lead to an increase in fishing, tourism and industry
  • an increase in fishing, tourism or industrial/ port development in an area causes an increase in population because people are attracted to live there by the opportunities for employment
  • also, the land is often flat by the coast which means homes and businesses can be built much more easily this encourages people to live and locate businesses in these areas ---> population growth
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Case Study- Brighton

coastal city in East Sussex on the English Channel coast, has seen population growth for many years due to different factors:

  • potential for fishing- brighton initially grew as a fishing village, people moved to the area because of the jobs available as fishermen
  • tourism- in the 18th century, it was believed bathing in seawater was good for your health. Rich people including the Prince of Wales began to got to Brighton to be cured. this 'celebrity effect' saw brighton attract wealthy tourists and people moved to the area attracted by the jobs this new-found tourism provided
  • Accessibility- in the Victorian period, a railway was built linking brighton to london, improving accessibility and allowing working class people to travel to brighton on day trips- saw the growth in mass tourism and exponential population growth. between 1841 and 1881 the population rose from 15,000 to over 135,000
  • Industrial development- since 1970s been decline in people holidaying in Britain. Brighton has redeveloped itself as a centre for other tertiary and quarternary industries so is now attracting people who work in the media industries
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Case Study- Dubai

is in the United Arab Emirates on the persian gulf coast

has experienced different periods of growth for different reasons:

  • Dubai's geographical proximity to India made it an important trading centre between Asia and Europe, many traders eventually settled in the city. Until the 1930s it was known for its pearl exports
  • In 1966 oil was discovered
    • industrial and port development followed as Dubai creek was dredged to improve accessibility
    • Followed large ships access to the city and a new port was built at Jebel Ali, the biggest in the Middle East
    • The population quadrupled from 1968 to 1975 as foreign workers largely from India and Pakistan, flooded into the city to work in construction and oil production
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Case Study- Dubai

  • It was known that Dubai's oil reserves would not last, so money from oil exports was used to diversify the economy and promote continual growth
    • as well as building the port at Jebel Ali, a free economic zone economy was set up adjacent to the port, offering tax incentives to international businesses.
    • global businesses such as Microsoft, IBM, CNN located there, attracting both domestic and international workers to the area
  • Over the last 10 years, tourism has become important to the growth of Dubai. The Dubai government is investing heavily in tourist infrastructure and hopes to attract 10 million tourists per year by 2010.
    • huge construction projects, which require a skilled foreign labour force have contributed in doubling Dubai's population since 1993.
    • less than 20% of the 1.4 million people in Dubai are native
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Case Study- Dubai

Fact file:

  • fastest growing tourist location
    • visitor numbers increasing from 1 million in 1990 to over 6 million in 2004
  • 700km of coastline and sub-tropical climate make it an ideal holiday destination
  • attracting increasing numbers of second home owners and foreign residents
  • recently opened opened a new cruise terminal and aims to build the tallest building in the world

Worlds largest coastal reclamation scheme:

  • 2001- announced 'eighth wonder of the world' was going to be built by creating 2 artificial islands- Palm Jumirah and Palm Jebel Ali, in the shape of date palm trees, finished building at end of 2006- middle of 2008 (depends on island)
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Case Study- Dubai

  • 2003- announced that a 3rd palm-shaped island, the palm Deira 'the world' a creation of over 300 islands in the shape of earths continents were being built, increasing dubai's shoreline by over 400km
  • launched in 2001, the Palm Jumeirah is the project that started it all
    • man made island in the shape of a palm tree
    • created a destination of world class hotels, retail, various home types and leisure and entertainment facilities

project features

  • range of first class hotels
  • the Golden Mile retail destination offering more than 200 retail outlets and 860 residential units
  • village centre featuring 68,000m2 of retail and commercial offerings with over 1000 apartments and townhouses and a marina with 750 berths for private vessels
  • Trump international hotel and tower
  • shoreline marina with 400 berths for private vessels
  • private beachside villas located on the fronds of the palm 
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Coastal development causing conflict


  • tourism brings job opportunities and increased spending in local businesses
  • conflict between tourists and locals over traffic congestion, parking and noise
  • environmental impact- demand for access to tourists increases road building and construction of other amenities- may be built on ecologically important land, leading to destruction of valuable coastal ecosystems
  • tourists can contribute to coastal erosion by walking over sand dunes and destroying the plants that stabilise the dunes causing conflict


  • brings jobs and money but overfishing can lead to rapid decline and extinction of fish populations
  • efforts to conserve fish talks cause conflicts with the fishing industry.
  • treaties have been agreed by many countries to try to stop fish stocks collapsing e.g. EU common fisheries policy
  • treaties limit amount of fish that can be caught causes job losses and decline of fishing communities
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Coastal development causing conflict


  • demand for affordable fish and shellfish has led too the cultivation of aquatic animals in 'fish farms' leads to conflict between producers and environmentalists because of the negative effects on the environment
  • high levels of fish waste can decrease dissolved oxygen levels in the water causing death to other fish
  • disease can spread from farmed to wild fish effecting natural population of certain species


  • ports have expanded and put coastal ecosystems under threat
  • pressure to develop salt marshes as the coast as they provide flat land and sheltered water, ideal for ports and industry- conflict between industry and those trying to protect the environment
  • pollution of sea and beaches from industrial waste has harmful effects for swimmers and marine creaturescausing conflicts between coastal industries who are responsible, tourists and environmentalists 
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Case Study- Dubai development causing conflict

Dubai isin the United Arab Emirates, the rapid coastal development since the 1970s has led to conflict because the stakeholders have different opinions and ideas about how development should proceed

Number of different activities which cause conflict:

Oil Production

  • Dubai produces over 150,000 barrels of oil a day
  • oil is very important to the economy of the UAE as a whole, making up around 1/3 of the country's GDP
  • conflict between oil companies and conservationists occurs because oil tankers cause pollution in the Gulf
  • this can take 5-8 years to flush out because the Gulf is a semi-enclosed body of water
  • the pollution of sea around Dubai also causes conflict with the fishing industry as it can affect fish stocks
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Case Study- Dubai development causing conflict


  • overfishing in Dubai is a problem as there are no quotas set to limit the numbers of fish that can be caught
  • increasing demand from tourists on fresh local fish is putting strain on fish stocks
  • illegal drift nets are being used, which affect endangered species such as the hawksbill turtle
  • creates conflict between conservation agencies such as the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency (ERWDA) and the fishing industry
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Case Study- Dubai development causing conflict


  • In 2007 the number of hotel guests staying in Dubai was about 7 million
  • it is estimated to reach 14 million by 2015
  • causes conflict between tourist industry and conservationists because the increase in tourists will lead to more sewage, litter and more erosion of the coastline
  • Four-wheel-drive vehicles used for tourist excursions have also damaged turtle nesting beaches
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Case Study- Dubai development causing conflict

Property Development

  • several 'mega projects' are being constructed in Dubai such as The Palms and Waterfront
  • they can damage coastal habitats e.g. Palm Jebel Ali is being built over coral reef
  • some of these developments are also being built on reclaimed land from the Persian Gulf using material dredged from the seabed
  • Dredging destroys the seabed environment
  • many developments also increase the number of tourists and so increase the problems they cause
  • creating conflicts between property developers and conservationists 
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Case Study- Management challenges, Florida

  • Florida is known as the 'sunshine state' in the USA because of its sub-tropical climate, which becomes more tropical as you move southwards towards Florida Keys
  • High temperatures can bring heavy rainfall and extreme climatic events such as lightning, storms, tornadoes and hurricanes
  • sea breezes cool the coastal areas and make them attractive places for holidaymakers and residents
  • Florida has the fastest growing GDP of any US state and the 3rd fastest rate of population growth, increasing from 9.7million people in 1980 to 19 million in 2007
  • the comfortable climate, economic opportunities, high living standards and range of leisure activities are seen as major attractions for the working population and the are is increasingly seen as a magnet for second homes
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Case Study- Florida

  • long history of tourist development and has a number of internationally known theme parks e.g. Walt Disney World Resort and Sea World
  • the coastal region attracts millions of visitors each year, making tourism the largest sector of employment
  • most of the development has been along the south-east coast, with the west coast becoming increasingly popular in more recent years
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Case Study- Florida

Pressures on the coastal area

  • algae blooms (called red tide) are linked to water pollution
  • damage to fragile marine ecosystems linked to agriculture and tourism
  • marine tourism in some areas creating a need for heavy coastal engineering
  • sediments loss due to dredging for construction materials
  • the urbanisation of coastal areas with increasing demand for space
  • increasing vulnerability to flooding as sea levels rise
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Case Study- Florida

Florida Keys:

  • an archipelago of over 1500 islands beginning at the southern tip of florida and extending southwards towards key west.
  • the 'overseas-highway' joins many of the tropical islands
  • the area contains the only coral reef in the area


  • part of the South Florida Metropolitan area- 5th largest urban area in USA
  • port is called 'cruise capital of the world' and 'cargo gateway of America'
  • it is the world's number one cruise liner port and the starting point for many caribbean cruises
  • is a linear city: inland growth been restricted by everglades national park
  • is a centre for finance and the headquarters for over 1000 multinational corporations including disney and Microsoft
  • most of the build environment is less than 10m above sea level
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Case Study- Rio De Janeiro

  • in south east brazil and developed on Guanabara Bay creating the largest natural harbour in the world- deep enough to handle large ships
  • has become the major centre for Brazils imports and exports
  • In 1940s large scale industrial development started the petrochemical works and steel making plants owned by the government
  • 1950s and 1960s= industrial growth pole and transnational companies encouraged to move in
  • industrial expansion continued and includes development of Brazil's major technology complex with over 200 national and transnational companies
  • recent years- warm climate and natural landscape has attracted more tourists
    • particularly the crescent shaped bays of Copacabana and Ipanema
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Case Study- Rio de Janeiro

  • growth of industry has created enormous wealth for some of the inhabitants
  • encouraged development of newer residential areas along the coast as wealthier people seek to move away from the city centre
    • for example Barra de Tijuca
    • built on a sand dune coast in a stunning beach environment
    • modern residential areas, shopping malls and leisure facilities
    • the 18km long sandy beach is one of the main attractions
    • Barra is becoming increasingly popular among tourists
    • fears it might become overdeveloped and face pollution problems like some of Rio's other popular beaches
    • in order to protect the area from environmental destruction, nature reserves and wild bird sanctuaries have been set up and some beaches have been labelled 'preserved beaches' with limited parking
  • remains a significant wealth gap in Rio, 12 million inhabitants live in squatter areas often with lack of basic facilities
  • industrial and urban growth have put pressure on environment e.g sewage
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Coastal systems under threat- coral reefs

coral reefs= 'gardens of the sea' include 1/3 of world's fish species

How formed?  from colonies of small animals called polyps need conditions:

  • warm sea temperatures- average water temp above 18'C
  • light, high salt levels,clear water
  • these conditions are mainly found in shallow water either side of the equator

why important?

  • provide foundations for many islands
  • provide barrier against storm waves
  • contain many rare species and chemicals
  • support the fishing industry, providing food and income
  • major attraction for tourists- over 200 million a year
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Coastal systems under threat- coral reefs

why under threat?

  • pollution caused by sewage outfalls, agricultural and industrial runoff
  • damage by boats or divers
  • collection of coral souvenirs
  • increasing sediment being deposited in rivers
  • overfishing
  • mining of the coral for building materials
  • global warming- increasing frequency of damaging storms
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Protecting coral reefs- the soufriere marine manag

in order to protect the most productive reefs on the west coast of St Lucia, the Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA) was formed in 1994

SMMA was formed after consultation with local people and agreement was established to create 5 zones, the aim of the zoning system was to encourage the economic and environmental sustainability of the area

what does it do?

  • regular monitoring of coral reefs and water quality
  • managed provision for different users and public information and education
  • promotion of appropriate development and enforcement of rules and regulations and solve conflict

recent surveys show that the reserve area has had an increase in commercial fish biomass and biodiversity as well as reduction in the level of damage from humans

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The Mediterranean- coastal area under pressure

includes 20 countries from over 3 continents and is home to over 160 people, the coastline is 46,000km long and in 2003 was reported to have 584 coastal cities 750 yachting harbours, 286 commercial ports, 68 oil and gas terminals, 180 power stations, 112 airports and 238 desalinisation plants

tourism is a major economic asset- encouraged development of roads and linear urbanisation

degration of coastal environment, increased pressure due to:

  • growing population of coastal areas
  • development of  urban sprawl causes damage wetland ecosystems
  • poor management leads to change in sediment flow damaging habitats
  • oil and gas infrastructure-increased number of oil tankers- abut 30% of oil tankers travel through
  • use of chemicals in agriculture has increased levels of eutrophication
  • industrial development has increased levels of chemical discharge
  • uncontrolled waste management leading to serious problems of leaching from some coastal landfill sites
  • untreated waste water is being discharged polluting water
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The Mediterranean- coastal area under pressure

in 1975 Mediterranean action plan was set up (MAP)- aim was to protect the marine environment

in 1995- the brief of the MAP was widened to include the whole coastal region and to consider the issue of sustainable development

'A sustainable future for the mediterranean- the blue plan' recommends:

  • 10% of all coastal and marine habitats should be protected, adding to the current 80 protected wetland areas
  • develop 'green areas' between urban areas to reduce linear developments
  • reduction of linear road building
  • inland tourism should be encouraged
  • future tourism development should show awareness for the environment
  • stricter implementation of rules to avoid ship pollution
  • improved energy management to reduce need for coastal power stations
  • all waste water should be fully treated before being discharged
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jazmine clark

this has really improved my knowledge of coasts ready in time for my exam in 2 weeks time thankyou so much!

jazmine clark

this has really improved my knowledge of coasts ready in time for my exam in 2 weeks time thankyou so much!


I love you ellie

Brittany - Team GR

This is a brilliant resource! Thanks a lot!

Mr A Gibson

WOW - a top notch set of revision cards. One of the best I have seen on this topic. Covers everything you could ever need for coasts including case studies. SUitable for all exam boards.

Nonce Loncey



this is awsum!! thanx soo much!!

Leonardo Delglyn

This is bloody amazing

Navya Nijil

This is exactly what I needed! Thank you!

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