Successful management of coastal areas depends on understanding the different uses of coastal land and the physical processes impacting on the coast, such as erosion and longshore drift. Techniques for managing these physical processes can be divided into hard engineering options (such as building sea walls) and soft engineering options (such as beach nourishment and managed retreat).
Conflicts of interest
Land uses in coastal areas include tourism, industry, fishing, trade and transport. There are many different groups of people who have an interest in how coastal areas are managed. These include:
- local residents
- environmental groups
- local councils
- national governments
- tourist boards
- National Park Authorities
Each interest group may have a different view about what should be done to protect and manage coastal areas. A difference of opinion can cause conflict between interest groups.
Reasons why groups of people might be concerned about the coast
- Erosion may be threatening beaches or coastal settlements.
- People may want to develop tourism in the area or existing tourism could be declining.
- There is a danger of flooding if sea levels rise.
- There could be a problem with sewage and/or pollution.
Physical management of the coast attempts to control natural processes such as erosion and longshore drift.
Hard engineering options tend to be expensive, short-term options. They may also have a high impact on the landscape or environment and be unsustainable.
Hard engineering solutions
|Type of defence||Pros and cons|
Building a sea wall
A wall built on the edge of the coastline.
Protects the base of cliffs, land and buildings against erosion. Can prevent coastal flooding in some areas.
Expensive to build. Curved sea walls reflect the energy of the waves back to the sea. This means that the waves remain powerful. Over time the wall may begin to erode. The cost of maintenance is high.
A wooden barrier built at right angles to the beach.
Prevents the movement of beach material along the coast by longshore drift.
Allows the build up of a beach. Beaches are a natural defence against erosion and an attraction for tourists.
Can be seen as unattractive.
Costly to build and maintain.
Rock armour or boulder barriers
Large boulders are piled up on the beach.
Absorb the energy of waves.
Allows the build up of a beach.
Can be expensive to obtain and transport the boulders.
Soft engineering options
Soft engineering options are often less expensive than hard engineering options. They are usually more long-term and sustainable, with less impact on the environment.
There are two main types of soft engineering.
1. Beach management
- This replaces beach or cliff material that has been removed by erosion or longshore drift.
- The main advantage is that beaches are a natural defence against erosion and coastal flooding. Beaches also attract tourists.
- It is a relatively inexpensive option but requires constant maintenance to replace the beach material as it is washed away.
2. Managed retreat
- Areas of the coast are allowed to erode and flood naturally. Usually this will be areas considered to be of low value - eg places not being used for housing or farmland.
- The advantages are that it encourages the development of beaches(a natural defence) and salt marshes (important for the environment) and cost is low.
- Managed retreat is a cheap option, but people will need to becompensated for loss of buildings and farmland.
Case study: tourism in Studland Bay Nature Reserve
Studland Bay is located in the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset and is popular withtourists. It can be accessed by ferry from the desirable area of Sandbanks in Poole during the summer. It is only a few minutes drive from the resort of Swanage and most visitors arrive by car. Studland Bay is a good example of a place where conflict can occur between interest groups.
- The nature reserve is an area of sand dunes. These are dynamic, but often unstable and vulnerable environments.
- Areas such as this are home to rare species of plants and birds.
- The area is attractive to tourists because of the dunes and the wide, sandy beach. The beach can get very crowded in summer months.
- Visitors need somewhere to park and also demand other facilities, such as paths and public toilets.
- Tourists bring their problems such as litter and fire hazards (caused by barbecues and cigarette ends).
- Vulnerable areas and areas recently planted with marram grass (which is used to stabilise the dunes) are fenced off to limit access and damage.
- Boardwalks have been laid through the dunes to focus tourists onto specific paths.
- Car parks have been provided and people are not permitted to drive onto the beach.
- Fire beaters are positioned within the dune area in case of a fire.
- Facilities including a shop, café, toilets and litter bins are provided near the car parks to focus tourists into one area.
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