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Coastal Management
Some homes are at risk because of coastal erosion.

Coastal Management

Coastlines are a major topic in GCSE Geography. This is one of several quizzes on that particular subject and it focusses specifically on the management of coastal erosion, with both hard and soft engineering.

Coastlines are dynamic areas. Geologically speaking they are changing in the blink of an eye. Compared to how slowly even things like glaciers move - never mind mountains being eroded - coasts are the geographical features that move in and out and shake it all about!

The changes that occur at the coast are a part of natural erosion and deposition. But with most parts of the British coastline having some form of settlement or industry located there, being a part of a delicate natural ecosystem, or being a key part of the tourism for the area, coastal management is key to try and prevent the loss of towns, villages and landscapes all around the country.

Civilisations have been attempting to monitor coastlines for around 3,500 years. The ancient Romans had some advanced techniques - many of which are still in place today. Over the past few decades methods have changed from a physical defence against the sea using hard engineering strategies, such as sea walls and rock armour, towards more sustainable options that are often far less expensive in the long term. These soft engineering solutions include beach management and managed retreat.

For your exams some of the techniques used in coastal management may be the basis for long answer questions, so it is important to have a knowledge of hard and soft engineering examples, as well as case studies to be able to discuss in your answers. Climate change is increasing the need for coastal management as sea levels rise, so be prepared for this sort of exam question.

One method often used to help control coastal erosion involves replacing material that is eroded away by wave action and longshore drift. What is this method known as?
Beach nourishment
Erosive replacement
Managed retreat
Boulder barriers
Replacing the eroded material can help to protect the coastline further up the beach. Whilst it is an inexpensive method and can assist tourism, it does require constant attention and forms just one part of a beach management strategy.
Marram grass is a pioneering species. How does planting marram grass on sand dunes help reduce coastal erosion?
The grass makes the area more attractive to tourists bringing money into the area
Marram grass is so tough it can be driven over and won't die. This gives a tough top surface to the sand dunes allowing traffic to move over them
Animals avoid marram grass and so don't graze on the sand dunes. The grazing would mean that the animals carry sand away as they move across the system
The marram grass stabilises the sand dunes and allows the cycle of beach succession to occur rather than the dunes blowing away and being transported along the coast
Sand dunes are a delicate part of the coastline and without pioneering species to help stablise them they will blow away
Tourism is a key feature of many coastal areas. But some coastal areas, such as sand dunes, are sensitive to erosion as people walk over them. How can local interest groups help prevent this erosion of sand dunes?
Prevent people visiting the dunes
Build boardwalks and attempt to focus the foot traffic in those areas
Increase the number of animals, such as sheep, on the dunes
Prevent longshore drift using hard engineering techniques
Whilst preventing people visiting the area and using hard engineering solutions may well decrease the problem, these are often impractical. Instead the use of boardwalks, fencing and other techniques can help the sand dunes remain stable
Why might some people argue against hard engineering projects to protect small hamlets and villages that are in danger of being lost due to coastal retreat?
The cost of the protection may outweigh the benefits of saving those houses
They don't believe that coastal protection works
They think the natural environment is more important than the land that is lost
They think the new land being created is more important
Whilst many of the properties lost are family homes and are important to those families, the cost to protect them is often prohibitive to local government. Because of this, managed retreat is often the only viable option for dealing with coastal erosion
Which of the following is an advantage of placing groynes on a beach?
Groynes can be unattractive
Groynes are costly to build and maintain as they often erode and are attacked by wood-boring animals
Groynes can increase erosion downstream
Groynes allow a beach to build up against their structure
Groynes assist in building a beach which helps to reduce wave energy and can also be a tourist attraction
Which of the following is an example of soft engineering to help manage coastal retreat?
The Thames Barrier
Creating salt marshes
Building groynes
Building sea walls
Salt marshes allow areas to naturally flood and reduce the risk of flooding in higher value areas. They're also a massive benefit for the local ecosystems. Many species use salt marshes for breeding and for surviving their vulnerable younger life stages
When material that is moving along the beach due to longshore drift meets an obstacle, it can build up and form a protective barrier. To help this occur local authorities will often build wooden barriers at right angles to the beach. What are these barriers known as?
Sea walls
Sand traps
Groynes are a practical way to slow longshore drift. They help to form a beach which protects the area
Exam questions often refer to managed coastal retreat, and in your case studies you will have seen this key term used. What does managed coastal retreat actually mean?
Local authorities knock down sea defenses and dig channels to allow the sea to reclaim the area
Houses are removed from areas near the coastline and the coastline is abandoned
Areas of the coast are allowed to erode and flood naturally
Only soft engineering techniques are used
Managed retreat is where the sea's natural processes are allowed to occur. Normally this is managed in areas of lower economic value, with the more proactive techniques concentrated in the areas of higher economic value
Which of the following is not a way that sea walls are designed to protect a part of the coastline?
The curve of the wall reflects the wave energy back out towards the sea
The wall diverts the sea onto low lying land away from settlements
The solid nature of the wall protects softer material behind
The height of the wall helps stop storm waves flooding vulnerable settlements
One problem that was clearly shown in the winter of 2014/2015 is that the sea walls can be undercut as the beach is removed and this can lead to the wall collapsing. Since many sea walls protect high value property this can cause serious problems
Which of the following is an advantage of hard engineering to prevent longshore drift moving material?
Land further along the coast may suffer from increased erosion
Hard engineering solutions are often more expensive than the land they are saving
Offshore features such as sand banks and spits may vanish
The land and property in the immediate area are protected from coastal retreat
Hard engineering solutions often protect the immediate area from coastal erosion and so halt coastal retreat. But they are normally only a local solution, increasing problems downstream and often just shifting the issues further along the coast. Added to this they are often an expensive and only temporary solutions
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC Bitesize - Coastal management

Author:  Ruth M

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