Coastal Processes, Hazards, and Society

Examples of Managed Retreat in the U.K.


Examples of Managed Retreat in the U.K.

The U.K., being a relatively small island nation with a dense population, has a somewhat different approach to coastal management than the U.S. As a result, managed retreat, or managed realignment as it is called in the U.K., has been under serious consideration for a longer period of time than in the U.S. In the winter of 2013 -2014, tremendous storms caused extensive coastal flooding, bringing coastal management to the forefront.

There are several examples of managed realignment in the U.K., one is outlined in the link below. The small town of Medberry in southwestern England was chosen for this project. Read the article, and begin a list of pros and cons of managed retreat vs. “hold the line” strategies involving hard structures such as higher sea walls and rock barriers.

Required Readings

  • An example is the management of the Humber estuary in northeastern England. Read the description in "Managed realignment for coastal protection, UK" and look at the cost-benefit information in this article. Although the costs are in Pounds and Euros, you can directly compare the numbers for the various management types and factors in the changes in cost over time.

Ecosystem Services of Coastal Marshes

Research shows that natural coastal marsh habitats provide many ecosystem services, including attenuation of storm surge. Attempts to quantify the amount of protection provided by coastal marsh has been elusive, but researchers conclude that “It is clear that coastal management decisions should consider the dynamics of natural coastal systems previous to human modification and be cautious about any actions that erode the natural benefits and ecosystem services provided by salt marshes.” (Shepard et al., 2011). This statement is based on the fact that research strongly indicates that coastal marshes play a very important role in protecting human infrastructure from coastal hazards, including sea level rise and storm surges. (Reference: Shepard CC, Crain CM, Beck MW (2011) The Protective Role of Coastal Marshes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.)

See caption. Wider salt marsh = shorter crest, taller crest=more expensive.
Examples of costs of combination marsh restoration and sea wall construction, in GB pounds.
Credit: Nicholls et al. (ClimateTechWiki) adapted from Doody, J.P. (2008) Saltmarsh conservation, management, and restoration. Dusseldorf: Springer.