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# Weak and wobbly or strong and stable?: Salt marshes as buffers against coastal erosion

As the UK prepares for climate change impacts at the coastal zone, research from Cambridge Coastal Research Unit (CCRU) determines the resistance of coastal salt marshes to extreme storms.

Salt marshes fringe much of the world's low-lying coasts. They act as a first line of defence against storm surge waves, reducing storm water levels and the run up of waves on landward sea defences. As a result, vulnerable shorelines and engineered coastal defences are at lower risk of suffering under the impact of climate change, for example through sea level rise and intense storms. Little is known, however, of the resistance of these natural buffers to the continued battering by waves and tides and even less is known about what kind of storm it takes to erode these protective fringes, and thus leaving the coast and the populations living alongside it considerably more vulnerable.

This short film explains how a team of Geographers and Geologists is planning to shed light on what makes salt marshes resistant to storm waves, using the latest remote sensing and soil scanning technologies alongside one of the world's largest indoor wave flumes.

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# Salt marsh could be the best defence against coastal erosion

A new article in the Guardian discusses work by Department lecturer Dr Iris Moeller and the RESIST project, exploring how salt marshes can provide resistance to extreme weather events.

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# Sea Change: how Cambridge Geography is working to protect East Anglian coasts

Featured in the latest Research Horizons, the work of Tom Spencer, Iris Moeller and the Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, explores how coastal communities can work with nature, rather than against it, to protect them from flooding, while collaborating with local authorities in the East of England, the Environment Agency, stakeholders including the National Trust, and the Universities of East Anglia (UEA) and Essex, to develop and test more sustainable approaches to flood defence.

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# Rising seas: to keep humans safe, let nature shape the coast

Writing in The Conversation, Department Lecturer Dr Iris Moeller argues that rising sea levels won't be solved by trying to keep the coast in place, instead, for a defence from coastal flooding, we need to take a step back and let nature decide.

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# Cambridge Geography helps Copernicus flood-proof coasts

A major EU research project, including key contributions from the Department of Geography's Coastal Research Unit, has been selected as one of 99 stories from European public authorities to highlight how we are all benefiting from the European Copernicus Programme, the most ambitious Earth Observation programme to date. Launched on the 26th November 2018 at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, The Ever Growing Use of Copernicus across Europe's Regions offers a glimpse into how Copernicus supports a broad range of public policies.

The Cambridge Coastal Research Unit's (CCRU) contribution to the FAST ('Foreshore Assessment using Space Technology') project was led by Dr Iris Möller. The CCRUs contribution allowed the project team from a total of five leading European research establishments to use state of the art field measurements of waves over flooded wetland surfaces across Europe. This in turn enabled the team to explore how remote sensing can be used as a tool to allow coastal wetlands to be incorporated into coastal protection schemes as natural wave buffers.

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# Is sea level rise accelerating and what are the implications for coastal flooding?

Dr Ivan Haigh, Associated Professor in Ocean and Earth Science at the prestigious National Oceanography Centre, Southampton is at the Coastal Research Unit to present his latest work on sea-level rise and its impacts. He describes a novel approach developed to project sea-level rise out to 2300 to accurately assess our 'commitment to sea-level rise' and how sea level rise will impact coastal flooding around the UK.

Rising sea level is one of the most certain and costliest impacts of climate change. The Paris Agreement committed signatories to 'Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change'. However, while reducing human emissions of greenhouse gases will stabilise temperature and other climate factors, sea-level rise will continue for many centuries. This is due to the long timescale of cryospheric adjustment to elevated air temperatures (especially the large ice sheets), and the long timescale of the deep ocean temperature warming to surface warming.

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# New paper: The interactive relationship between coastal erosion and flood risk

James Pollard

A new article by CCRU's James Pollard, Professor Tom Spencer, and Dr Sue Brooks establishes that coastal flooding and erosion interact in complex ways that must be addressed for effective risk management.

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# Reefs in space and time: Recognising David Stoddart's contribution to coral reef science

A new collection of papers on coral reef geology, geomorphology, biogeography and ecology, and the history of reef science has been published in the memory of David Ross Stoddart (1937-2014).

David Stoddart was a member (undergraduate, Demonstrator, University Lecturer) of the Department of Geography between 1956 and 1988, before becoming Chair of Department and Professor of Geography, University of California at Berkeley. He was a graduate student of Alfred Steers, completing a Ph.D. on the Belize Barrier Reef in 1964.

The collection was the outcome of the opening session of 13th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Honolulu, Hawai'i in June 2016 and includes contributions from 4 reef scientists - Colin Woodroffe, Tom Spencer, Sarah Hamylton and Annelise Hagan – all products of graduate training in Physical Geography at Cambridge.

# Coastal management could prevent rising sea levels causing large scale loss of coastal wetlands

© Matthew Barker (cc-by-sa/2.0)

A new study, by a team of researchers led by members of the Department's Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, finds that coastal management could prevent rising sea levels causing large-scale loss of coastal wetlands.

Previous studies have predicted catastrophic coastal wetland loss as sea levels rise. However, this new research shows that the global area of coastal wetland could increase if coasts are managed so that they have alternative spaces to grow: areas where sediment could build up, uninhibited by built infrastructure such as sea walls and cities, and where wetland plants could develop. Coastal wetlands could then expand inland in response to sea level rise.

The research was led by Dr Mark Schuerch, former postdoctoral research fellow at CCRU (now University of Lincoln) with the CCRU Director Professor Tom Spencer and including Dr Ruth Reef (now University of Monash).

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# How do salt marshes cope with storm surges?

An international team of researchers, led by Dr Iris Möller of the Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, are conducting a unique experiment into how salt marshes cope with storm surges using the Large Wave Flume, a joint facility of Leibniz University Hannover and TU Braunschweig. Researchers will expose various salt marsh plants and sediment samples to large waves and storm surges.

Salt marshes occur on shallow coasts influenced by tides. They provide a habitat for adapted plants and animals, protect the coast, and contribute to climate protection as they store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, if storm surges occur more frequently due to climate change, the system might become imbalanced and lose its protective function for the coast.

The project is led by the University of Cambridge (UK), in collaboration with Universität Hamburg (Germany), TU Braunschweig (Germany), University of Antwerp (Belgium), as well as the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.

You can find out more about the experiment at the Salt Marshes Under Extreme Waves blog.

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