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# 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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# New paper: Big Data Approaches for coastal flood risk assessment and emergency response

CCRU's Jamie Pollard and Professor Tom Spencer have published a new paper in WIRES Climate Change that discusses the potential for Big Data Approaches to address the challenges of flood risk assessment and emergency response.

Big Data Approaches (BDAs) refers to the combined use of historic datasets, incoming data streams, and the array of related technologies designed to shed new light on societal and environmental complexities through novel organisational, storage and analytical capabilities.

Two branches of coastal flood risk management are considered. Firstly, coastal flood risk assessment, focusing on better characterisation of hazard sources, facilitative pathways and vulnerable receptors. Secondly, flood emergency response procedures, focusing on forecasting of flooding events, dissemination of warnings and response monitoring.

While these BDAs offer opportunities for improved decision making in varied aspects of both decision chains, they are also accompanied by specific technical contextual, institutional and behavioural barriers. These barriers must be overcome if the BDAs outlined here are to practically and genuinely inform coastal flood risk management.

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# Seminar: Tidal flat morphodynamics: Sediment sorting, self-weight consolidation and marsh distribution'

Biogeography & Biogeomorphology Research Group summer seminar

Thursday 19th July 11:00-12:00, Department of Geography Seminar Room, All welcome!

Dr Zeng Zhou, Associate Professor in Coastal Geomorphology
Hohai University, Nanjing, China

Dr Zeng Zhou is a coastal geomorphologist focusing on the (bio-)physical mechanisms underlying the formation and evolution of coastal and estuarine landscapes. He is currently entering the field of coastal biomorphodynamics, with a particular focus on tidal flat systems where tidal channel networks and salt marshes are commonly present. Recently, he is leading a small group of young researchers and graduate students to explore some interesting questions using various approaches e.g. field and laboratory experiments, numerical modelling and UAV imagery. His group aims to gain fundamental insight into the biophysical effects of salt marshes (and biofilms) and their two-way interactions with coastal and estuarine morphology, so as to evaluate and predict the response of tidal flats, channels and marshes to climate change (e.g. sea level rise, increasing frequency of storms) and human activities (e.g. large-scale reclamation, nearshore fishery).

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# How strong a storm destroys protective coastal marshes?

The new NERC-funded RESIST project, led by the Department's Iris Möller, will investigate resistance of coastal salt marshes to extreme storms. Salt marshes contribute to the wave buffering function of shallow water regions on the coast, thus acting as a first line of defence against storm surge waves. Their buffering role protects shorelines from the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise and stormier seas. However, little is known about how resistant these buffers are to continued battering by waves and tidal currents. The project will supply the first ever data on the resistance of marsh structures to waves, showing which soil and plant types cause greater or lesser stability. The team will be able use the data to create a "physical vulnerability index" of coastal wetlands.

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# Viennese whirl at the CCRU

The Cambridge Coastal Research Unit is once again making a strong showing at the General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) 8-13 April 2018, the largest geosciences meeting in Europe (the 2017 meeting featured 14,000 participants and >17,000 presentations).

Inbetween the coffees and the sachertorte, the Unit's staff, postdocs, PhD students and research associates will be delivering five presentations across biogeomorphology; ecosystem-based approaches to coastal Disaster Risk reduction; natural hazards in estuaries and coasts; and measuring, monitoring and modelling sedimentary and hydro-morphological processes.

Full details of the presentations can be found on the Unit's website.

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# New papers: Resilience increasing strategies for coasts

Elizabeth Christie

Research by Elizabeth Christie, Tom Spencer, Anna McIvor and Iris Mӧller has been published in a Special Issue of 'Coastal Engineering' on Resilience Increasing Strategies for Coasts from the EU FP7 RISC-Kit project.

This Special Issue features 21 papers on methods and case studies around Europe, including 3 papers from the Cambridge Coastal Research Unit:

Regional Coastal flood risk assessment for a tidally dominant, natural coastal setting: North Norfolk, southern North Sea. This paper describes the application and development of a coastal risk assessment framework for the North Norfolk Coast. The framework links spatial varying hazards from coastal storm events and vulnerability at the coast to allow 'hotspots' of risk to be identified.

Historical Analysis of storm events: Case studies in France, England, Portugal and Italy. This paper studies the occurrence and damage intensity of coastal storms from The Middle Ages to the 1960s using historic archives. This enables us to better understand the risks, and thus contribute to potentially reduce vulnerability to extreme storm events by showing lessons learned.

A Bayesian Network approach for coastal risk analysis and decision making. This paper develops a Bayesian Network approach to support decision making in coastal risk management and describes the application to a small town in North Norfolk. The Bayesian Network tool can be used to both predict potential damage from a given storm event, and to evaluate the effects of potential disaster risk reduction measures

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# Flood Risk and Future Cities

Congratulations to CCRU's Jamie Pollard, winner of one of 8 Future Cities Prize Fellowships 2018. Jamie aims to use satellite imagery to study evolving coastal flood risk in rapidly growing megacities. The Fellowships, awarded through a generous gift from Capital and Counties Properties Plc., are designed to support PhD students from across the University in the development of research relating to future cities.

# Book release: North Sea Surge, 2nd Edition: social accounts of the 1953 floods remain relevant over 60 years later

In 1953, England suffered its deadliest natural disaster in over 350 years. The cause - a North Sea Surge that swept its way down the east coast battering communities from Northumberland to Norfolk and beyond to the Thames Estuary. Over 300 people were killed in England alone, both during the storm and in the chaotic aftermath that followed.

As one of the few sociological accounts of the impacts on flood victims, North Sea Surge has often been cited by research scientists, in government reports and the press. Now in a second edition, James Pollard updates the unforgettable story of the East Coast Floods, in North Sea Surge: The story of the East Coast Floods of 1953, 2nd Edition.

Through this update, Pollard reiterates the key themes for flood risk management and resilience to future flooding that have been the mainstay of reviews, reports and research since: the responsiveness of local and national government; the efficacy of flood warnings and national forecasting services; the tensions between private and public accountability; and the deep reserves of national good-heartedness that feature large in times of crisis. In doing so, questions pertinent to the flood risk managers of today are posed:

  • Have we genuinely learnt lessons?
  • Are we really better prepared or does serendipity still dictate the extent of harm from coastal flooding?
  • Are we thinking about personal impacts when we design national strategies for 'flood risk management' and 'flood resilience', or have we simply invented a new lexicon to avoid the challenges of making things better for communities prone to coastal flooding, including those far from the city?

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# Cambridge University selects coastal Geography case study to showcase Public Engagement with Research

Iris Möller

"The potential effects of climate change and of human modifications of the landscape on flood risk are critically important if human society is to continue to thrive in flood-prone areas" says Dr Möller of the Cambridge Coastal Research Unit and the Biogeography and Biogeomorphology Research Group at the Department of Geography.

"To encourage greater awareness of this important issue, we successfully applied to the University's Public Engagement with Research Awards scheme in 2016 to construct our augmented reality dynamic landscape sand box". The sand box has multiple uses. It is as useful as a tool to engage research stakeholders and policy makers in discussion around complex flood protection and climate adaptation issues as it is for engaging the general public during events such as the University's Science Festival, where it will next make an appearance on the 17th of March 2018.

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