Coastal management

Coastal management

What is coastal management in the context of climate change?

Coastal regions, particularly some low-lying river deltas, have very high population densities. In excess of 150 million people live within 1 metre of high tide level, and 250 million within 5 metres of high tide. There are billions of dollars invested in coastal infrastructure immediately adjacent to the coast. Many of the world's mega cities (populations of many millions) are on the coast.

The Oceans are changing. Many observations show that the ocean has been changing over the last several decades. One aspect of this is a warming ocean resulting in increase of ocean volume through thermal expansion. There has also been addition of water from glacier and ice sheets and changes in storage of water on or in the land (e.g. retention of water in man-made dams and extraction of water from aquifers). These together result in changes in sea level.

This sea-level rise is a response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the consequent changes in the global climate. Sea-level rise contributes to coastal erosion and inundation of low-lying coastal regions, particularly during extreme sea level events. It also leads to saltwater intrusion into aquifers, deltas and estuaries. These changes impact on coastal ecosystems, water resources, and human settlements and activities. Regions at most risk include heavily populated deltaic regions, small islands (especially coral atolls), and sandy coasts backed by major coastal developments.

Key questions for this area

If you are teaching or studying coastal management in the context of climate change, or are looking to introduce content, here are some key questions that you should be able to answer and/or consider:

  • How will extreme weather events impact on coastal management and sea level rise? 
  • Is there anything that can be done to mitigate or adapt to predicted coastal changes?
  • Are there any building and planning restrictions in place in Australia to protect communities? 
  • Who are the most likely to be affected by predicted coastal changes?

Useful resources 

If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, check out our resources for inspiration.

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