A birds-eye view of coastal protection on a beach A birds-eye view of bricks laid out on a beach

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Beaches: people, planet, protection?

Designing beaches to provide sustainable long-term coastal protection

As the public purse is firmly shut and the world is screaming for sustainability, is this the perfect storm we need to truly work with nature?


As coastal managers we may dream of designing a beautiful sandy beach filled with laughing families on a sunny day - smug in the knowledge that it’s secretly playing a vital part in protecting their homes and communities.

But such dreams are no more than fantasies if we forget that beaches are natural features, ever changing in space and time, and try to fix them to a pre-defined notion of protection.

And may become costly nightmares if we don’t work with beach dynamics, accepting and managing the way they change…instead interfering and over-engineering.

At ABPmer, no matter the project, we always take a holistic approach.

When providing coastal defence design input, we use our expertise in modelling sediment transport, waves and currents to understand how a beach works - how it moves in the every–day - and how it responds to major storm events. By doing this we estimate how beaches will respond differently in the future and identify the triggers for change and intervention.

At a time when the public purse is firmly shut and the world is screaming for sustainability, is this the perfect storm we need as coastal managers to truly work with nature?

Is this the tipping point when we really move away from traditional engineering and make the most of our natural capital?

Is this the time we truly recognise the wider benefits a stable, functioning beach can bring to social and community well-being?

Businesses talk of a triple bottom line, why not coast protection?

Prepared by Heidi Roberts