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The University of Southampton

WUN Changing Coast Workshop

Published: 14 March 2013

Prof Robert Nicholls (CMEES, FEE) hosted a workshop funded by the Worldwide Universities Network in March on the theme of ‘Changing Coasts’.

The workshop, attended by 28 participants from ten countries, bought together academics with a diverse range of backgrounds, including engineers, oceanographers, geographers, ecologists and social scientists to consider the challenges associated with managing coastal change due to multiple stresses, including uncertainty. The workshop received media interest, and an interview with Robert Nicholls was featured on the BBC South news.


Around 10% of the world’s population and large amounts of income are generated in the coastal zone, which is also home to many unique and productive habitats. Whilst the coast offers many benefits, it is also a hazardous place to live, as demonstrated by recent events such as Hurricane Sandy, the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and Winter storm Xynthia. Recognising that stakeholders and their activities will always create competing demands in coastal areas, the group considered the complex physical/social and economic interactions that result and how any tensions could be better managed into the future. Part of this was considering current and future expectations/aspirations for our coastal areas, how decision-making is constrained by historic choices and governance structures and how improved understanding of the full range of coastal ‘processes’ across natural and human systems will influence future decisions. As part of the workshop, a one day fieldtrip around Southampton Water was organised. The delegates were given background information from a range of local experts, visited Fawley Power Station, Hythe saltmarshes, and returned to Southampton on the Hythe Ferry. The activity centre on Calshot Spit provided lunch with a sea view adding to the overall enjoyment of the day.

After many lively, complex discussions, the group are developing a working paper to summarise the Workshop outputs as a first step to developing this research agenda.

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