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BBC Blue Planet II - Coasts

Episode six of Blue Planet II, 'Coasts', looks at the most dynamic and challenging habitats in the ocean.

Find out more about how ocean and marine science at the University of Southampton is helping to understand and preserve the world's coastal areas.

Perranporth beach

Coastal Research Blog

Join the conversation on the University's Coastal Research Blog

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Waves batter the UK coast

Research on UK coastal flooding

Researchers at the University of Southampton have shown that most UK coastal flooding is caused by moderate, not extreme, storms.

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Our student blog

After each week's episode our MSci students Kieran and Elin will be updating the Exploring our Oceans blog. They will share their thoughts about the episode and relate it back to what they are learning here at Southampton.

This week Elin relates the highlights of the 'Coasts' episode to what she has learned during her course field trips.

Photo of Read Elin Thomas's blog post
The animals that live here are continuously pushed to the edge of their physical extremes, having to contend with the environmental pressures of two very different habitats.
Read Elin Thomas's blog post

Expert commentary from our staff

Research undertaken by staff here at the University of Southampton has informed much of the science that is covered in Blue Planet II.

This week Dr Hachem Kassem, Teaching & Research Fellow in Coastal Morphodynamics and GIS and Dr Ivan D Haigh, Associate Professor in Coastal Oceanography share their thoughts on the 'Coasts' episode.

Dr Hachem Kassem
Dr Hachem Kassem

Dr Hachem Kassem, Teaching & Research Fellow in Coastal Morphodynamics and GIS writes:

The ‘Coasts’ episode on Blue Planet II was a great testimony to the immense power of the ocean and how it can reshape even the hardest of landscapes. Attenborough repeatedly stated how this interface between land and sea is constantly changed, reshaped and moulded by the rise and fall of the tides, and the immense power of the waves as they shoal and break 'in an endless assault, gradually sculpting vaulted cathedrals of stone’.

The episode had some stunning immersive sequences, from the opening with sea turtles painting abstract patterns in the sand as they emerge to lay their eggs, to the slow-motion battles in rock pools. Lightfoot crabs racing across the rocky shore whilst trying to dodge their veracious predators, fish which have abandoned the sea seeking shelter on land, and penguins which have given up on flight and embraced the a life in the sea.

The episode presented masterful cinematic drama with sea lions working collectively, herding and hunting tuna in the shallow coves of the Galapagos, and puffins risking a 3 hour round trip to feed their pufflings, only for the food to be stolen by pirates. Yet for me, as a coastal engineer and oceanographer, nothing was as breath-taking as the waves approaching Nazare from far out at sea, rising as the ‘shallowing sea floor drags on their undersides’, their crests reach towering heights before they plunge with explosive power on the rocky coastline.

Beyond the mesmerising diversity, the episode gave us brief lessons in coastal erosion, and ended with a stark message of the challenges brought about by the increasing urbanisation of the coastline, and the impact of human development encroaching on our remaining wild shores. This indeed is the most vulnerable of habitats.

At Southampton, we have an unparalleled pedigree in coastal research, and have been investigating this dynamic habitat both from the natural and human perspectives. Our research lately has focused on the rising sea levels and sea surface temperatures and their impact on coastal cities and habitats; the role of waves and currents in mobilising sediments on the seabed, eroding shoreline and reshaping coastal landscapes; harnessing the power of ocean surface waves; interaction between ocean waves and infrastructure, the wonders of life in rock pools and shallow seas; primary productivity in the coastal ocean, habitat response of changing climate, and ‘building with nature’. ‘Building with nature’ is a novel approach to coastal management that aims to meet societal challenges with nature at its heart, from using the power of waves to redistribute sand on the coast to control erosion, to the attenuation for waves by seagrass meadows and mangrove forests to avoid coastal flooding.

Find out more about Dr Kassem's research and publications

Dr Ivan D Haigh
Dr Ivan D Haigh

Dr Ivan D Haigh, Associate Professor in Coastal Oceanography writes:

“I watched Blue Planet 1 in the final year of my degree in 2001 and remember especially loving the coastal episode. Having worked as a coastal oceanographer for the last 16 years I waited in anticipation for the coastal episode in Blue Planet II - and it didn’t disappoint. It fantastically captured the constant changing nature of the coast, with the rhythmic rise and fall of the tide.

I loved how the episode illustrated the moulding, shaping and sculpting power of ocean waves. I was fascinated by the gauntlet running crabs; the hard working puffin parents robbed of food for their young; and the seductive dancing fish that have given up the sea to live on land. I was moved by the final statement: ‘Coastal creatures don’t just have to master their own world, they must now face the many challenges that come from our world’.

Here in Southampton, we have a number of world-class research teams across the university. They are working in close partnership with government and industry to improve understanding of a wide range of coastal issues globally (e.g. flooding, erosion, changing ecosystems), and the many human pressures that are impacting our coastlines around the world.”

Find out more about Dr Haigh's research and publications.

Take it further...

Seal swimming beneath iceberg. Copyright BBC

Listen to the BBC episode podcast

Dr Jon Copley features every week in the BBC's Blue Planet II podcast, in his 'Catch of the Day' feature. Go to this week's podcast, Cheese and Onion Pufflings.

Prof Wiedenmann diving

Inspired to study?

If you have been inspired to study our Blue Planet by the BBC's series, explore of the undergraduate and postgraduate degrees we offer.

Wandering Albatross South Georgia

Explore the next episode

Extend your knowledge of the subjects covered in the final episode of Blue Planet II, Our Blue Planet.

Explore Our Blue Planet
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