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Research project

Coastal resilience in the face of sea-level rise: making the most of natural systems (CoastalRES)

Project overview

In the last 10 years, a resilience-based perspective towards coastal flooding and erosion has become increasingly prominent in national policy documents. Resilience is a broader concept that incorporates risk, but goes beyond it to consider the ability to anticipate and recover from adverse events that will inevitably occur. Despite its attraction, the concept of resilience remains ill-defined in many policy documents and largely qualitative.

This 12-month project funded by the SPF UK Climate Resilience Programme sets out to develop and demonstrate prototype methods to assess realistic pathways for strategic coastal erosion and flood resilience in the light of climate change, and to consider how resilience might be operationalized as a robust evidence-based framework for achieving more sustainable, equitable and societally acceptable adaptive responses to climate change at the coast. The main challenge was to devise a robust framework for quantifying resilience, such that comparative geographical assessments and forward modelling of temporal changes and the effects of specific adaptation pathways become possible.

The CoastalRes methodology was developed using local case studies and the entire coast of England as a case study, and demonstrates the practicality of formalising and quantifying resilience at multiple scales. This includes a pragmatic definition of resilience that encompasses not only the physical and ecological but also the socio-economic dimensions of coastal systems. Scenarios are used to model the impact of external drivers (e.g. climate change, land use, etc.) exploring likely response to selected policy options. Capitalising on the increasingly availability of open-source geospatial datasets, multi-variate measures are mapped over the flood and erosion hazard zone and combined using Multi Criteria Analysis (MCA) model to create spatially and temporally variable resilience indices. Subjective weightings within MCA are used constructively to provide an explicit and transparent representation of diverse stakeholder views.


Other researchers

Professor Ian Townend FREng

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Dr Eli Lazarus

Associate Professor

Research interests

  • coastal and fluvial dynamics
  • geomorphology
  • human-environmental coupled systems
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Professor Ivan Haigh


Research interests

  • I currently have 8 active research grants (4 as principle investigator (PI)) worth £4.8M. 
  • I am the PI on two international grants that started in 2019, both looking at compound flooding. Compound flooding (when the combination, or successive occurrence of, two or more hazard events leads to an extreme impact e.g., coastal and fluvial flooding), can greatly exacerbate the adverse consequences associated with flooding in coastal regions and yet it remains under-appreciated and poorly understood. In the £788k NERC- and NSF- (US National Science Foundation) funded CHANCE project, I am leading a team (working alongside researchers from the University of Central Florida), to deliver a new integrated approach to make a step-change in our understanding, and prediction of, the source mechanisms driving compound flood events in coastal areas around the North Atlantic basin. In the £575k NERC- and NAFOSTED- (Vietnam’s National Foundation for Science and Technology Development) funded project, I am leading a team that is working with colleagues in Vietnam to map and characterise present, and predict future, flood risk from coastal, fluvial, and surface sources and, uniquely, to assess the risk of compound flooding across the Mekong delta; one of the three most vulnerable deltas in the world. I am also the PI on a grant, which started in 2021. In this 41k project, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat), we are assessing past and future closures of the six storm surge barriers in the Netherlands.
  • In 2021, I was awarded a 3-year (50% of my time) prestigious Knowledge Exchange Fellowship funded by NERC (UK’s Natural Environmental Research Council) and worth £154k. This fellowship builds strongly on my prior research and the overall goal is to provide guidance and tools that will help storm surge barrier operators better prepare for the impacts of climate change across every area of their operation now and into the future. Within the fellowship I am working primary with the UK Environment Agency (EA) and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat). However, to ensure the work undertaken can benefit all the existing (and planned) surge barriers around the world, I am also working closely with I-STORM. I-STORM is an international knowledge sharing network for professionals relating to the management, operation and maintenance of storm surge barriers, and has representation from all the surge barriers worldwide.
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Professor Emma Tompkins

Prof of Geog, Environment & Development
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Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs

Kate Lonsdale, Nigel W. Arnell, Tim Coles, Kate Lock, Emer O'Connell, Paul O'Hare & Emma Tompkins, 2023
Type: bookChapter
Eli Lazarus, Sofia, Nadime Aldabet Munoz, Charlotte Thompson, Christopher Hill, R.J. Nicholls, Jon R. French, Sally Brown, Emma Tompkins, Ivan Haigh, Ian Townend & Edmund Penning-Rowsell, 2021, Anthropocene Coasts, 4(1), 137–146
Type: article
Ian Townend, J.R. French, Robert Nicholls, Sally Brown, Stephen Carpenter, Ivan Haigh, Christopher Hill, Eli Lazarus, Edmund Penning-Rowsell, Charlotte Thompson & Emma Tompkins, 2021, Science of the Total Environment, 783
Type: article
Eli Lazarus, Sofia Aldabet, Charlotte Thompson, Chris Hill, Robert Nicholls, Jon French, Sally Brown, Emma Tompkins, Ivan Haigh, Ian Townend & Edmund Penning-Rowsell, 2020
Type: other