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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.


Lead researcher

Professor Robert Nicholls

Research interests

  • long-term coastal engineering and management
  • the issues of coastal impacts and adaptation to climate change, with an emphasis on sea-level rise
  • the assessment of the future of deltaic areas, which are the most threatened coastal setting in the coming century
Other researchers

Professor Ian Townend FREng


Dr Eli Lazarus

Associate Professor

Research interests

  • coastal and fluvial dynamics
  • geomorphology
  • human-environmental coupled systems

Professor Ivan Haigh


Research interests

  • I have four main areas of research, as follows:
  • Mean Sea level: local, regional and global trends, detection of accelerations, understanding of inter-annual variability
  • Extreme sea levels and coastal Flooding: Changes in storm surges, extreme value analysis, compound events,

Professor Emma Tompkins

Prof of Geog, Environment & Development

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs

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