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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Research project: Impacts of Climate and Sea-Level Change on Coastal Gullies

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Understanding the response of landscapes to changes in climate over the temporal and spatial scales (decadal, reach) relevant to management practices is necessary to inform policies designed manage landscapes effectively. This project is concerned with understanding the response of a series of incised coastal gullies (known locally as ‘Chines’) that are common along the cliffed south west coast of the Isle of Wight, to projections of future (~100 year) climate change.

The preservation of the morphological process essential to sustaining habitat diversity within these gullies, given projected changes in climate over the coming century, is of concern to land managers including the Environment Agency and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. A key innovative aspect of this project is the application of Landscape Evolution Models (LEMs) to look at the impacts of climate-induced changes in coastal erosion and storm runoff on the morphology of coastal gullies. Currently, the ability of LEMs to model features which traverse the fluvial-marine boundary is limited by their lack of representation of coastal processes. This project has developed a novel model of soft cliff erosion based on the premise that it is the accumulated excess energy delivered to the cliff foot via waves and sea level variations which drives coastal erosion (Hackney et al. in press). This model is coupled with the Channel-Hillslope Integrated Landscape Development LEM (CHILD; Tucker et al. 2001), resulting in the first terrestrial LEM capable of representing coastal retreat.

Downscaled Global Climate Model (GCM) outputs forced with a variety of emissions scenarios are used to produce daily resolution climate inputs for the coupled LEM. Using the University’s supercomputer, Iridis 3, Monte Carlo analysis of the climate projections and model uncertainties was conducted, with a total of ~21000 model runs being run. Results suggest there is a chance (~40%) of considerable (> 100 m) loss of gully extent under A2 emissions scenarios, and subsequently loss of the ecologically important habitat the gullies support (figure 2). There is a slight (< 1%) possibility that many of the existing gully features along the south west Isle of Wight may be completely eroded by 2100. However, given little change in wave climate and low levels of sea level rise by 2100 there is a ~15% chance that the incised coastal gullies of the Isle of Wight will see an increase in extent.

Related research groups

Earth Surface Dynamics
Projection of coastal retreat by 2100 at Grange Chine, Isle of Wight
Fig 6
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