SOME coastal communities may have to be sacrificed to protect other areas from sea flooding, suggest North East experts.
Allowing some areas to erode would release sediment and sand which could provide natural protection for other parts of the coast in the face of rising sea levels.
Richard Dawson, professor of earth systems engineering at Newcastle University, said that adopting a more natural system of dealing with the threat of flooding may become more pressing as economic cutbacks make the building and maintenance of artificial protection like sea walls too expensive.
Prof Dawson is lead author of a study carried out by scientists from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research which has been awarded the 2012 Lloyd’s Science of Risk prize for Climate Change research. “We know that sea levels are rising and will continue to do so over the 21st Century, what we don’t know is by exactly how much, or how fast,” said Prof Dawson.
“That means we need flexible strategies in place so that we are ready whatever the climate throws at us in the future.
“These strategies must be coordinated and recognise coastal processes such as the movement of sand along the coastline.
“Given pressures of rising sea levels and large coastal populations, coupled with increased pressure on finances, it seems unlikely we will be able to afford to protect every stretch of coastline. Land will be lost to the sea so we’re going to have to make difficult decisions about what our priorities are.”
“Clearly we can’t, and wouldn’t want to, remove all our sea defences but there are difficult trade-offs to be made in prioritising coastal management measures.”