Coastal Wetland Habitats: Future Challenges and Potential Solutions

  • Mustafa MokrechEmail author
  • Sarah Gardiner
  • Robert J. Nicholls
  • Andrew R. Watkinson
  • William J. Sutherland
Part of the Advances in Global Change Research book series (AGLO, volume 49)


Coastal habitats are being widely degraded and squeezed around the world due to human pressure and competition for space in the coastal zone. Rising sea levels and other aspects of climate change are and will continue to exacerbate these problems. At the same time, the value of these habitats is increasingly recognised through policies such as the EU Habitats Directive and the UK National Ecosystem Assessment, in terms of the ecosystem services they provide. As a result, management goals such as ‘no-net-loss’ targets have been implemented, requiring habitat creation or restoration projects to be included in coastal management plans.

Modelling provides a powerful approach to better understanding and addressing these threats. Simulations of future changes as part of an integrated assessment methodology can identify the key drivers of change and assess the effectiveness of potential response options. This goes beyond GIS analyses of habitat futures and begins to address relevant system dynamics and capture pertinent uncertainties including climate drivers considered in Chap.  2. Coastal simulations that aim to quantify future coastal habitats are however subject to many sources of uncertainty including incomplete scientific knowledge and understanding of environmental processes and uncertain future drivers such as the magnitude of sea-level rise.

This chapter describes two lines of investigation to address these challenges: (1) analysing the impacts of sea-level rise and climate change on coastal wetlands from the perspective of coastal management and land use and (2) analysing and managing the implications of uncertainties on wetland changes and losses. The first, conventional, method provides a deterministic set of outputs for a given input, where future impacts can be quantified for management decisions. The second, more novel, method uses outcome-driven modelling to produce probabilistic results reflecting the uncertainties. This method narrows down the impacts and possible management responses to a limited number of outcomes, including their associated likelihood values. Both approaches have their utilities and allow users to explore the potential impacts of environmental change on coastal wetlands; they are illustrated here using examples drawn from the south coast of England that are typical of northwest European coastal wetlands.

In the Tyndall Coastal Simulator, this work does not currently feed directly into the other models, as important habitats are not represented in the Norfolk case study. However, these insights are vital for managing our diverse coasts. Inclusion of habitat models with the erosion and flood models in Chaps.  7 and  8 should be a priority in future research.


Coastal wetlands Sea-level rise impacts Habitat change Uncertainty management Outcome-driven modelling 


  1. ABPmer. (2011). Online managed realignment guide. Cited 10 Dec 2013.
  2. Blott, J., & Pye, K. (2004). Application of Lidar digital terrain modelling to predict intertidal habitat development at a managed retreat site: Abbotts Hall, Essex, UK. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 29, 893–905.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. BRANCH Partnership. (2007). Planning for biodiversity in a changing climate – BRANCH project final report. Sheffield: Natural England.Google Scholar
  4. Burd, F., Clifton, J., & Murphy, B. (1994). Sites of historical sea defence failure. Phase II study (Report no. Z038-94-F to English Nature). Hull: Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies, University of Hull.Google Scholar
  5. Chapman, V. J. (1960). Saltmarshes and salt deserts of the world. Aberdeen: University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Church, J. A., Gregory, J. M., Huybrechts, P., Kuhn, M., Lambeck, K., Nhuan, M. T., Qin, D., & Woodworth, P. L. (2001). Changes in sea level. In J. T. Houghton, Y. Ding, D. J. Griggs, M. Noguer, P. J. van der Linden, X. Dai, K. Maskell, & C. A. Johnston (Eds.), Climate change 2001: The scientific basis. Contribution of working group I to the third assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Cope, S. N., Bradbury, A. P., & Gorczynska, M. (2008). Solent dynamic coast project, main report: A tool for SMP2. New Forest District Council/Channel Coastal Observatory, UK. Southampton: Channel Coastal ObservatoryGoogle Scholar
  8. English Nature. (2005). Natural areas: Solent and Poole Bay. Available at Cited 10 Dec 2013.
  9. Freckleton, R. P., Sutherland, W. J., Watkinson, A. R., & Stephens, P. A. (2008). Modelling the effects of management on population dynamics: Some lessons from annual weeds. Journal of Applied Ecology, 45, 1050–1058.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gardiner, S., Hanson, S., Nicholls, R. J., Zhang, Z., Jude, S. R., Jones, A., Richards, J. A., Williams, A., Spencer, S., Coggins, P. C. C., Gorczynska, M., Bradbury, A. P., McInnes, R., Ingleby, A., & Dalton, H. (2007). The Habitats Directive, coastal habitats and climate change – Case studies from the south coast of the UK. In Proceedings of the ICE international conference on coastal management 2007, Cardiff, pp. 193–202.Google Scholar
  11. Gill, J., & Sutherland, W. (2006). Towards an integrated coastal simulator of the impact of sea level rise in East Anglia: Part B2- coastal simulator and biodiversity: Models of biodiversity responses to environmental change (Tyndall Centre technical report 42B2). Norwich: Tyndall Centre.Google Scholar
  12. Hopkinson, C. S., Lugo, A. E., Alber, M., Covich, A. P., & Van Bloem, S. J. (2008). Forecasting effects of sea-level rise and windstorms on coastal and inland ecosystems. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment, 6, 255–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hulme, M., Jenkins, G. J., Lu, X., Turnpenny, J. R., Mitchell, T. D., Jones, R. G., Lowe, J., Murphy, J. M., Hassell, D., Boorman, P., Mcdonald, R., & Hill, S. (2002). Climate-change scenarios for the UK (The UKCIP02 scientific report). Norwich: Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia.Google Scholar
  14. Jones, L., Angus, S., Cooper, A., Doody, P., Everard, M., Garbutt, A., Gilchrist, P., Hansom, J., Nicholls, R., Pye, K., Ravenscroft, N., Rees, S., Rhind, P., & Whitehouse, A. (2011). Coastal margins. In The UK National Ecosystem Assessment technical report. Cambridge: UK National Ecosystem Assessment/UNEP-WCMC.Google Scholar
  15. Lee, M. (2001). Coastal defence and the Habitats Directive: Predictions of habitat change in England and Wales. The Geographical Journal, 167, 39–56. doi: 10.1111/1475-4959.00004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Leggett, D. J., & Dixon, M. (1994). Management of the Essex saltmarshes for flood defence. In R. A. Falconer & P. Goodwin (Eds.), Wetland management. London: Institution of Civil Engineers.Google Scholar
  17. Martin, D. J. (1994). Impact of conservation issues on a sea defence scheme at Pennington, Hampshire. Journal of the Institute of Water and Environmental Management, 8, 567–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mustin, K., Sutherland, W. J., & Gill, J. A. (2008). The complexity of predicting climate-induced ecological impacts. Climate Research, 35, 165–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Nicholls, R. J., Wong, P. P., Burkett, V. R., Woodroffe, C. D., & Hay, J. E. (2008). Climate change and coastal vulnerability assessment: Scenarios for integrated assessment. Sustainability Science, 3(1), 89–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Nicholls, R. J., Woodroffe, C. D., Burkett, V., Hay, J., Wong, P. P., & Nurse, L. (2012). Scenarios for coastal vulnerability assessment. In M. van den Belt et al. (Eds.), Treaties on estuarine and coastal science. Oxford: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  21. Pye, K., & French, P. W. (1993). Saltmarsh processes and morphology. Erosion and accretion processes on British saltmarshes (Vol. I). London: Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF).Google Scholar
  22. Ridley, J., Gill, J., Watkinson, A., & Sutherland, W. (2006). Towards an integrated coastal simulator of the impact of sea-level rise in East Anglia, Part B: Coastal simulator and biodiversity, design and structure of the coastal simulator (Tyndall Centre technical report 42B1). Norwich: Tyndall Centre.Google Scholar
  23. Ruocco, A. C., Nicholls, R. J., Haigh, I. D., & Wadey, M. P. (2011). Reconstructing coastal flood occurrence combining sea level and media sources: A case study of the Solent, UK since 1935. Natural Hazards, 59(3), 1773–1796. doi: 10.1007/s11069-011-9868-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Schneider, S. H. (2001). What is “Dangerous” climate change? Nature, 411, 17–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sutherland, W. J. (2006). Predicting the ecological consequences of environmental change: A review of the methods. Journal of Applied Ecology, 43, 599–616.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sutherland, W. J., & Freckleton, R. P. (2012). Making predictive ecology more relevant to policy makers and practitioners. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 367, 322–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Taylor, C. M., & Hasting, A. (2004). Finding optimal control strategies for invasive species: A density-structured model for Spartina alterniflora. Journal of Applied Ecology, 41, 1049–1057.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Watkinson, A., Nicholls, R. J., Sear, D., & Ledoux, L. (2007). Environmental impacts of future flood risk. In C. Thorne, E. Evans, & E. Penning-Rowsell (Eds.), Future flood and coastal erosion risks. London: Thomas Telford.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mustafa Mokrech
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah Gardiner
    • 2
  • Robert J. Nicholls
    • 3
  • Andrew R. Watkinson
    • 4
  • William J. Sutherland
    • 5
  1. 1.Environmental Institute of Houston, School of Science and Computer EngineeringUniversity of Houston Clear LakeHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of Engineering and the EnvironmentUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Faculty of Engineering and the EnvironmentUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  4. 4.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  5. 5.Conservation Science Group, Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

Personalised recommendations