Centre for Coastal Research (CCR)

Our research expertise

Our focus is on conducting high quality scientific research that is industry relevant

Climate change impact

This research assesses the cross-sectoral and economy-wide impacts and vulnerability of coastal systems at local, regional and global scales, across the full range of representative concentration pathways (RCPs) and shared socio-economic pathways (SSPs), via

  1. Adaptive management: a) developing adaptation pathways for socio-economic and environmental coastal systems at regional and global scales; b) assessing the synergies and trade-offs between these options under a range of mitigation scenarios

  2. Decisions under uncertainty: accounting for significant uncertainties in the “drivers” (physical and socio-economic variables) and coastal system responses (e.g. land loss, ecosystem services, etc.); b) introducing the risk-vulnerability-hazard methodology into climatic analyses to improve socio-politic confidence.

  3. Dynamic (transient) analyses: determining what level and timing of climate mitigation is needed to avoid social, ecological and economic adaptation tipping points in coastal areas.

  4. Coastal zone sustainability: a) increasing our knowledge of how the coastal system functions under climatic variability; b) showing the capability of present scientific “tools” to provide advance information on future impacts and risks

Rock coast evolution

  • Understanding cliff retreat via:

    - monitoring rate, mode and processes of retreat: the aim of this research is to improve models of rock coast evolution by establishing and analysing a long term dataset of rock fall events and cliff retreat rates and associating these with hydrodynamic forcing such as sea level rise. This continues research that started during the BAR project and uses the relatively rapidly retreating Chalk cliffs of SE England as a proxy for understanding rock coast dynamics. A key development will be in the use of Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) to improve understanding of small-intermediate scale retreat and the processes controlling failure mechanisms and frequency rates.

    - power laws: The aim of this research is to develop empirical relationships between environmental and geological boundary conditions such that future events and cliff erosion rates can be modelled using readily available climate change predictions. It is a magnitude–frequency analysis whereby negative power laws are used to identify scaling parameters that can be used in a predictive capacity.

    - cosmogenic dating of sea cliff erosion: The aim of this research is to model long-term cliff retreat rates during the Holocene by reconstructing former sea cliff positional and sea level chronologies using changes in cosmogenic Beryllium-10 concentrations within foreshore platforms.
  • Monitoring and process studies of shore platform evolution

    This research aims to improve models of rock coast evolution via our specialisms in process studies and monitoring of shore platform erosion rates. We have established one of the longest term datasets of shore platform development in the world. We have pioneered a photogrammetric technique to measure platform erosion at an intermediate scale and over decades rather than years, which is the norm. Our research has provided new data for rock coast evolution models. It continues research on hard rock coasts that was started during the ESPED project and on cohesive coasts that was started during the Defra funded Cohesive foreshores project. We specialise in: understanding chalk and cohesive foreshore erosion dynamics and establishing process-response relationships; impacts of engineering structures on platform erosion dynamics; processes of platform erosion – block extraction and movement, abrasion vs frost shattering, salt/frost action vs thermal shock, bioerosion vs bioprotection.

  • Tidal notch development

    The aim of this research is to improve understanding of tidal notch development. A ten year monitoring programme in Southern Thailand contributes to scientific understanding of rates and processes of tidal notch evolution. This is important because they are used as key indicators of sea level change and to make assertions about the length of sea level stillstands.

Beach sustainability

  • Understanding mixed sediment beach dynamics via:

    - monitoring profile evolution
    - measuring active layer depth
    - measuring transport rates
    - tracing sediment mixing and sorting patterns
    - modelling beach response to hydro-meteorological forcing

Coastal management

The recent publication by Prof Moore entitled ‘Cliff Instability and Erosion Management in Great Britain: a good practice guide’ sets out an industry-focused guide on the nature and extent of the problem of land instability and erosion at the coast; the hazards and risks to be addressed; the legislative and policy frameworks governing decision-making; investigation techniques; and the approaches to coastal hazard and risk management, adaptation and engineering. Publications such as this demonstrate strong links between ongoing research and practical guidance for dealing with the range of issues and problems at the coast for a range of key stakeholders. An example is the publication by the Environment Agency (2011) providing revised guidance on the funding of coastal protection measures. For many years this was a grey area, with Defra, typically supporting funding of toe protection schemes but not cliff drainage. Prof Moore’s input to the EA’s expert steering group and revised guidance provided an important contribution to the technical argument that a more ‘holistic’ approach to cliff stabilisation and protection was needed in order that existing assets and investments could be protected and that the design of new schemes would be more effective and sustainable in the long-term.

Given the threats of changing climate and weather, and rising sea levels, further research on the potential forcing and natural responses at the coast will be increasingly important to inform policy, planning and management decisions.