Coastal Retreat – RPS Environmental Paper Wins CIWEM Award

11.06.15

An RPS Graduate Scientist's paper on coastal erosion at Portrane, Co. Dublin in Ireland has recently won a Northern Ireland CIWEM Young Members award.

At present approximately 20% of Ireland's coastline is subjected to continuous coastal erosion, this will be exacerbated by future climate whereby the mean sea level is expected to increase by up to 0.66m by 2100. The effects of erosion are generally negative with the obvious consequence being the loss of land and the associated loss of infrastructure such as roads and urban residential areas as well as the loss of natural environments.

Due to human influence, principally urbanisation and various economic activities in coastal regions, coastal erosion has turned into a problem of increasing intensity. It is estimated that globally at least 100 million people live within one metre of mean sea level and are at increased risk of coastal erosion [Zhanj, 2004i].

To develop the most appropriate erosion management strategy, policy makers use a technique synonymous with the Scenario Based Stakeholder Engagement procedure [Tompkins, 2007ii]. This procedure brings together the technical assessment of the coastal erosion threat and the opinions of key stakeholders in order to identify preferential management strategies. The feasibility of the identified strategy is then objectively assessed based on relevant criteria such as technical feasibility, economic feasibility and crucially environmental acceptability. Policy makers are therefore tasked with making difficult decisions to ensure that any proposed policy is economically viable, technically effective and environmentally acceptable.

This extract (above) is a part of the 2015 CIWEM Northern Ireland Region New Water and Environmental Managers winning paper written by RPS Graduate Scientist Kristopher Calder representing part of a larger investigation carried out by RPS.

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) adopted the theme of, ‘Working to Protect the Environment - Making Difficult Decisions‘ for the 2015 competition. Kristopher, who specialises in coastal process modelling, submitted and presented a paper entitled ‘Managing the Threat of Coastal Erosion at Portrane, Co. Dublin’. The paper addresses some of the difficulties presented to policy makers who are tasked with implementing effective and socially just erosion management strategies. It also highlighted the emerging trend of conflict between local councils and residents who take action into their own hands.

Up to 10 private residential properties along the shoreline of Portrane, County Dublin could be lost to coastal erosion by 2100 if climate change continues as predicted by the International Panel on Climate Change. This was among the findings of an RPS study assessing the Coastal Processes at Portrane, County Dublin.

Erosion at Portrane is a particularly salient issue as the environmental constraints associated with the designation of much of the area as European protected habitat prevents the construction of hard engineering solutions, which would effectively mitigate the threat of erosion. With an estimated 20 - 25% of Ireland's coastline considered to be in a state of continuous retreat, and much of this designated European habitat this is not an issue unique to Portrane.

The judging panel for this CIWEM competition, comprised of three senior CIWEM members, awarded Kristopher first position in the annual competition. Kristopher is the second person from RPS Belfast to win the acclaimed Young Member's Competition, after Francis Mackin who won the competition in 2012.

i Zhang, K., Douglas, B. C., & Leatherman, S. P. (2004). Global Warming and Coastal Erosion. Climatic Change. 64(1-2); pp. 41-58.

ii Tompkins, E. L., Few, R., & Brown, K. (2008). Scenario-based stakeholder engagement: incorporating stakeholders preferences into coastal planning for climate change. Journal of environmental management. 88(4); pp.1580-1592.