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A macroscale analysis of coastal steepening around the coast of England and Wales

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Coastal steepening potentially presents an array of management issues in the form of financial implications of sea defence degradation, increased risk posed to the hinterland as wave attenuation is reduced, ‘coastal squeeze’ and statutory requirements in the light of the Habitats Directive. The extent to which coastal steepening has occurred throughout England and Wales has been investigated through use of a GIS and dataset based on historical Ordnance Survey map information. Data were collected along 1084 selected profile lines, positioned so as to be geomorphologically representative of the coast. Features recorded from each map year included the positions of mean high water (MHW) and mean low water (MLW), the relative movements of which infer changing intertidal gradients. The results presented in this paper are on a subject and scale not previously published. It is revealed that 61% of the coastline studied has experienced a tendency towards steepening. Of the remainder, 33% has flattened, and 6% has experienced no rotational movement. This tendency towards steepening has been the dominant movement on each of the west, south, and east coasts.

Keywords: England and Wales; GIS; Habitats Directive; coastal management; coastal squeeze; coastal steepening

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: GeoData Institute, University of Southampton, Email: 2: Halcrow Group Ltd, Burderop Park, Swindon, Email:

Publication date: September 1, 2004


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