Living with change - our shifting shores
This section of the page features an image gallery, so if you're using a screen reader you may wish to jump to the main content.
The succession of dramatic storms and surges that have battered our coast since early December 2013 continue to have huge impacts on people's lives. Our coastal and marine adviser, Phil Dyke, looks at how we approach the challenge of living with a dynamic, changing coast.
Managing stretches of coastline has played a major role in our history, from the first acquisition at Dinas Oleu in 1895 to completing the missing piece of the jigsaw at the world famous White Cliffs of Dover in Kent in 2012.
Thanks to the support, generosity and passion of the public, and their love of the coastline, we now care for almost a tenth of the coastline in England, Wales and Northern Ireland covering almost every habitat from sand dunes to saltmarsh.
Many of these special coastal places have some big challenges ahead associated with a rising sea level during the twenty-first century, including coastal erosion and flooding.
Climate change is impacting on our coast
As we’re seeing on our TV screens and in the papers every day the reality of increased storminess and the effects of climate change are accelerating the scale and pace of coastal change.
To help us manage these challenges we’ve developed a set of coastal management principles which focus on planning for the long term, working in partnership and working with nature rather than against it.
Our work has involved looking at how the coast will change in the century ahead and drilling down into the specific detail of what will happen at some of our places more likely to be affected by change. Places where increased flooding and coastal erosion, driven by sea level rise, will pose an increasing threat to people and places.
Back in 2005 we published the seminal and ground breaking Shifting Shores report – helping to move thinking away from trying to build our way out of trouble on the coast.
Shifting Shores is all about talking to communities and government about the importance of working with natural coastal processes. It is through understanding these processes and living with change that we can look at making the switch from a hard coastal defences (which have a limited shelf life and effectiveness) to adopting a natural process based approach.
In the future there may be a place for sea-defences but we’re clear that these structures will only buy time so that we can develop long-term and sustainable approaches to managing the coastline.
This means taking and making some tough choices. Our challenge is to tell the story of the long-term benefits of this approach.