Collaborative methodologies and mapping coastal change

Mud-flats at Orford Ness National Nature Reserve, Suffolk

Dr Sally Brown of the University of Southampton undertook a six month placement with the National Trust in 2018. She worked with Phil Dyke, our coast and marine specialist, to map coastal change and analyse how coasts respond to sea-level rise and wider coastal change.

The Natural Environment Research Council funds scientists at universities to spend time in organisations and businesses to enable them better use of and access to the latest science. Sally helped the National Trust by mapping landforms (such as beaches or cliffs), human interventions (such as sea walls or groynes), coastal processes, and analysing erosion and flood risk so that we can better strategically understand what land may be adversely affected by coastal change. Maps can help us to understand how coastal systems work and influence the decisions that we make about how to look after the coastline in our care.

Mapping coastal change

Working closely with Phil, Sally identified the Suffolk Coast and Poole Harbour as key sites for their project. Both areas are undergoing change, and are threatened by sea-level rise. Working with Tony Flux, Coastal and Marine Advisor for the South West and other stakeholders in the area, she extensively mapped coastal processes and human interventions, using the Coastal and Estuarine Mapping System (CESM). By using CESM, Sally and Phil were able to gain a better understanding of coastal processes and apply their findings to decision making in managing the coast and estuary. 

Using new data to plan for the future

Apart from looking at coastal change locally, it’s also important for us to know how coasts could change nationally due to erosion, flooding or changes in shoreline management. Sally contributed some new data layers for our internal mapping (GIS) browser. This new data has already yielded important insights that can help us to make informed decisions about how we protect our coasts and plan for the future. For instance, it has showed that the East of England is particularly vulnerable to coastal flood risk and projected high coastal erosion rates for London and the South East and the North of England. Applying the tools and the knowledge generated over the course of the project can support us to conserve and provide access to the coast for generations to come.

Archaeological Survey on Lundy Island, in the Bristol Channel, Devon

Research at the National Trust 

Collaboration, information sharing and world-renowned research allows the art and historical collections, house interiors and miles of coastline we care for to be preserved for future generations.