Living with coastal change in Wales

Cwm Ivy marsh at high tide

Our dynamic coastline has long been a place of change, but with sea-levels rising by up to 1 metre over the next 100 years, and our climate becoming stormier, we can expect life on the coast to become ever more threatened.

Over the last few years we’ve been identifying stretches of our 157 miles of Welsh coastline where flooding and erosion is expected, and what the likely impacts will be.  These are our 'coastal hotspots'.  At each of these sites we're preparing Coastal Adaptation Strategies to inform our management decisions.

Check out our coastal hotspots: Our coastal hotspots (PDF) (PDF / 1.494140625MB) download

A changing coastline need not be a bad thing.  Many coastal habitats, such as sand dunes and saltmarsh are constantly shifting and the plants and animals that live there are adapted to changing environments.

Much of our coastal wildlife, like this sea holly at Whiteford Burrows, Gower is superbly adapted to a dynamic changing coastline.
Sea Holly on the dunes at Whiteford Burrows, Gower

Coastal Squeeze

When these dynamic habitats can't shift naturally inland, we will lose them - and all the wonderful wildlife that add to our enjoyment of the coast. The habitats become trapped - squeezed - between rising sea-levels on one side, and infrastructure such as sea walls, roads and natural features such as hills on the other - a concept referred to as coastal squeeze

Our recent , Shifting Shores report (PDF / 1.5703125MB) download  documenting our vision on the coast for the next 10 years, recommends that where possible, we avoid getting into a costly cycle of building and repairing sea defences and instead work with nature by taking an adaptive approach.   

Roll Back

By not maintaining or removing hard defences we allow valuable and rare habitats to ‘roll back’ further inland and becoming more resilient to rising sea-levels.   So, the areas where it is possible to roll back are really important if we are to keep our amazing coastal wildlife thriving.

Our work with neighbours at Abereiddi, Pembrokeshire is a great example of roll back.

Compensatory Habitats

Coastal squeeze means that an equivalent to nearly 250 football pitches of salt marsh is being lost every year.  Where a disappearing salt marsh cannot be ‘rolled back’ then we need to look for suitable sites elsewhere.  

Our project at Cwm Ivy Marsh is an excellent example of creating compensatory habitats

Cwm Ivy’s brand new new salt marsh. In time, this will make up for the loss of similar habitats elsewhere.
View down on Cwm Ivy, Gower

Managed Realignment

The type of adaptive approaches we can take will vary from site to site.  In some places this means forming partnerships with neighbours to allow nature to roll back; in others, we need to work with communities to plan for a time when homes and businesses will be threatened by erosion or flooding.

Our Cemlyn vision is a great example of how we are planning for change through managed realignment.


Our future

Find out how we're preparing for the future and some of the challenges associated with climate change. Working towards a healthy, resilient, wildlife rich coastline that future generations can enjoy.