Gravel barriers and beaches extend along more than 1,000 km of the coastline of England and Wales and represent sustainable coastal defences that can protect low-lying back-barrier regions from flooding, and coastal cliffs from undercutting during storm events. Their societal role is widely acknowledged and coastal engineering structures (e.g., seawalls and groins) and management techniques (recharge, recycling and reshaping) are extensively used, at significant cost, to maintain and enhance their protective ability. Coastal erosion is widespread along gravel beaches in the UK and erosion rates are expected to increase as a result of sealevel rise and enhanced storminess due to climate change.

The need to understand and model morphodynamic processes on gravel beaches has been recognised by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA; responsible for coastal protection in the UK), which has commissioned a number of research projects concerning gravel barriers and beaches over the past few years. The key conclusion of the most recent project Understanding Barrier Beaches (FD1924) is that regular breaching and extensive storm damage has occurred at many gravel barrier sites in the UK and that limited scientific guidance is currently available to provide beach managers with operational management tools to predict the response of these beaches to storm conditions.


Channel Coastal Observatory HR Wallingford Environment Agency


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