A national coastal erosion risk assessment for Scotland

Fitton, James Michael (2015) A national coastal erosion risk assessment for Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b3153662


The geography of Scotland, with a highly undulating hinterland, long and indented coastline, together with a large number of islands, means that much social and economic activity is largely located at the coast. The importance of the coast is further highlighted by the large number of ecosystem services derived from the coast. The threat posed by climate change, particularly current and future sea level rise, is of considerable concern and the associated coastal erosion and coastal flooding has the potential to have a substantial effect on the socioeconomic activity of the whole country. Currently, the knowledge base of coastal erosion is poor, which serves to hinder the current and future management of the coast. This research reported here aimed to establish four key aspects of coastal erosion within Scotland: the physical susceptibility of the coast to erosion; the assets exposed to coastal erosion; the vulnerability of communities to coastal erosion; and the coastal erosion risk to those communities.

Coastal erosion susceptibility was modelled here within a GIS, using data for ground elevation, rockhead elevation, wave exposure and proximity to the open coast. Combining these data produced the Underlying Physical Susceptibility Model (UPSM), in the form of a 50 m2 raster of national coverage. The Coastal Erosion Susceptibility Model (CESM) was produced with the addition of sediment supply and coastal defence data, which then moderates the outputs of the UPSM. Asset data for dwellings, key assets, transport infrastructure, historic assets, and natural assets were used along with the UPSM and CESM to assess their degree of exposure to coastal erosion. A Coastal Erosion Vulnerability Model (CEVM) was produced using Experian Mosaic Scotland (a geodemographic classification which identifies 44 different social groups within Scotland) to classify populations based upon 11 vulnerability variables. Dwellings were assigned a CESM and CEVM score in order to establish their coastal erosion risk.

This research demonstrated that the issue of coastal erosion will impact on a relatively low number of properties compared to those impacted by flooding (both coastal and fluvial) as many dwellings are already protected by coastal defences. There is therefore, a considerable future liability, and great pressure for coastal defences to be maintained and upgraded in their current form. The use of the CEVM is a novel inclusion within a coastal erosion assessment for Scotland. Use of the CEVM established that coastal erosion risk is not distributed equally amongst the Scottish coastal population and highlighted that risk can be reduced by either reducing exposure or reducing vulnerability. Thus far in Scotland, reducing exposure has been the primary management approach, which has a number of implications with regards social justice.

This research identified the existing data gaps that should be addressed by future research in order to further improve coastal management in Scotland. Future research should focus on assessing historical coastal change rates on a national scale, improve modelling of national scale wave exposure, enhance the information held about current coastal defences and, determine the direct and indirect economic cost associated with the loss of different asset types. It is also necessary to clarify the social justice implications of using adaptation approaches to manage coastal erosion as well as establishing a method to communicate the susceptibility, exposure, vulnerability and risk aspects whilst minimising the potential negative impacts (e.g. property blight) of releasing such information.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Coastal management, coastal erosion, GIS, socioeconmic vulnerability, risk, social justice.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GB Physical geography
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Hansom, Dr. Jim and Rennie, Dr. Alistair
Date of Award: 2015
Depositing User: James Fitton
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-7110
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 May 2016 15:07
Last Modified: 20 Feb 2019 11:50
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7110
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