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Understanding natural systems is the key to successful management of coasts. To what extent do you agree with this view?

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Understanding natural systems is the key to successful management of coasts. To what extent do you agree with this view? To manage a coast successfully, the effects of erosion, flooding and unwanted deposition must all be minimized as much as possible. Furthermore the protection of people and their property also forms a good basis of good coastal management. It is true that to be able to set up good defences, the natural systems surrounding the coast must be understood, as this ultimately allows the management agencies to fully examine and decide the type of management that should be used. Coastal processes such as erosion and deposition are the main natural systems that affect our coast and thus must be monitored to ensure the best management strategy is in place. However the wave type and the amount of wave energy that is apparent at that stretch of coast ultimately decides the rate of erosion and deposition. The energy input of a wave is due to the wave height; the distance between the crest and the trough, the wave period; the time taken for a wave to travel through one wave length, and the wave steepness; the ratio of the wave height and wave length. Furthermore, the fetch of the wave will also influence the amount of energy that a wave has and therefore a wave with a high-energy value will potentially cause more damage than a wave with a low energy value. ...read more.


This is an extreme example, but is used to demonstrate how different geologies will affect the management strategy in place. Different areas along the coast will therefore have different erosion based landforms. Headlands and bays are most likely to be found in areas of alternating resistant and less resistant rock. The headlands will receive more wave energy and so become more vulnerable to erosion than the sheltered bays. Thus the bays experience low energy breakers that allow sand to accumulate and protect that part of the coastline. The transportation and deposition of sediment will warrant certain areas to have a higher level of management. Due to long-shore drift, sediment is being removed from areas and being deposited in others. This therefore causes problems of erosion in the area where the sediment has been removed. Consequently many management agencies set up groynes to trap sediment and as a result help to protect their stretch of coastline. However, further down the coast, areas will be starved of sediment, hence causing much more rapid erosion and extreme problems for the coastal towns. For that reason planners must take a holistic view of the coastline, to ensure that management schemes in one area will have extreme adverse effects on another. Sediment cells are the movement of sand and shingle-sized sediment in the near shore zone by long-shore drift. ...read more.


To be able to study and then act on natural systems along a coast are all linked to the development of the country and its technological advancement. The Thames Barrier as previously mentioned, if in an LEDC would not have been able to be built, and many people would die due to the lack of materials and expertise needed. Furthermore many MEDCs have much higher level of resources that can be used on projects such as groynes, but also have the systems in place to ensure that if the area did become flooded or hit by a major storm surge, then they would be able to evacuate quickly and efficiently as many systems would be telling people in authority that a surge is likely to happen. To measure how successful the management schemes have been the effectiveness, the economy and the sustainability of the area can all be taken into account. But firstly the decisions on the types of management must be correct, and by understanding natural systems and the ways people interact with the coast then there should be no reason why the systems in place are not effective, improve or sustain the economy and preserve the coastline. However planners must now think about changes in sea level and therefore must plan ahead as part of future management schemes to ensure that areas that are protected well today, do not become damaged or destroyed tomorrow. ...read more.

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This answer covers a lot of relevant information about the physical processes which need to be taken into account when planning coastal management. Some relevant examples are given. However, this is not exactly what the question demands. The best answers will refer more to the concept of systems. What are the inputs, outputs and processes? This is only hinted at in this answer. The answer would also benefit from having at least one substantial case study where the different natural and human factors are discussed at length.

Marked by teacher Nigel Fisher 19/02/2012

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