Theme 2: Coastal Vulnerability

As the proportion of the world population living near coasts increases during the 21st century, coastal environments may be degraded by multiple stresses arising from local to global scale drivers (e.g. water use, influx of sediments and pollutants, ecosystem degradation, river flooding, shoreline erosion, storms, tsunamis, relative sea level rise, aggregate extraction etc.). Decision making, social adaptation and building governance to enable resilience against coastal risks is difficult because of the complex interactions between these drivers and competing concerns (e.g. human migration, lifestyles, land use, and ecosystems services).

Assessments of what makes a system vulnerable vary greatly from one case to another due to the conjunction of multiple drivers (e.g. type of hazard, environmental context, socio-economic development, social situation, risk management) and local circumstances. This situation often results in the development and use of specific local approaches that are not generic enough to be used elsewhere, and therefore inhibit the wider sharing of knowledge (e.g. between nations).

To tackle such problems requires a significant directional change in the science we need to undertake. We need to develop novel, transferable, coastal vulnerability assessment approaches to facilitate decision making for 'wicked' problems that inevitably involve trade-offs (e.g. between ecosystems services and livelihoods or lifestyles).

To globally capitalize on local and national expertise, this CRA is promoting the development and comparison and transfer of coastal scientific approaches which link researchers to decision makers and communities. The focus of this call is on the vulnerability, resilience and adaptation options of coastal societal, managed and natural systems to multiple drivers. This may be within different environments (e.g. estuaries, deltas and bays) and in areas of different societal development (e.g. post-industrialisation, emerging, developing countries or regions).

Recognising this, and the value of interdisciplinary and comparative approaches, the Belmont Forum and G8HORCs are calling for research groups, from at least three diffferent countires, involving natural and social scientists to co-design and develop, in conjunction with users, medium sized projects that address either one or both of the following work packages:

  1. Characterisation of natural process and human (including cultural, technological and socio-economic) interactions that govern coastal vulnerability and resilience. This should establish how multiple stresses vary over wide-ranging temporal and spatial scales (including past extreme events), analyse their impacts, and determine the most important factors which govern the vulnerability of socio-economic and environmental coastal systems. Determining what science based knowledge enables people (e.g., individuals, communities, businesses, etc.) to change their habits and practices towards more sustainable management in the coastal zone should be investigated. Particular attention should be dedicated to the comparative reanalysis of highly documented areas, the evaluation of predictive frameworks and the identification of information needs to improve them. This will support international convergence towards a coastal vulnerability and resilience typology to enhance decision making. 
  2. Development of predictive frameworks and adaptive coastal management strategies that support the evolution of resilient coastal communities. In particular, this should be based on jointly-developed natural and social science based scenarios of gradual or abrupt large scale changes and their interactions. It should consider the role of legislative and governance issues, evolving regulatory frameworks, as well as economic, social and political barriers and opportunities. Probabilistic approaches to assess the uncertainty in coupled models will be welcome.