An evolving research agenda for human–coastal systems

Lazarus, Eli D.; Ellis, Michael A.; Brad Murray, A.; Hall, Damon M.. 2016 An evolving research agenda for human–coastal systems. Geomorphology, 256. 81-90.

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Within the broad discourses of environmental change, sustainability science, and anthropogenic Earth-surface systems, a focused body of work involves the coupled economic and physical dynamics of developed shorelines. Rapid rates of change in coastal environments, from wetlands and deltas to inlets and dune systems, help researchers recognize, observe, and investigate coupling in natural (non-human) morphodynamics and biomorphodynamics. This same intrinsic quality of fast-paced change also makes developed coastal zones exemplars of observable coupling between physical processes and human activities. In many coastal communities, beach erosion is a natural hazard with economic costs that coastal management counters through a variety of mitigation strategies, including beach replenishment, groynes, revetments, and seawalls. As cycles of erosion and mitigation iterate, coastline change and economically driven interventions become mutually linked. Emergent dynamics of two-way economic–physical coupling is a recent research discovery. Having established a strong theoretical basis, research into coupled human–coastal systems has passed its early proof-of-concept phase. This paper frames three major challenges that need resolving in order to advance theoretical and empirical treatments of human–coastal systems: (1) codifying salient individual and social behaviors of decision-making in ways that capture societal actions across a range of scales (thus engaging economics, social science, and policy disciplines); (2) quantifying anthropogenic effects on alongshore and cross-shore sediment pathways and long-term landscape evolution in coastal zones through time, including direct measurement of cumulative changes to sediment cells resulting from coastal development and management practices (e.g., construction of buildings and artificial dunes, bulldozer removal of overwash after major storms); and (3) reciprocal knowledge and data exchange between researchers in coastal morphodynamics and practitioners of coastal management. Future research into human–coastal systems can benefit from decades of interdisciplinary work on the complex dynamics of common-pool resources, from computational efficiency and new techniques in numerical modeling, and from the growing catalog of high-resolution geospatial data for natural and developed coastlines around the world.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0169555X
Date made live: 20 Jun 2016 11:44 +0 (UTC)

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