Operationalising coastal resilience to flood and erosion hazard: A demonstration for England

I. H. Townend, J. R. French, R. J. Nicholls, S. Brown, S. Carpenter, I. D. Haigh, C. T. Hill, E. Lazarus, E. C. Penning-Rowsell, C. E. L. Thompson, E. L. Tompkins

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Resilience is widely seen as an important attribute of coastal systems and, as a concept, is increasingly prominent in policy documents. However, there are conflicting ideas on what constitutes resilience and its operationalisation as an overarching principle of coastal management remains limited. In this paper, we show how resilience to coastal flood and erosion hazard could be measured and applied within policy processes, using England as a case study. We define resilience pragmatically, integrating what is presently a disparate set of policy objectives for coastal areas. Our definition uses the concepts of resistance, recovery and adaptation, to consider how the economic, social and environmental dimensions of coastal systems respond to change. We develop a set of composite indicators for each dimension, grounded empirically with reference to national geospatial datasets. A prototype Coastal Resilience Model (CRM) has been developed, which combines the dimensions and generates a quantitative resilience index. We apply it to England's coastal hazard zone, capturing a range of different stakeholder perspectives using relative indicator weightings. The illustrative results demonstrate the practicality of formalising and quantifying resilience. To re-focus national policy around the stated desire of enhancing resilience to coastal flooding and erosion would require firm commitment from government to monitor progress towards resilience, requiring extension of the present risk-based approach, and a consensus methodology in which multiple (and sometimes conflicting) stakeholder values are explicitly considered. Such a transition may also challenge existing governance arrangements at national and local levels, requiring incentives for coastal managers to engage with and apply this new approach, more departmental integration and inter-agency cooperation. The proposed Coastal Resilience Model, with the tools to support planning and measure progress, has the potential to help enable this transition.
Original languageEnglish
Article number146880
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date5 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2021

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