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

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. The published version of this Preprint is available: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.146880. This is version 1 of this Preprint.


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Ian Townend, Jon R French , Robert J Nicholls , Sally Brown, Stephen Carpenter , Ivan D Haigh , Chris T Hill , Eli Lazarus , Edmund C Penning-Rowsell , Charlotte E L Thompson , Emma L Tompkins 


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, in economic, environmental and social terms, integrating what is presently a disparate set of policy objectives for coastal areas. Our definition includes several dimensions of resilience and we develop a set of composite indicators for each of these, grounded empirically with reference to national geospatial datasets. A prototype model has been developed, which generates a quantitative resilience index for a given geographical unit (England’s coastal hazard zone being represented at a high spatial resolution, about 8,000 areal units). A range of different stakeholder perspectives are captured using relative indicator weightings. The illustrative results presented here demonstrate the practicality of formalising and quantifying resilience, and the insights obtained mainly concern this process of operationalisation. To re-focus national policy around the stated desire of enhancing resilience to coastal flooding and erosion would require firm commitment from government to develop an approach to monitor progress towards resilience, extending the present risk-based approach. This requires a consensus methodology in which stakeholder values are explicitly considered, and also requires incentives for coastal managers to engage with and apply this new approach. Such a transition would challenge existing governance arrangements at national and local levels, requiring more integration and inter-agency cooperation. However, it could provide a robust evidence-based framework for achieving more sustainable, equitable and societally acceptable adaptive responses to climate change at the coast.




Geomorphology, Nature and Society Relations, Physical and Environmental Geography, Sustainability


resilience, policy, management, adaptation pathways


Published: 2020-12-02 21:04

Last Updated: 2020-12-02 21:04


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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