Near-future sea level impacts on coastal dune landscapes

Research paper by R. W. G. Carter

Indexed on: 01 Oct '91Published on: 01 Oct '91Published in: Landscape ecology


Very little attention has been paid to the impact of global warming, especially sea level rise, on coastal dunescapes, despite the fact that these provide natural protection along many of the world's shorelines. This paper reviews likely responses given the IPCC climate change predictions to 2030AD, which include sea level rise in the order of 0.09 to 0.29m. It is envisaged that coastal dunes will react in a variety of ways dependent both on regional and local factors. Rising water levels will increase susceptibility to erosion, but the fate of released sediment, particularly the onshore/offshore partitioning, must depend on morphodynamic antecedence, and the propensity for periodic domain shifts. The release of material at the shoreline may allow construction of coastal dunes, to the point of progradation in some zones. The response of dune vegetation to a warmer, wetter climate is uncertain. Most of the main temperate dune species are C3 plants which given favourable conditions would respond positively to CO2 enhancement. However local factors may offset such potential gains.