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Erosion leaves a fifth of Scotland's coastline at risk

Erosion leaves a fifth of Scotland's coastline at risk

Coast - image credit: Kate Shannon

The erosion of Scotland’s coastline has doubled in speed over the last 40 years, leaving nearly a fifth of the coast at risk and threatening the country’s most valuable infrastructure, according to new research.

A new tool, developed by the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the University of Glasgow, has shown how climate change will cause coastal erosion to “get worse and faster”.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the research, which suggests around £400m-worth of property, roads and infrastructure lies along coastlines that could be affected by erosion by 2050, meant it was “vital that local authorities, transport agencies and other planning bodies investigate how they can work together to manage coastal change before it’s too late”.


The ‘Dynamic Coast: Scotland’s National Coastal Change Assessment’ (NCCA) tool uses more than 2,000 maps and one million data points to identify past erosion and growth rates, projecting that more than 9,000 buildings, 500 kilometres of road and 300 kilometres of water supply lines are protected by coastal defences which could be at risk.

Prof Jim Hansom, Principal Researcher from the University of Glasgow, said: “Since the 1970s the extent of erosion is up 39 per cent, the erosion rate has doubled and accretion extent (growth of sediment deposition) is down 22 per cent. This is what we’d expect with climate change. That means we are seeing a net loss of our coastline. The clock is ticking and we need to start adapting to avoid unnecessary costs.”

Professor Robert Furness, chair of SNH’s Scientific Advisory Committee, said: "Our research shows there is a lot of work to be done to protect Scotland’s coastal infrastructure. Fortunately, about £13bn-worth of property, roads and other infrastructure is already protected by natural features such as beaches and dunes, with another £5bn-worth lying behind engineered defences. So nature itself protects many massively valuable assets. Our mission now is to ensure we do all we can to protect these areas”

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