Coastal Processes and Responses

The Coastal Processes and Responses node is led by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) with support from the Australian Climate Change Adaptation Research Network for Settlements and Infrastructure (ACCARNSI) at the University of NSW (UNSW). It researches the assessment and risk management of, and adaptation responses to, the impacts of climate change on coastal and estuary zones. The aim is to improve our knowledge base of impact assessment, risk management and adaptation responses. It will inform management decisions and actions taken by local communities and councils in the coastal zone.

Current projects:

Estuarine risk assessment and strategic responses – NSW Estuaries stage 2

Led by William Glamore (UNSW), Brett Miller (UNSW) and Melanie Bishop (Macquarie University) This project integrated research program combines the outcomes of previous ecological studies in NSW with estuarine modelling to address the question of when and where the impacts of climate change will impact estuary dynamics and ecosystems. The first phase of this project examined the physical and ecological impacts of climate change on NSW estuaries, identified key knowledge gaps and developed a conceptual framework for assessing ecological impacts. For the first time the effects of climate change were dynamically modelled in several NSW estuaries. 

Risk and uncertainty, and visualisation of coastal risks

Led by John McAneney and Kevin Roche (Risk Frontiers, Macquarie University)

This project will develop spatial mapping to identify and assess the exposure of communities, infrastructure, ecosystems and cultural heritage along the NSW coast. It will then involve analyses of hazard definition and their impacts in terms of modelled rates of sand transport and estimated rates of sand accretion or erosion. The findings will be embodied in a credible-risk framework.

Publicly available datasets – online photogrammetry web portal

Led by Ian Turner (UNSW), Brett Miller (UNSW) and Kevin Roche (Risk Frontiers) 

This project will collate our archive of photogrammetrically derived beach profile information into a web portal. The profiles will be analysed to extract contour lines for the NSW coast for each historical time horizon in the photogrammetry archive.

Ecological Impacts of adaptation protection options – nourishment and sea walls

Led by Ron Cox (ACCARNSI), Melanie Bishop (Macquarie University), and Ian Turner and Bill Peirson (UNSW)

Adaptation options for coastal settlements and infrastructure include retreat, adapt and protect. The protect option is preferred for developed shorelines with high asset value, and sand nourishment and the erection of seawalls are the most common choices. This research project will provide guidance on the effective design, staged implementation and ecological impacts of coastal adaptation options for protecting settlements and infrastructure. The focus will be on sand nourishment and seawall erection as preferred adaptation options.

Coastal Management Guide teaching resource – a STEM education initiative to promote school and community engagement

Led by Ian Turner (UNSW)

The Coastal Management Guide teaching resource is a STEM teaching resource guide designed by the University of NSW, Water Research Laboratory and STEM specialists Refraction Media for use in secondary schools in NSW.

Open beaches – Quantification of regional rates of sand supply to the NSW coast

Led by Ian Goodwin (Macquarie University)

Onshore/offshore sand supply to the NSW coast is a major uncertainty in projecting future coastal responses to sea-level rise. This research seeks to identify the regions where the coastline is in long-term stability or instability in response to positive or negative rates of sand supply. The project will also draw on bathymetric data and our recent Nearshore Wave Transformation project to characterise the energetic wave climates that are responsible for entraining sand and transporting it shoreward to the nearshore.

Completed projects:

East coast lows: assessment of our capacity to predict storm erosion hazard in NSW

Led by Ian Turner (UNSW)
Assessing coastal responses to future climate changes typically involves identifying the coastal hazards and risks associated with coastal processes such as rapid storm erosion and the much slower shoreline recession. The latter is due to factors such as changing sediment budgets and sea level rise. This research project will obtain a dataset of pre- and post-East Coast Low storm responses at several NSW coastal bays in NSW. It will quantify the variability and trends in the observed erosion response to a single storm event, and it will also evaluate the performance of existing tools used to determine coastal erosion setback in NSW.