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5 Coasts – A Vital Habitat Under Pressure

WOR 5

Coasts – A Vital Habitat Under Pressure
> The fifth World Ocean Review (WOR) explores the coastal habitat and the diverse expectations upon this habitat. It provides a glimpse into millions of years of history, elucidates the theory of continental drift and discusses the many ways in which coasts have changed. It also illustrates how the diverse ecosystem services rendered by the coasts are being subjected to increasing pressure, and profiles measures that will be necessary in the future to respond effectively to the threats from both climate change and natural disasters.
Coastal dynamics © mauritius images/imageBroker/Holger Weitzel

Coastal dynamics

> Coasts – the areas where land and sea meet and merge – have always been vital habi- tats for the human race. Their shape and appearance is in constant flux, changing quite naturally over periods of millions or even just hundreds of years. In some places coastal areas are lost, while in others new ones are formed. The categories applied to differentiate coasts depend on the perspective from which we regard them.

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Living with the coasts © mauritius images/Image Source/Corey Jenkins

Living with the coasts

> For millennia, people have utilized the world’s coastal areas. Coasts provide a space for trading, supply resources and underpin fisheries. It is no surprise that societies have always struggled to gain maritime supremacy. Now, however, humankind is exploiting coastal regions to such a degree that these areas are no longer able to render all of the ecosystem services that people value and need so much. Coastal areas are degraded particularly by construction and pollution.

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Climate change threats and natural hazards © Lohuizen/Noor/laif

Climate change threats and natural hazards

> Climate change will have a twofold adverse impact on coastal ecosystems through warming and acidification. However, for humankind the greatest direct threat will come from sea-level rise which is likely to cause more frequent flooding in many regions in the future. As a result of ever denser coastal settlement, natural hazards may in future lead to catastrophes. Modern warning systems may help to limit the damage caused.

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Improving coastal protection © Maria Feck/laif

Improving coastal protection

> If the coast is to be conserved as habitat, it has to be protected. This not only entails prudent management of coastal areas, taking all stakeholder groups into consideration, but also main­ taining a catalogue of effective coastal protection measures that can be adapted as sea level rises. Worldwide there are examples which give cause for hope. One challenge that remains is that of creating homelands in new places for the coastal dwellers that lose their homes because of climate change.

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