Identifying knowledge gaps hampering application of intertidal habitats in coastal protection: opportunities & steps to take

T. J. Bouma, J. van Belzen, T. Balke, Z. C. Zhu, L. Airoldi, A. J. Blight, A. J. Davies, C. Galvan, S. J. Hawkins, S. P. G. Hoggart, J. L. Lara, I. J. Losada, M. Maza, B. Ondiviela, M. W. Skov, E. M. Strain, R. C. Thompson, S. L. Yang, B. Zanuttigh, L. Q. ZhangP. M. J. Herman

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161 Citations (Scopus)


Over the last decades, population densities in coastal areas have strongly increased. At the same time, many intertidal coastal ecosystems that provide valuable services in terms of coastal protection have greatly degraded. As a result, coastal defense has become increasingly dependent on man-made engineering solutions. Ongoing climate change processes such as sea-level rise and increased storminess, require a rethinking of current coastal defense practices including the development of innovative and cost-effective ways to protect coastlines. Integrating intertidal coastal ecosystems within coastal defense schemes offers a promising way forward. In this perspective, we specifically aim to (1) provide insight in the conditions under which ecosystems may be valuable for coastal protection, (2) discuss which might be the most promising intertidal ecosystems for this task and (3) identify knowledge gaps that currently hamper application and hence need attention from the scientific community. Ecosystems can contribute most to coastal protection by wave attenuation in areas with relatively small tidal amplitudes, and/or where intertidal areas are wide. The main knowledge gap hampering application of intertidal ecosystems within coastal defense schemes is lack in ability to account quantitatively for long-term ecosystem dynamics. Such knowledge is essential, as this will determine both the predictability and reliability of their coastal defense function. Solutions integrating intertidal ecosystems in coastal defense schemes offer promising opportunities in some situations, but require better mechanistic understanding of ecosystem dynamics in space and time to enable successful large-scale application. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-157
Number of pages11
JournalCoastal Engineering
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • Coastal protection
  • Intertidal ecosystems
  • Ecology
  • Salt marshes
  • Biogenic reefs
  • Seagrass sea-level rise
  • Posidonia-oceanica
  • Ecosystem services
  • Wave attenuation
  • Coral-reefs
  • Catastrophic shifts
  • Seagrass ecosystems
  • Mangrove forests
  • Spartina-anglica


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