Impacts of climate change on coastal habitats, relevant to the coastal and marine environment around the UK

Annette Burden, Craig Smeaton, Stuart Angus, Angus Garbutt, Laurence Jones, Heather Lewis, Sue Rees

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Coastal habitats are at risk from both direct (temperature, rainfall), and
indirect (sea-level rise, coastal erosion) impacts due to a changing climate.
Beyond the environmental impacts and ensuing habitat loss, the changing
climate will have a significant societal impact to coastal communities ranging
from health to livelihoods, as well as the loss of important ecosystem services
such as coastal defence – particularly relevant with predicted increase in

Vegetated coastal ecosystems sequester carbon – another ‘ecosystem service’
that could be disrupted due to climate change. There has been considerable
recent attention to the potential role these habitats could play in climate
mitigation, and also in transferring carbon across the land–sea interface. To
understand the relative importance of these habitats within the global carbon
cycle, coastal habitats need to be accounted for in national greenhouse gas
inventories, and a true multidisciplinary catchment-to-coast approach to
research is required.

Management options exist that can reduce the immediate impacts of climate
change, such as managed realignment and sediment recharge. Fixed landward
coastal defences are becoming unsustainable and creating ‘coastal squeeze’,
highlighting the need to work with natural processes to recreate more-natural
shorelines where possible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-255
Number of pages28
JournalMCCIP Science Review 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2020


  • Coastal habitats
  • Saltmarsh
  • Shingle
  • Sand dunes
  • Cliffs
  • Climate change
  • Sea level rise


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