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How and Why Some Coasts Are under Threat from Economic Development

Updated on May 31, 2016

The Jurassic coast is threatened by economic development, especially in terms of biodiversity, due to many factors. One of these factors is “coastal squeeze”, which is particularly prevalent in Sidmouth, where the historically important town is protected by rock groynes, offshore rock breakwaters, and a seawall the length of the esplanade. This sea wall has prevented the coastal vegetation behind it to receive water during high tide. This has caused a loss of coastal biodiversity.

The expansion of suburbs and villages is also threatening the Jurassic coast, as important locations such as Southampton have developed, and are therefore more likely to build coastal defences, which will destroy native vegetation behind it. The expansion of such settlements also increases the amount of sewage being emitted into the ocean. This will decrease the quality of the sea water, and affect the quantity and diversity of fish in the area.

Oil extraction, for example Fawley oil refinery, has a visual impact on the coastal landscape. The Jurassic Coast is rich in oil, and so the scale of extraction has destroyed many animal habitats. With so much oil extraction, the potential of an oil spill arises, which could have large scale impacts on ocean biodiversity.

An expansion of Dibden Bay port was proposed, as it was argued to be “essential for the continued economic development of the Port of Southampton, but conservationists prevented the development due to the international significance of Dibden’s intertidal marshlands. This case highlights the willingness of some organisations to build on greenfield sites, and therefore shows that the risk to coastal biodiversity is high.

On more of a global scale, economic development is generally leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn increases the human enhanced greenhouse effect, thus causing global average temperatures to rise, and polar ice caps to melt, expediting rising sea levels. Climate change is also predicted to cause an increase in extreme weather. This will provoke councils to construct coastal defences, which will cause “coastal squeeze”, and therefore threaten the biodiversity of coastlines.


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    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 21 months ago from Southwest England

      A very interesting article, Tom. Planners often seem to forget the effect on biodiversity and wildlife habitat when focussing on coastal defences and "protecting" our economic interests. Biodiversity is equally important, not just for wildlife itself, but also for future economic security. In Dorset, tourism relies heavily on the natural landscape - preserved wildlife habitats and clean beaches are essential, and fishing is also an important industry, where biodiversity really matters.