Coastal Management

Coastlines are a major topic in GCSE Geography. This is one of several quizzes on that particular subject and it focusses specifically on the management of coastal erosion, with both hard and soft engineering.

Coastlines are dynamic areas. Geologically speaking they are changing in the blink of an eye. Compared to how slowly even things like glaciers move - never mind mountains being eroded - coasts are the geographical features that move in and out and shake it all about!

The changes that occur at the coast are a part of natural erosion and deposition. But with most parts of the British coastline having some form of settlement or industry located there, being a part of a delicate natural ecosystem, or being a key part of the tourism for the area, coastal management is key to try and prevent the loss of towns, villages and landscapes all around the country.

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Civilisations have been attempting to monitor coastlines for around 3,500 years. The ancient Romans had some advanced techniques - many of which are still in place today. Over the past few decades methods have changed from a physical defence against the sea using hard engineering strategies, such as sea walls and rock armour, towards more sustainable options that are often far less expensive in the long term. These soft engineering solutions include beach management and managed retreat.

For your exams some of the techniques used in coastal management may be the basis for long answer questions, so it is important to have a knowledge of hard and soft engineering examples, as well as case studies to be able to discuss in your answers. Climate change is increasing the need for coastal management as sea levels rise, so be prepared for this sort of exam question.

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  1. Which of the following is an advantage of placing groynes on a beach?
    Groynes assist in building a beach which helps to reduce wave energy and can also be a tourist attraction
  2. Which of the following is an advantage of hard engineering to prevent longshore drift moving material?
    Hard engineering solutions often protect the immediate area from coastal erosion and so halt coastal retreat. But they are normally only a local solution, increasing problems downstream and often just shifting the issues further along the coast. Added to this they are often an expensive and only temporary solutions
  3. Which of the following is not a way that sea walls are designed to protect a part of the coastline?
    One problem that was clearly shown in the winter of 2014/2015 is that the sea walls can be undercut as the beach is removed and this can lead to the wall collapsing. Since many sea walls protect high value property this can cause serious problems
  4. Why might some people argue against hard engineering projects to protect small hamlets and villages that are in danger of being lost due to coastal retreat?
    Whilst many of the properties lost are family homes and are important to those families, the cost to protect them is often prohibitive to local government. Because of this, managed retreat is often the only viable option for dealing with coastal erosion
  5. Which of the following is an example of soft engineering to help manage coastal retreat?
    Salt marshes allow areas to naturally flood and reduce the risk of flooding in higher value areas. They're also a massive benefit for the local ecosystems. Many species use salt marshes for breeding and for surviving their vulnerable younger life stages
  6. Marram grass is a pioneering species. How does planting marram grass on sand dunes help reduce coastal erosion?
    Sand dunes are a delicate part of the coastline and without pioneering species to help stablise them they will blow away
  7. Tourism is a key feature of many coastal areas. But some coastal areas, such as sand dunes, are sensitive to erosion as people walk over them. How can local interest groups help prevent this erosion of sand dunes?
    Whilst preventing people visiting the area and using hard engineering solutions may well decrease the problem, these are often impractical. Instead the use of boardwalks, fencing and other techniques can help the sand dunes remain stable
  8. When material that is moving along the beach due to longshore drift meets an obstacle, it can build up and form a protective barrier. To help this occur local authorities will often build wooden barriers at right angles to the beach. What are these barriers known as?
    Groynes are a practical way to slow longshore drift. They help to form a beach which protects the area
  9. Exam questions often refer to managed coastal retreat, and in your case studies you will have seen this key term used. What does managed coastal retreat actually mean?
    Managed retreat is where the sea's natural processes are allowed to occur. Normally this is managed in areas of lower economic value, with the more proactive techniques concentrated in the areas of higher economic value
  10. One method often used to help control coastal erosion involves replacing material that is eroded away by wave action and longshore drift. What is this method known as?
    Replacing the eroded material protects the coastline further up the beach. Whilst it is an inexpensive method and can assist tourism, it does require constant maintenance. Often in areas where shipping channels are dredged the material is fired up the beach to assist in beach management

Author: Ruth M

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