The impact of climate change on coastal ecosystems



Publication Details

Woodroffe, C. D., Nicholls, R. J., Burkett, V. & Forbes, D. L. (2014). The impact of climate change on coastal ecosystems. In R. E. Bowen, M. H. Depledge, C. P. Carlarne & L. E. Fleming (Eds.), Oceans and Human Health: Implications for Society and Well-Being (pp. 141-176). United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Oceans and Human Health


In this chapter we stress two other important features of coasts and coastal ecosystems. First, these are dynamic systems that continually undergo adjustments, especially through erosion and redeposition, in response to a range of processes. Many coastal ecosystems adjust naturally at a range of timescales, and their potential for response is examined partly by reconstructing how such systems have coped with natural changes of climate and sea level in the geologic past. Second, coasts have changed profoundly through the twentieth century due to the impacts of human development (such as urbanization, port and industrial expan- sion, shore protection, and the draining and conversion of coastal wetlands), with these development-related drivers closely linked to a growing global population and economy. It remains a challenge to isolate the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise from either the natural trajectory of shoreline change, or the accelerated pathway resulting from other human-related stressors. There exists a danger of overstating the importance of climate change, or overlooking significant interactions of climate change with other drivers.

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