As sea levels rise, beaches are the first things to go as waters engulf the lowest-lying land. But a recent study by Andrew Cooper, Professor of Coastal Studies, indicates that beaches naturally adapt to survive rising oceans – the real problem is that human development limits the ability of beaches to expand.

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Professor Cooper, who teaches at the University of Ulster School of Environmental Studies in Coleraine, shows that a rise of just a few feet in sea levels could threaten some of the most iconic beaches in the world, such as Cannes, France and Virginia Beach, Virginia in the US, which would vanish under the rising seas.

However, the problem isn’t that the water will engulf the beaches, but that humans have hemmed the beaches in with buildings and infrastructure. This means that beaches can’t adjust to changes in water levels, something that they have always been able to do before. Essentially, the problem is that human developments simply don’t allow the beaches to move when the need to.

Professor Cooper recently published a study, completed along Australia’s Gold Coast, which indicates how coastal resorts might adapt in order to allow the beaches to move inland without sacrificing the use of the area. With planning, he claims that sea levels could rise over 3-feet without impacting the beaches that humans love so much.

+ School of Environmental Science


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