Home · Research · Research Themes · 3. Sustainable coastal Systems

3. Sustainable coastal Systems

(c)Fréderic Le Mouillour

Contacts: Christèle Dondeyne, Serge Suanez & Emma Michaud

Scientific context

Coastal systems are environments with ecological, social and technical components that have long provided human societies with a multitude of services. For example, these systems, with their areas of mudflats and vegetation, contribute strongly to the stabilisation of coastal sediments, the filtration of polluted waters and the storage of blue carbon, important in the context of climate change. However, coasts are among the most fragile, dynamic and heterogeneous environments on the planet with limited resilience to significant natural or anthropogenic forcing. This vulnerability is partly linked to coastal hazards, sea level rise, pollution and land use (urbanisation, agricultural areas, etc.).

This has a negative impact on the sediment balance and transport processes, biogeochemical balances, habitat loss, ecosystem stability and productivity, and the functional role of biodiversity. How to manage these coastal zones and the increasing social, technical and economic activities associated with them is a major challenge. Indeed, these coastal zones are the scene of a strong development of human activities, particularly in the marine engineering sector (development and use of the coastline).

The climate challenges call for new economic and planning policies to achieve decarbonisation of human activities in coastal areas, resilience of coastal systems and reduction of their vulnerabilities. The climate and environmental protection objectives in coastal systems can be achieved thanks to various approaches and tools from the environmental sciences, engineering sciences, human and social sciences, but also from public policies (for example: development of eco-design, definition and implementation of strong protection zones, development of ecological restoration, control of urban planning, reduction of inputs, etc.).

Specific objectives

Theme 3 will address the so-called “coastal challenge”, which aims at developing coherent and long-term strategies for integrated coastal zone management for sustainable coastal systems. It will encourage inter- and trans-disciplinary research on the adaptability and resilience of socio-ecosystems at various temporal and spatial scales (from the early Holocene to the modern coastal and littoral environment) by promoting research activities in geography, physical oceanography, sedimentology, ecology, biogeochemistry, ecotoxicology, material sciences, mechanics, engineering sciences, humanities and social sciences, history, archaeology, sociology…

In order to focus on the sustainability of these systems, the study of the environment, socio-ecosystems, technical solutions and the associated economy becomes necessary for an integrative approach to coastal management. It will be necessary to look more closely at socio-economic studies, coastal growth patterns and the combined impacts of local infrastructure, technologies employed and natural hazards. Interdisciplinary and inter-laboratory research will have to rely on local socio-economic actors (local authorities, industries) to encourage the development of tomorrow’s technological solutions.

Photo credit : Frédéric Le Mouillour