Response of natural, modified and artificial sandy beaches to sea-level rise




sandy beach, sea-level rise, human impact


Sandy beaches occur in a wide variety of environmental settings and as components of a diverse range of coastal system types. These variations among beaches lead to significant differences in their mesoscale (multi-decadal, km length scale) behaviour, including their response to sea-level rise. In addition to this natural variability, the degree to which the sandy beach system has been or will be modified by humans is a major influence on how it responds to sea-level change. From a spectrum of beach types based on the degree of human modification, three situations (Natural, Modified and Artificial beaches) are considered in order to demonstrate the role of humans as geomorphic agents as sandy beaches respond to rising sea level. The potential trajectories of change are assessed, and future scenarios are presented and discussed. Natural beaches are most likely to survive sea-level rise, while the fate of artificial beaches depends almost entirely on the politics and economics of what lies immediately landward. In all categories of beach, human decision-making is the most important determinant of sandy beach response to sea-level rise.


Download data is not yet available.


Abadie, S., Butel, R., Mauriet, S., Morichon, D., Dupuis, H., 2006. Wave climate and longshore drift on the South Aquitaine coast. Continental Shelf Research 26, 1924-1939.

Alonso, A., Alcántara-Carrió, J., Cabrera, L., 2002. Tourist resorts and their impact on beach erosion at Sotavento beaches, Fuerteventura, Spain. Journal of Coastal Research 36, 10036.

Alonso, I., Casamayor, M., García, M.J.S., Montoya-Montes, I., 2019. Classification and Characteristics of Beaches at Tenerife and Gran Canaria Islands. In: J.A. Morales (Eds). The Spanish Coastal Systems. Dynamics Processes, Sediments and Management. Springer, Cham, pp 361-383.

Anfuso, G., Benavente, J., Gracia, F.J., 2001. Morphodynamic responses of nourished beaches in SW Spain. Journal of Coastal Conservation 7, 71-80.

Anfuso, G., Rangel‐Buitrago, N., Cortés‐Useche, C., Iglesias Castillo, B., Gracia, F.J., 2016. Characterization of storm events along the Gulf of Cadiz (eastern central Atlantic Ocean). International Journal of Climatology, 36, 3690-3707.

Anthony, E.J., 2013. Storms, shoreface morphodynamics, sand supply, and the accretion and erosion of coastal dune barriers in the southern North Sea. Geomorphology 199, 8-21.

Armstrong, S.B., Lazarus, E.D., 2019. Masked shoreline erosion at large spatial scales as a collective effect of beach nourishment. Earth's Future 7, 74-84.

Balouin, Y., Howa, H., Pedreros, R., Michel, D., 2005. Longshore sediment movements from tracers and models, Praia de Faro, South Portugal. Journal of Coastal Research 21, 146-156.

Berry, A., Fahey, S., Meyers, N., 2013. Changing of the guard: adaptation options that maintain ecologically resilient sandy beach ecosystems. Journal of Coastal Research 29, 899-908.

Borjse, B.W., de Vries, S., Janssen, S.K.H., Luijendijk, A.P., Vuik, V., 2017. Building with nature as coastal protection strategy in the Netherlands. In: D.M. Bilkovic, M.M. Mitchell M.K. La Peyre, J.D. Toft (Eds). Living Shorelines. The Science and Management of Nature-Based Coastal Protection. Taylor & Francis, New York, 519 pp.

Bowman, D., Guillén, J., Lopez, L., Pellegrino, V., 2009. Planview geometry and morphological characteristics of pocket beaches on the Catalan coast (Spain). Geomorphology 108, 191-199.

Carter, R.W.G., 1989. Coastal Environments. Academic Press.

Cooper, J.A.G., Masselink, G., Coco, G., Short, A.D., Castelle, B., Rogers, K., Anthony, E., Green, A.N., Kelley, J.T., Pilkey, O.H., Jackson, D.W.T., 2020. Sandy beaches can survive sea-level rise. Nature Climate Change 10, 993-995.

Cooper, J.A.G., Pilkey, O.H., 2004. Sea-level rise and shoreline retreat: time to abandon the Bruun Rule. Global and Planetary Change 43, 157-171.

Cooper, J.A.G., Alonso, I., 2006. Natural and anthropic coasts: challenges for coastal management in Spain. Journal of Coastal Research S.I. 48, 1-7.

Cooper, J.A.G., Lemckert, C., 2012. Extreme sea-level rise and adaptation options for coastal resort cities: A qualitative assessment from the Gold Coast, Australia. Ocean & Coastal Management 64, 1-14.

Cooper, J.A.G., Pilkey, O.H. (Eds.), 2012. Pitfalls of shoreline stabilization: Selected case studies. Springer, Dordrecht.

Cooper, J.A.G., Pile, J., 2014. The adaptation-resistance spectrum: a classification of contemporary adaptation approaches to climate-related coastal change. Ocean & Coastal Management 94, 90-98.

Cooper, J.A.G., Green, A.N., Meireles, R.P., Klein, A.H., Souza, J., Toldo, E.E., 2016. Sandy barrier overstepping and preservation linked to rapid sea level rise and geological setting. Marine Geology 382, 80-91.

Cooper, J.A.G., Jackson, D.W.T., 2019. Coasts in Peril? A shoreline health perspective. Frontiers in Earth Science 7, 260.

Cooper, J.A.G., Masselink, G., Coco, G., Short, A.D., Castelle, B., Rogers, K., Anthony, E., Green, A.N., Kelley, J.T., Pilkey, O.H., Jackson, D.W.T., 2020. Sandy beaches can survive sea-level rise. Nature Climate Change 10, 993-995.

Costas, S., Alejo, I., 2007. Local and global influences on the evolution of a transgressive sand barrier: Cíes Barrier, Northwest Spain. Journal of Coastal Research S.I. 50, 1121-1125.

Creach, A., Bastidas-Arteaga, E., Pardo, S., Mercier, D., 2020. Vulnerability and costs of adaptation strategies for housing subjected to flood risks: Application to La Guérinière France. Marine Policy 117, 103438.

Dangendorf, S., Hay, C., Calafat, F.M., Marcos, M., Piecuch, C.G., Berk, K., Jensen, J., 2019. Persistent acceleration in global sea-level rise since the 1960s. Nature Climate Change 9, 705-710.

Davis R.A., FitzGerald, D.M., 2009. Beaches and Coasts. John Wiley & Sons.

de Schipper, M.A., Ludka, B.C., Raubenheimer, B., Luijendijk, A.P., Schlacher, T.A., 2021. Beach nourishment has complex implications for the future of sandy shores. Nature Reviews Earth & Environment 2, 70-84.

del Río, L., Benavente, J., Gracia, F.J., Alonso, C., Rodríguez-Polo, S., 2015. Anthropogenic influence on spit dynamics at various timescales: Case study in the Bay of Cadiz (Spain). In: G. Randazzo, D. Jackson, J. Cooper (Eds). Sand and Gravel Spits. Coastal Research Library, vol 12. Springer, Cham.

del Río Rodríguez, L., González, J.B., Prieto, F.J.G., Ruiz, J.A.C., 2015. Riesgos de erosión en la costa de Cádiz: gestión actual y perspectivas futuras. Geotemas 15, 149-152.

Galili, E., Benjamin, J., Eshed, V., Rosen, B., McCarthy, J., Horwitz, L.K., 2019. A submerged 7000-year-old village and seawall demonstrate earliest known coastal defence against sea-level rise. Plos One 14, 0222560.

Garel, E., Sousa, C., Ferreira, Ó., 2015. Sand bypass and updrift beach evolution after jetty construction at an ebb-tidal delta. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 167, 4-13.

Golledge, N.R., 2020. Long‐term projections of sea‐level rise from ice sheets. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 11, 634.

Goy, J.L., Zazo, C., Dabrio, C.J., 2003. A beach-ridge progradation complex reflecting periodical sea-level and climate variability during the Holocene (Gulf of Almeria, Western Mediterranean). Geomorphology 50, 251-268.

Green, A.N., Cooper, J.A.G., Salzmann, L., 2014. Geomorphic and stratigraphic signals of postglacial meltwater pulses on continental shelves. Geology 42, 151-154.

Hird, S., Stokes, C., Masselink, G., 2021. Emergent coastal behaviour results in extreme dune erosion decoupled from hydrodynamic forcing. Marine Geology 442, p.106667.

IPCC, 2021. Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.

Jackson, D., Short, A. (Eds), 2020. Sandy beach morphodynamics. Elsevier.

Jacob, C., Bernatchez, P., Dupras, J., Cusson, M., 2021. Not just an engineering problem: The role of knowledge and understanding of ecosystem services for adaptive management of coastal erosion. Ecosystem Services 51, 101349.

Lai, S., Loke, L.H., Hilton, M.J., Bouma, T.J., Todd, P.A., 2015. The effects of urbanisation on coastal habitats and the potential for ecological engineering: a Singapore case study. Ocean & Coastal Management 103, 78-85.

Laïbi, R.A., Anthony, E.J., Almar, R., Castelle, B., Senechal, N., Kestenare, E., 2014. Longshore drift cell development on the human-impacted Bight of Benin sand barrier coast, West Africa. Journal of Coastal Research 70, 78-83.

Loureiro, C., Ferreira, O., Cooper, J.A.G., 2009. Contrasting morphologic behaviour at embayed beaches in Southern Portugal. Journal of Coastal Research, S.I. 56, 83-87.

Loureiro, C., Ferreira, Ó., Cooper, J.A.G., 2012. Geologically constrained morphological variability and boundary effects on embayed beaches. Marine Geology 329, 1-15.

Magnan, A.K., Schipper, E.L.F., Burkett, M., Bharwani, S., Burton, I., Eriksen, S., Gemenne, F., Schaar, J., Ziervogel, G., 2016. Addressing the risk of maladaptation to climate change. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 7, 646-665.

Malvárez, G.C., 2012. The history of shoreline stabilization on the Spanish Costa del Sol. In: J.A.G. Cooper, O.H. Pilkey (Eds). Pitfalls of Shoreline Stabilization, Springer, Dordrecht, 235-249.

Malvárez, G., Ferreira, O., Navas, F., Cooper, J.A.G., Gracia-Prieto, F.J., Talavera, L., 2021. Storm impacts on a coupled human-natural coastal system: Resilience of developed coasts. Science of The Total Environment 768, p.144987.

Orford, J.D., Cooper, A., McKenna, J., 1999. Mesoscale temporal changes to foredunes at Inch Spit, south-west Ireland. Annals of Geomorphology 43, 439-461.

Palazón, A., Aragonés, L., López, I., 2016. Evaluation of coastal management: Study case in the province of Alicante, Spain. Science of the Total Environment 572, 1184-1194.

Parkinson, R.W., Ogurcak, D.E., 2018. Beach nourishment is not a sustainable strategy to mitigate climate change. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 212, 203-209.

Peterson, C.D., Pettit, D.J., Kingen, K., Vanderburgh, S., Rosenfeld, C., 2021. Catastrophic beach sand losses due to erosion from predicted future sea level rise (0.5–1.0 m), based on increasing submarine accommodation spaces in the high-wave-energy coast of the Pacific Northwest, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, USA. Marine Geology 439, 106555.

Pilkey, O.H., Cooper, J.A.G., 2014a. The Last Beach. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.

Pilkey, O.H., Cooper, J.A.G., 2014b. Are natural beaches facing extinction? Journal of Coastal Research S.I.70, 431-436.

Pinto, C.A., Taborda, R., Andrade, C. Teixeira, S.B., 2009. Seasonal and mesoscale variations at an embayed beach (Armação de Pera, Portugal). Journal of Coastal Research, S.I. 56, 118-122.

Pranzini, E., Simonetti, D., Vitale, G., 2010. Sand colour rating and chromatic compatibility of borrow sediments. Journal of Coastal Research 26, 798-808.

Roig-Munar, F.R.I., Martín-Prieto, J.A., Lamarca, E.C.I., Rodríguez-Perea, A., 2006. Space-time Analysis (1956-2004) of human use and management of the Beach-Dune Systems of Menorca (Balearic Islands, Spain). Journal of Coastal Research, S.I. 48, 107-111.

Siders, A.R., 2019. Managed retreat in the United States. One Earth 1(2), 216-225.

Sénéchal, N., Gouriou, T., Castelle, B., Parisot, J.P., Capo, S., Bujan, S., Howa, H., 2009. Morphodynamic response of a meso-to macro-tidal intermediate beach based on a long-term data set. Geomorphology 107, 263-274.

Spurrier, N., 2008. Beside the seaside - [engineering hidden]. Engineering & Technology 3, 26-29.

Vousdoukas, M.I., Ranasinghe, R., Mentaschi, L., Plomaritis, T.A., Athanasiou, P., Luijendijk, A., Feyen, L., 2020. Sandy coastlines under threat of erosion. Nature Climate Change 10(3), 260-263.

Woodroffe, C.D., 2002. Coasts: form, process and evolution. Cambridge University Press.

Zalasiewicz, J., Williams, M., Smith, A., Barry, T.L., Coe, A.L., Bown, P.R., Brenchley, P., Cantrill, D., Gale, A., Gibbard, P., Gregory, F.J., 2008. Are we now living in the Anthropocene? GSA Today 18(2), 4.




How to Cite

Cooper J. Response of natural, modified and artificial sandy beaches to sea-level rise. CIG [Internet]. 2022 Jul. 14 [cited 2024 Feb. 24];48(2):257-6. Available from: