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Ecosystem-based coastal defence in the face of global change


The risk of flood disasters is increasing for many coastal societies owing to global and regional changes in climate conditions, sea-level rise, land subsidence and sediment supply. At the same time, in many locations, conventional coastal engineering solutions such as sea walls are increasingly challenged by these changes and their maintenance may become unsustainable. We argue that flood protection by ecosystem creation and restoration can provide a more sustainable, cost-effective and ecologically sound alternative to conventional coastal engineering and that, in suitable locations, it should be implemented globally and on a large scale.

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Figure 1: Conventional coastal engineering compared with new ecosystem-based defence.
Figure 2: Global need for coastal flood protection, and large-scale examples and potential application of ecosystem-based defence.
Figure 3: Ecosystem-based flood defence.


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We gratefully acknowledge financial support to our research that is related to this article by the Research Foundation — Flanders (FWO), the Research Fund of the University of Antwerp (BOF), Waterwegen & Zeekanaal NV, the EU-funded THESUES project (FP7.2009-1, Contract 244104), STW grant 07324, the Singapore–Delft Water Alliance, the innovation program Building with Nature and its contributors (including the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, the European Fund for Regional Development, the Municipality of Dordrecht and the partners of the EcoShape consortium).

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Correspondence to Stijn Temmerman.

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Temmerman, S., Meire, P., Bouma, T. et al. Ecosystem-based coastal defence in the face of global change. Nature 504, 79–83 (2013).

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