Budleigh beach saved from erosion?

NEW research will investigate the erosion of Budleigh Salterton s beach, vital in protecting the Jurassic coast cliffs and the town from flooding.

NEW research will investigate the erosion of Budleigh Salterton's beach, vital in protecting the Jurassic coast cliffs and the town from flooding.

The University of Plymouth has secured a �500,000 research grant to look at the threats posed to gravel beaches.

More than 1,000 km of the coastline of England and Wales consists of gravel barriers and beaches, which act as sea defences.

But there are growing concerns that damage to gravel barriers could increase as a result of the rising sea level and more frequent storms due to possible climate change.

A gravel beach is made up of "sediments larger than two mm" and scientist want to better understand how storms impact on such beaches and barriers, and devise a means of predicting the damage in the future.

Principal investigator Professor Gerd Masselink, of the University's School of Marine Science and Engineering, said: "Gravel barriers and beaches are considered sustainable forms of coastal defence, but there is currently limited scientific guidance available to provide beach managers with operational management tools to predict the response of gravel barriers and beaches to storms."

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The Coastal Processes Research Group, at the University of Plymouth, won the grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to enable them to carry out research in Devon for the next three years.

As part of the project, the team will conduct a one month field experiment and complement this research, and with the assistance of the Channel Coastal Observatory, the team will also monitor the storm response of nine other gravel beaches in England.

Co-investigator Professor Paul Russell said: "The insights and understanding gained from the experimental work will be used to develop a practical tool for predicting beach formation, flooding and breaching of gravel beaches and barriers."

The modelling tool will be made freely available to coastal managers and engineers. Co-investigator Professor Jon Williams said: "By inputting any proposed changes, such as seawall construction, beach nourishment or reshaping, it will be possible to see what effect it will have on the profile of the beach.