Time for an Irish coastal monitoring scheme


Sir, – Coastal monitoring is a 4D mapping of the coastal zone where the fourth aspect is time as it looks at how the coastal system evolves through time. It is the key to understanding the functioning of the coastal system. It helps to take sound decisions in relation to construction of coastal infrastructure including coastal protection.

In places, coastal system develops on a cyclic basis where erosion is changed with deposition of sediments and accretion of the coast. The length of these cycles could be from seasonal to multi-annual – therefore, only systematic long-term coastal monitoring can help to understand the functioning of the coastal system at any given location. In places, erosion could be a result of a single storm event with background conditions being of depositional nature.

In my opinion, the Government of Ireland should consider setting up a State-funded coastal monitoring programme for all soft parts of Ireland’s coastline, which are prone to erosion. This could involve collaborative and well-co-ordinated effort by county councils of the coastal counties, university academics and their students, secondary school geography teachers and their pupils, and the local coastal community – who could all play an active and useful role in performing the necessary measurements and collecting data.

This should be co-ordinated and guided by a panel of experts who would propose the most appropriate techniques for each particular location and provide necessary instructions to all involved in data collection though regular workshops and fieldtrips. If done in this way it would also have a strong educational aspect, raising people’s awareness, understanding and appreciation of the coastal environments of the island that they live on.

Also, looking into the future, in the context of potential climate change and increasing storm frequency – knowledge about the functioning of the coastal system of Ireland as a complete island are likely to be of irreplaceable value when making decisions about the coastal zone management approaches, which can range from adaptation to the natural course of coastal evolution to coastal protection using a variety of engineering solutions. — Yours, etc,


Coastal and Marine Scientist, Geocoast,


Co Cork.