The importance of inlets and their tidal deltas on the sediment dynamics and flood and erosion risk management of low-lying coastal systems

Theme: Earth, Atmosphere & Ocean Processes

Primary Supervisor:

Helene Burningham

Geography, UCL

Helene Burningham's Profile Picture

Project Description:

Coastal inlets are important connections between estuaries, lagoons and the open coast, but they are also instrumental mechanisms in the alongshore transport of sediment. Worldwide research on tidal inlets has shown that the processes of sediment transport within the inlet region are dependent on both estuarine and open-coast, nearshore dynamics. But we also know that changes in the morphology and behaviour of the inlet and its associated sediment bodies can have far-reaching impacts on adjacent coastlines. Capturing the dynamic interactions between wave-tide processes, sediment fluxes and shoreline change is a challenging but an essential requirement for effective shoreline management decision-making.

The aim of this PhD is to twofold. The project comprises a significant survey-based component, to undertake high resolution monitoring of inlet dynamics (using UAV-technology) and coastal / estuarine hydrodynamics, in order to quantify morphodynamic change and coast-inlet-estuary sediment budgets. The project will also involve modelling, using the SWAN wave model to explore the role of the inlet system on shoreline wave dynamics, and will also with the MESO_i model (which was evolved in the NERC-funded and EA-supported iCOASST project), progressing further model development and application in order to explore the role of climate change and management decisions on inlet function and behaviour. The PhD will investigate the relative importance of wave and tidal processes in determining the nature and timing of inlet morphodynamics, and examine the coupling between inlet, alongshore and estuarine sediment bodies.

Policy Impact of Research:

Management decisions within the vicinity of inlets can have far-reaching impacts (within estuary and some distance alongshore). An improved understanding of sediment dynamics, shoreline behaviour and the affect of changes in coastal climates and engineering activities on these is needed in order to inform flood and coastal risk management decisions.

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