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Coastal erosion and shore protection: A brief historical analysis

Enzo Pranzini
Journal of coastal conservation 2018 v.22 no.5 pp. 827-830
clay, coastal plains, coasts, concrete, deforestation, human development, humans, resorts, river deltas, rivers, sea level, sediments, stream channels, subsidence, tourists, wetlands, wood, China, Japan, Yellow River
Since the Neolithic, humans have gathered along coastal plains, where they had to face sea level rise and subsidence without the technology to oppose these processes. When sea level stabilized, approx. 6.000 yr. B.P., coastal colonization was allowed, but where mountain deforestation was carried out river sediment input increased tremendously: settlements were disconnected from the shore and harbour siltation occurred. Shore erosion was a limited process at the time and local solutions were adopted: clay dikes, wood piles, fascinates and rock revetments. Along the Mediterranean, in China and Japan the construction of more complex structures has been documented since the Middle Ages. Further human development, with river bed quarrying, wetland reclamation, dam construction and mountain re-afforestation, favoured a coastal erosion that nowadays threatens most world coasts. From the Venetian “Murazzi” to the recent 114-km-long concrete element defence at the Yellow river delta, shore protection structures evolved following the different needs (protect coastal communication routes, urban and industrial settlements, tourist resorts). Beach nourishment, previously performed with inland quarried materials, is now intensively carried out with marine aggregates. The vernacular solution, left to undeveloped countries, has been recently revaluated by “green engineering”. However, with Sea Level Rise, the debate of whether to defend, accommodate or retreat is open.