EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Can we avoid coastal squeeze through nature-based coastal adaptation?

Mark Schuerch1, Tom Spencer2, Stijn Temmerman3, and Matthew Kirwan4
Mark Schuerch et al.
  • 1University of Lincoln, Lincoln Centre for Water and Planetary Health, School of Geography, Linocln, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (
  • 2Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 3Ecosystem Management Research Group, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
  • 4Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia, USA

Intertidal coastal wetlands, including tidal marshes and mangrove forests, are at risk of disappearing under the influence of global sea level rise (SLR). Loss of their ecosystem services could significantly impact global carbon budgets, increase coastal erosion and flooding and lead to loss of fisheries, particularly along densely populated coastal zones such as large estuaries and deltas. Regional to global-scale projections suggest a reduction in present-day coastal wetland area by 20% to 90% in response to projected rates of future SLR. Recent studies have highlighted the importance of coastal squeeze, i.e. the inhibition of inland migration of tidal coastal wetlands due to the existence of anthropogenic infrastructure, in combination with wetland loss due to sea level rise, which is aggravated by a global decline in coastal sediment supply.

Nature-based adaptation, consisting of the reservation or creation of space for inland wetland expansion, is widely regarded as a promising strategy to counteract coastal squeeze and create/restore natural habitats through inland migration. Based on global and regional modelling outputs, this paper discusses how different scenarios of global population growth, expected declines in global sediment supply, delta subsidence and various coastal management strategies impact on global areas of intertidal coastal wetlands, and coastal squeeze in particular. For example, we estimate that until the year 2100 up to 280,000 km2 of coastal wetlands may be lost due to coastal squeeze. If strategically implemented on a regional to global scale nature-based solutions to coastal management could increase the global total area of intertidal coastal wetlands by up to 60%.

However our current understanding of this process is very limited, partly due to the limited field evidence in sedimentary archives (e.g. during the early Holocene where SLR were high). We argue that this is related to the combined effects of wetland inland migration and wetland drowning during periods of high SLR rates, raising the question as to whether or not future coastal wetland will be able to provide ecosystem services comparable to those of natural systems.

How to cite: Schuerch, M., Spencer, T., Temmerman, S., and Kirwan, M.: Can we avoid coastal squeeze through nature-based coastal adaptation?, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-7677,, 2020


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