Soft engineering

Soft engineering does not involve building artificial structures, but takes a more sustainable and natural approach to managing the coast. Each strategy has its advantages and disadvantages.

Beach nourishment

Sand is pumped onto an existing beach to build it up.

Advantages

  • Blends in with the existing beach.
  • Larger beaches appeal to tourists.

Disadvantages

  • Needs to be constantly replaced.
  • The sand has to be brought in from elsewhere.

Beach re-profiling

The sediment is redistributed from the lower part of the beach to the upper part of the beach.

Two bulldozers re-profiling a beach in Western Australia.

Advantages

  • Cheap and simple.
  • Reduces the energy of the waves.

Disadvantages

  • Only works when wave energy is low.
  • Needs to be repeated continuously.

Sand dune stabilisation

Marram grass planted on sand dunes stabilises the dunes, and helps to trap sand to build them up.

Marram grass planted on sand dunes in order to stabilise the dunes at Porthkidney Beach, Cornwall.

Advantages

  • Relatively cheap.
  • Maintains a natural-looking coastline.
  • Encourages wildlife and vegetation to establish and thrive.

Disadvantages

  • Can be damaged by storm waves.
  • Areas have to be zoned off from the public (to avoid trampling of newly-planted grass), which may be unpopular.