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 for use.

Beach nourishment

Bulldozers moving sand during beach nourishment
Bulldozers moving sand during beach nourishment

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


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


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


A bulldozer moves sand up the beach
A bulldozer moves sand up the beach

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


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


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

Dune nourishment

An image of a beach with Marram grass growing
Marram grass

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


  • Relatively cheap.
  • Maintains a natural-looking coastline.


  • Can be damaged by storm waves.
  • Areas have to be zoned off from the public, which is unpopular.

Offshore reefs

Offshore reefs located at Sea Palling, Norfolk.
Offshore reefs located at Sea Palling, Norfolk

Old tyres and cement can be placed in the intertidal zone, parallel to the coast, to create off-shore reefs. This encourages waves to break offshore. This reduces the energy of the wave which reaches the shoreline and therefore causes less erosion.


  • The natural marine ecosystem is only partly disrupted.
  • Dunes are allowed to stabilise onshore.
  • Rocks create a new intertidal habitat for marine wildlife.


  • May cause a navigation hazard.
  • Can create an eyesore at low tide.
  • Can disrupt the recreational use of the beach, for example the use of jet skis.