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Fri, 1 Feb 2019

Scientists offer solutions to protect coastal populations

Eric holds up his book

A JCU scientist has joined more than 150 others from around the world to demonstrate how to protect coastal and estuarine areas as pressures from climate change and human encroachment increase.

JCU Adjunct Professor Eric Wolanski said coasts and estuaries worldwide are home to about 40% of the world’s population, but are being threatened by a ‘triple whammy’ of increased urbanisation and industrialisation, decreased availability of energy and other resources such as freshwater, and increased threats due to climate change.

“To take just one example, we have all seen the disastrous consequences of removing natural coastal features such as mangroves and saltmarshes, this decreases protection of the coast from extreme events such as storm surges and tsunamis,” he said.

Professor Wolanski said coastal areas in poorer areas will be hit hardest by these problems, but wealthy countries won’t be spared.

“Climate changes will destroy communities in the southern US as well as the Bangladesh flood plain,” he said.

Professor Wolanski is the lead editor of a major new book on the subject – Coasts and estuaries, the future - in which 154 world-renowned scientists from 27 countries describe threats to human societies from neglect of coastal and estuarine areas.

There are five chapters about Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef and its river catchments, Australian remote tropical estuaries, urban estuaries (Sydney, Gold Coast and Townsville), restoring oyster reefs to improve water quality, and hypersaline estuaries (the Coorong).

“The book shows how we can both protect and maintain the natural system and also allow these coasts and estuaries to deliver services which produce societal goods and benefits.

“It’s intended as a wake-up call to policy-makers and politicians who say they want a future which protects human safety, the economy and nature, while providing sustainable solutions. If that’s true, then this book shows you what you do to get that,” said Professor Polanski.

The book covers all parts of the globe and is edited by Professors Wolanski, Mike Elliott (University of Hull, United Kingdom), John W. Day (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA), and Ramesh Ramachandran (National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Government of India, Chennai, India).