Coastal erosion

What is coastal erosion and when is it a problem?
What can be done?
Key concepts
Indicators and monitoring
Potential interventions
Setback lines
Use of models
EU policies and Directives
The way forward
How to do it?
Systematic approach
Decision loop
Relevant Web links


  EU policies and Directives - helping manage coastal erosion?


Since coastal erosion is occurring on a European wide scale and in many cases has a transboundary character, it is legitimate to ask ourselves in what way can EU policies and Directives help manage coastal erosion. In this respect it is rather disappointing that there is a lack of European legal requirement concerning coastal erosion management.

  1. Existing EU policies and Directives

1. Existing EU policies and Directives
The existing Directives on floods, water and sea and draft Soil Directive do not address the coastal erosion problem as one of the issues to be solved from a European perspective. Furthermore, the EU policy regarding ICZM has the status of a Recommendation only. Member States were encouraged to develop and publish coastal strategies by 2006 under the EU Recommendation on ICZM. Although policies for the EU’s coasts have a long history they have not been implemented in an integrated manner so far [18]. Being a Recommendation only, countries are not obliged to implement ICZM. The lack of a Directive for ICZM reflects the complexity of socioeconomic issues involved in coastal land use, differences in legal systems across Member States and the difficulty of defining acceptable management strategies for the different residents, users and interest groups involved with the coastal region [19].

Nevertheless, in the implementation of these policies and directives, elements for managing coastal erosion could be included after all. Member states that have signed the Mediterranean ICZM Protocol (Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia, Greece, Malta and Cyprus) have committed themselves to undertake the necessary measures to mitigate the impact of coastal erosion (see box).

ICZM Mediterranean Protocol

"In conformity with the objectives and principles set out in Articles 5 and 6 of this Protocol, the Parties, with a view to preventing and mitigating the negative impact of coastal erosion more effectively, undertake to adopt the necessary measures to maintain or restore the natural capacity of the coast to adapt to changes, including those caused by the rise in sea levels.

The Parties, when considering new activities and works located in the coastal zone including marine structures and coastal defence works, shall take particular account of their negative effects on coastal erosion and the direct and indirect costs that may result. In respect of existing activities and structures, the Parties should adopt measures to minimize their effects on coastal erosion.

The Parties shall endeavour to anticipate the impacts of coastal erosion through the integrated management of activities, including adoption of special measures for coastal sediments and coastal works.

The Parties undertake to share scientific data that may improve knowledge on the state, development and impacts of coastal erosion."

ICZM recommendation (2002)
The EU ICZM Recommendation is a guiding policy for implementing sustainable erosion management. The recommendation stresses the fact that coastal zones are threatened by the effects of climate change, in particular rising sea levels, changes in storm frequency and strength, and increased coastal erosion and flooding. Working with natural processes and respecting the carrying capacity of ecosystems are also basic principles for protection strategies.

Marine Strategy Framework Directive
The EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which was adopted in June 2008, provides an opportunity to frame sustainable erosion management practices within a wider marine spatial planning system thereby ensuring a consistent approach to issues such as monitoring. The Marine Strategy does not explicitly address the issue of coastal erosion, but could pose restrictions to measures for erosion control, if these affect the good environmental status of the marine environment. Especially the designation of strategic sediment reservoirs should be taken up as an important component of marine planning.

Inspire Directive
The Inspire Directive, approved in 2007, aims to establish an infrastructure for spatial information (SDI) for Europe. The European SDI is going to be the common framework and standard for spatial data flow, including technologies, datasets, metadata and services. The INSPIRE Directive should support the standardised delineation of coastal sediment cells by incorporating key input datasets required for such a delineation into Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI) standards being established under the terms of the Directive. Also the preparation of setback lines should be adapted to the requirements of this Directive.

Floods Directive
The objective of the Floods Directive on the Assessment and Management of Flood Risks (2007/60/EC) is to reduce and manage flood-related risks to human health, the environment, infrastructure and property. This Directive is closely related to the Water Framework Directive (WFD), and its implementation will be coordinated with River Basin Districts under the WFD. The Directive provides for the drafting of flood risk maps and management plans. Within these plans, coastal erosion should be recognised as an important factor in coastal flooding.

EU Thematic Strategy on Soils
Although the EU Thematic Strategy on Soils, approved in 2006, acknowledges the importance of soil protection since soil functions contribute to coastal management, there is no explicit reference in the Strategy to the problem of coastal erosion. In the implementation of the strategy it is therefore recommended to recognise the contribution of river catchments to the sediment budget and sediment quality within the coastal sediment cell. The preparation of coastal erosion risk maps and provision of guidelines for the integration of soil concerns into spatial planning through the identification of strategic sediment reservoirs should be promoted.

EU Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment
The Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment has the objective of ‘contributing to a better quality of life through an integrated approach concentrating on urban areas’ and to contribute ‘to a high level of quality of life and social well-being for citizens by providing an environment where the level of pollution does not give rise to harmful effects on human health and the environment and by encouraging sustainable urban development’. For many cities in Europe that are located in the coastal zone it would be wise to take account of coastal erosion. Within this context the need to make spatial allocations for ‘strategic sediment reserves’ should be recognised in urban planning strategies for coastal zones vulnerable to erosion. From a resilience point of view sediment reservoirs can be combined with setback zones along the shoreline.

Natura 2000
The extent to which Natura 2000 sites are currently used as sources to supply sediments to compensate chronic deficits of sediments as a result of human intervention should be monitored. It will also be important to consider the effect of allowing the natural dynamic to operate (particularly in realignment schemes) within these sites as this can lead to the replacement of one habitat by another with a potential loss of Favourable Conservation Status in the habitat which is replaced. The way this is approached needs to be considered and guidance given by the Commission.


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