Concluding Remarks

Finding a climate change signal on coasts is more problematic than often assumed. Coasts undergo natural dynamics at many scales, with erosion and recovery in response to climate variability such as El Nino, or extreme events such as storms and infrequent tsunamis. Additionally, humans have had enormous impacts on most coasts, overshadowing most changes that we can presently attribute directly to climate change.

Using the geographic examples cited in this paper, various impacts can be inferred on coasts as a consequence of changes in climate. However, each area of coast is experiencing its own pattern of relative sea-level change and climate change, making discrimination of the component of degradation that results from climate change problematic. The best examples of a climate influence are related to temperature rise at low and high latitudes, as seen by the impacts on coral reefs and polar coasts, respectively. Observations through the twentieth century demonstrate the importance of understanding the impacts of sea-level rise and climate change in the context of multiple drivers of change; this will remain a challenge under a more rapidly changing climate.

Nevertheless, there are emerging signs that climate change provides a global threat sea ice is retreating permafrost in coastal areas is widely melting reefs are bleaching more often and the sea is rising, amplifying widespread trends of subsidence and threatening low-lying areas. From this analysis some important lessons about the response to these challenges become evident. To devise successful response strategies for coastal degradation it will be important to understand coastal changes in the context of integrated assessment and multiple drivers of change, with climate only being part of the problem [72]. To enhance the sustain-ability of coastal systems, management strategies will also need to address this challenge, focusing on the drivers that are dominant at each section of coast.

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