Coastal systems, their habitats, and their communities face a challenging future exacerbated by the impact of environmental and climate change. Our long history of intervention in coastal systems, whether well-intended or not, has resulted in an environment with reduced natural capacity to cope with rising sea level or increasing pollution. The decisions we make now on how to manage the coast will determine the sustainability of coastal life into the future, so it is important for us to make informed decisions.
In south Suffolk, a grass roots approach to enhancing coastal knowledge and understanding is well underway, empowering local communities to undertake their own research and take a more active role in ensuring a resilient and sustainable future. Several community science projects are delivering data and understanding through monitoring of change around the shores of the Deben estuary and neighbouring coastline. The Building Coastal Community Stewardship project is a collaborative venture between the Deben Estuary Partnership and coastal scientist Professor Helene Burningham who are collectively on a mission to promote and expand these initiatives and approaches to estuary and coastal communities throughout East Anglia.
The Deben PhotoPosts project is a public and community monitoring enterprise seeking to capture evidence of changes in the coast over time. It is an entirely public project involving anyone who happens to pass one of the PhotoPosts with their smart phone or camera. We have installed PhotoPost sites around the Deben estuary and local coastline to support the monitoring of coastal change and inform decision-making and coastal management. Initial funding for the project was obtained through the Sustainable Development Fund (provided by Defra and managed by Suffolk Coast & Heaths AONB).
The Bawdsey Beach Monitoring group – a voluntary community science initiative based on the Bawdsey peninsula – have been measuring beach levels at Bawdsey Beach (in the region of the iron sheet piling) since 2013. The measuring is usually undertaken on a weekly basis, and at 17 different survey points along the Bawdsey Beach frontage. In 2016, the monitoring was extended to include 11 sites along the Deben inlet margin, again using the iron sheeting as a robust and permanent reference point, permitting a rigorous survey approach time and again. To date, the group have collected almost 10,000 records of beach level, and these measurements capture both the short-term responses in the beach to changing weather conditions, and the longer-term changes associated with the wider sediment dynamics of this coast, and in particular the inlet knolls.
The Deben Marine Centre was established in summer 2021 at the old ferry waiting room at Bawdsey Quay. A range of the community science work undertaken to date was displayed, supported by demonstration and explanation of the value of this information in understanding the dynamics of the south Suffolk and Deben coast. In 2022, the exhibition is returning to highlight the ongoing activities of local teams, and to showcase new endeavours. The team will also be out and about to encourage and advise coastal communities to set up their own research projects, so get in touch to stay updated.