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Healthy saltmarshes for coastal defence

During the last month, the consortium of the European ‘FAST’ Project celebrated their second general assembly in Cadiz (Spain). The consortium concluded that after two years of collecting data in the field, making great advances in satellite image analysis and interacting with potential end-users, they have enough information to refine the Basic prototype of the MI-SAFE tool. This innovative product will provide easily accessible information about individual saltmarshes of use to scientists, managers and citizens. The tool will allow the user to assess the importance of the flood defence services provided by coastal ecosystems, on European shores and beyond.

The reduction of flood risks is one of the main challenges facing European coastal managers. Sea-level rise, changing weather patterns and increasing population density in coastal areas make innovation in coastal management an urgent priority. One of the key recent innovations is the systematic use of natural features, such as vegetated foreshores, to protect the coast. In order to decide which approach to coastal defence is best in any given area, it is important to have a clear picture of the current status of defences.

Eight European ecosystems

The multidisciplinary EU project FAST (Foreshore Assessment using Space Technology) is collecting data at eight study sites in the tidal areas of four European countries. The data, which come from the latest European Copernicus Sentinel satellites and field measurements, are being used to design practical measurement approaches. This allows water managers to use natural coastal defences in their management plans and to improve flood risk management in their areas in the longer term. That is efficient and sustainable, and it also cuts costs.

FAST is a European project, with scientist from The Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom and Spain, studying the role of the European saltmarshes in coastal defence and generating an online tool using field data and satellite images. ‘We are optimistic about the variety of open source products and services that can be produced for the end-users that FAST has been consulting during the first years of the project’, says the leader of FAST project Mindert de Vries. The basic prototype of the MI-SAFE tool is now almost ready for release. The challenge for the next year is to collaborate with a group of key end-users testing the basic prototype to focus on the long-term implementation of the most effective products and services for the MI-SAFE tool.’

During the meeting in Cadiz, FAST consortium visited the study site placed in Cadiz Bay (Spain), where saltmarshes have been demonstrated to be efficient at attenuating local waves.

For more information, contact: Dr Iris Möller, Cambridge Coastal Research Unit, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EN; Tel: +44 (0)1223 333353;