Natural Hazards

, Volume 91, Issue 3, pp 931–961 | Cite as

A method for modelling coastal erosion risk: the example of Scotland

  • James M. FittonEmail author
  • Jim D. Hansom
  • Alistair F. Rennie
Original Paper


It is thought that 70% of beaches worldwide are experiencing erosion (Bird in Coastline changes: a global review, Wiley, Hoboken, 1985), and as global sea levels are rising and expected to accelerate, the management of coastal erosion is now a shared global issue. This paper aims to demonstrate a method to robustly model both the incidence of the coastal erosion hazard, the vulnerability of the population, and the exposure of coastal assets to determine coastal erosion risk, using Scotland as a case study. In Scotland, the 2017 Climate Change Risk Assessment for Scotland highlights the threat posed by coastal erosion to coastal assets and the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires an Adaptation Programme to address the risks posed by climate change. Internationally, an understanding and adaption to coastal hazards is imperative to people, infrastructure and economies, with Scotland being no exception. This paper uses a Coastal Erosion Susceptibility Model (CESM) (Fitton et al. in Ocean Coast Manag 132:80–89. , 2016) to establish the exposure to coastal erosion of residential dwellings, roads, and rail track in Scotland. In parallel, the vulnerability of the population to coastal erosion, using a suite of indicators and Experian Mosaic Scotland geodemographic classification, is also presented. The combined exposure and vulnerability data are then used to determine coastal erosion risk in Scotland. This paper identifies that 3310 dwellings (a value of £524 m) are exposed to erosion, and the Coastal Erosion Vulnerability Index (CEVI) identifies 1273 of these are also considered to be highly vulnerable to coastal erosion, i.e. at high risk. Additionally, the CESM classified 179 km (£1.2 bn worth) of road and 13 km of rail track (£93 m to £2 bn worth) to be exposed. Identifying locations and assets that are exposed and at risk from coastal erosion is crucial for effective management and enables proactive, rather that reactive, decisions to be made at the coast. Natural hazards and climate change are set to impact most on the vulnerable in society. It is therefore imperative that we begin to plan, manage, and support both people and the environment in a manner which is socially just and sustainable. We encourage a detailed vulnerability analysis, such as the CEVI demonstrated here for Scotland, to be included within future coastal erosion risk research. This approach would support a more sustainable and long-term approach to coastal management decisions.


Coastal erosion Vulnerability Geodemographic classification Exposure GIS 



The authors would like to thank the three anonymous referees for their helpful and constructive comments on an earlier draft of this paper. This work was co-funded by an EPRSC Industrial Case Ph.D. Studentship Award (EP/J500434/1) and Scottish Natural Heritage (013195). The authors would also like to thank Experian for providing access to the Mosaic Scotland classification free of charge for research purposes.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PlanningAalborg UniversityAalborgDenmark
  2. 2.School of Geographical and Earth SciencesUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK
  3. 3.Scottish Natural HeritageInvernessUK

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