Ways of preventing coastal erosion

Written by paul cartmell
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Ways of preventing coastal erosion
Nonstructural erosion controls are often preferred over man-made structures to maintain the natural appearance of a beach or coastal area. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Coastal erosion can be prevented by a number of ways, with both hard and soft solutions used in different locations. Before attempting to halt any form of coastal erosion, you must discover its exact cause if you want to find the best solution.

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Coastal erosion is the movement or removal of an area of beach or cliff face by wave action, currents or wind. The frequency and ferocity of storms is another factor affecting coastal erosion. Even a single storm can remove a large amount of sand and ground cover from a beach, reducing its ability to act as a buffer between the water and the land behind it. Human beings can also play a weighty role in beach erosion. Diversion of streams and rivers and placement of buildings and roads can contribute to drainage problems miles away.

Soft Engineering

One of the main methods for controlling coastal erosion is the use of soft engineering options, which means replacing materials lost through erosion or the introduction of materials similar to those naturally occurring on the coastline. Sand, for instance, is commonly reintroduced to act as a buffer against continued erosion. Managed access to a beach and dedicated protection areas of a coastline are commonly used to preserve coastlines.

Hard Engineering

Hard engineering techniques generally are not as environmentally friendly as soft forms of coastal erosion control, because hard techniques usually entail the installation of man-made structures that are incongruent with the natural features of the coastline. Hard engineering includes the introduction of riprap rock walls, in which large rocks are piled on the shoreline to resist the effects of surf and wind on cliff faces. Artificial reefs can also be constructed to reduce the effect of wave energy, while sloped rock walls can be built at steeper angles than riprap walls to hold back surges. Pipes are sometimes laid into cliffs to drain subsurface water from the rock.


In many regions, the introduction of native plants, soils and sand can reduce the effects of coastal erosion. Lowering the number of man-made structures in an area subject to coastal erosion can significantly reduce the overall effects of this destructive force by maintaining the systems provided by nature to keep an ecosystem in balance.

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