Academic aims to clear up erosion’s muddied waters

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AN academic is hoping to establish that understanding and predicting coastal erosion is as clear as mud.

Hull University Professor Daniel Parsons has been awarded a grant to begin a three-year study of mudlfats in the Dee and Humber estuaries.

Climate change could change the way sediments are moved around by water currents and Prof Parsons will assess how this change could impact on estuaries and coastlines.

He said: “Many people in the UK live within a few miles of estuarine or coastal environments; mud and sand are mainly found here and they are very important for the ecology and economy of the UK. They provide nutrients for many species of birds and fish, but also protect the coastline from the erosive forces of the sea.

“Because of the importance of these muddy and sandy systems, their natural behaviour and, most importantly, their stability is of increasing concern as sea levels rise with climate change.

“We have limited scientific information to help us to predict how these natural mudflats and estuarine environments will respond to the changing forces of the tides, wind and waves.”

The project will look at how cohesive “sticky” muds within sandy sediment influences the erosion, transport and deposit of this mixed sediment in rivers, estuaries and seas.

The study is being funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and is a collaboration between six research institutions including the National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool and the universities of Leeds, Plymouth and St Andrews.