Brighton scientists researching ways to protect 11 million people

The University of Brighton is joining an international research project to protect Thailand’s coastal communities from natural disasters which cause the loss 30 square kilometres of shoreline every year.

The £592,000 study will improve understanding of Thailand’s vulnerability to storms, floods and coastal erosion which affect 17 per cent of the country’s population or more than 11 million people.

Thailand’s Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning predicts the sea level will rise one metre in the next 40 to 100 years, which will impact at least 3,200 square kilometres of coastal land at a potential cost to Thailand of almost £70m.

The project, financed by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Thailand Research Funded through the Newton Fund (Thailand), aims to boost the resilience of coastal communities and to use scientific research to inform more robust and cost-effective solutions.

The three-year study is being led by Lancashire’s Edge Hill University in collaboration with the University of Brighton and experts from Thailand’s Mahidol, Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities; University of Sussex; Brighton environmental assessment company Ambiental Technical Solutions; the US’s National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Thailand Government.

University of Brighton’s Principal Lecturer, Dr Raymond Ward, will be lending his expertise in physical geography to the project. He completed his PhD on modelling the impact of sea level rise on coastal wetlands, research funded jointly by the University and the EU.

Dr Ward said: “This research in Thailand is urgent. Only a few weeks ago tropical storm Pabuk cost the country’s economy millions of pounds and led to thousands of tourists having to flee.”

Dr Raymond Ward

His research has taken him to mangroves in Brazil, Iran, Vietnam, and Nigeria, salt marshes in the UK, Arctic and Argentina, and Seagrasses in the UK and Estonia, to study the responses of coastal environments to global change as well as their climate change mitigation potential.

Dr Ward will be heading up physical geography research which will help predict the effects of future expected climate change scenarios.

Lead researcher, Edge Hill’s Professor Cherith Moses, said: “We aim to establish the links between climate change, coastal erosion and flooding, and use this information to assess the interaction of natural and social processes to enhance coastal community resilience and future sustainability.

“Our collaborative team of natural and social scientists from UK, US and Thai research institutions, have complimentary, cutting-edge expertise and will work closely with Thai Government and UK and Thai industry partners to ensure that results are relevant to both policy development and practice.

“Thai-coast research will benefit government and policymakers, who need to plan for potential impacts caused by climate change and develop resilient strategies to deal with their impacts on natural-social systems.”

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