CIE Spotlight: Ecological research questions to inform policy and the management of sandy beaches

Authors: Alan R. Jones, Thomas A. Schlacher, David S. Schoeman, Michael A. Weston, Geoffrey M. Withycombe

Source: Ocean & Coastal Management

Brief summary of the paper: Sandy beach ecosystems have various ecocentric and anthropocentric values. These values are under multiple, increasing pressures from diverse human activities and, in particular, from the consequences of climate-change. The conservation of these values requires evidence-based policy formulation and management strategies that address societal goals such as those set by the United Nations (2012). Here, we use these goals, pressures, knowledge gaps and our combined judgement to nominate important policy- and management-orientated research questions. These are grouped under five broad topics: natural condition; protecting ecosystem health; conservation of biodiversity; sustaining ecosystem goods and services; and climate change. The last is particularly important since it threatens both services to society and the ecological integrity of beach ecosystems at great spatial and temporal scales. Further, humans are likely to respond to climate change in the urban coastal zone with large-scale engineering projects (e.g., nourishment, seawalls) which will have substantial ecological effects. The resolution of these questions should inform evidence-based policies and strategies to manage the pressures faced by ocean beaches.